Remembering Anne Priest

Anne Priest with first lambs
"Spring 1976. My first lambs on the island." Anne Priest and some new friends.

A wonderful friend to the Bluefaced Leicester breed and those involved with it (as well as the Border Leicester breed), Anne Barclay Priest traveled on to greener pastures in late November of 2010. She was 83 years old, and just shy of her birthday on November 23 by a couple of days. She passed on while feeding her beloved sheep out in the pastures of her New York State home. For Anne, there probably was no better way to bow out gracefully and exit stage right.

Anne Priest on the dory BETSY Nova Scotia
"Coming into the harbor." Anne and her dog Nell aboard the dory BETSY, 1999.

Anyone who ever met Anne was permanently affected by her zest, straightforwardness, and humor. She lived the kind of life many simply dream of; full of adventures and interesting experiences. It seems she chose them and went after them with determination, although she might disagree with this assessment in some ways, saying, “they chose her” instead. She was a fiercely independent woman (and fiercely opinionated), tough-as-nails, funny, light-hearted, direct, passionate, spirited, and genuine. Anne’s hospitality was near legendary!

Anne Priest shearing for the first time on Blue Island Nova Scotia
"Anne's first attempt at shearing!" Shearing party with Dr. Brian Nettleton on Blue Island, Nova Scotia, 1977.

She was an accomplished off-Broadway actress (and also a locally-performing actress right up until just a few years ago), a farmer and shepherd, shearer, spinner, knitter, weaver, traveler, dog breeder, a friend to many, a mother and grandmother, an author, and much more that I will never know. She even ran for Massachusetts State Representative in 1968. Those who have read her book will attest that she lived a fascinating and adventurous life indeed.

Editor’s Notes: K. Barndt

Anne Priest at home farm in New York State
Anne in the pasture outside her New York State home, circa 1998.

I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Anne on a number of occasions at her New York State home on Old Mountain Road. If anyone has been there, you remember it is high on a windswept “mountain” overlooking the far reaches of the southeastern New York State landscape… turning right into the driveway at the bottom of that hill, the battered old mailbox reading “Priest”, the lower pasture and pond to the left as you turn, and cursing the steep-sided, narrow driveway until you reach the more open hay fields and the gate beyond.

Anne Priest with bottle lamb at home in New York State
Bottoms up! Beer bottle baby BFL with Anne, on her farm in New York State, late spring 1999.

I only wish I had been able to visit her during the summer at her Nova Scotia home as well, to see the great beauty of her beloved point, beach and island. I bought my very first sheep from Anne in 2004. She taught me a few fundamental shepherding basics that I committed to my mind like unbreakable law that I carry with me to this day.

On one visit a while ago, I sat in her “office” and went through piles of photographs. I saw a black and white photo of a stunning young woman in Paris, France… Anne when she was young and looking to all the world just like a fashion model.

I garnered a set of photographs that I wanted to make into a display board for her book, as Anne was going around promoting the book at the time. Also there were a few photos that I wanted to archive for the BLU library, regarding Anne’s first BFL ram.

Anne Priest hearding sheep on McNutt's Island beach
Anne herding sheep on the beach at a sheep gathering on McNutt's Island, July 1990.

A number of these photographs were actually submitted to her agent and publisher; Anne wanted these to be included in her book to illustrate the many stories and experiences that are portrayed in her memoir. The publisher ended up rejecting them for the book, except for one (the photograph used on the cover of the dust jacket).

Perhaps they will help to illustrate a tiny bit of Anne’s extraordinary life. I turned the place upside down in my search for these, still buried away in an unpacked box since we moved halfway across the country, and I finally found them (after much frustration!).

seeing the property in Nova Scotia for the first time
"When I first fell in love with the place." Anne sees the point on the property she would buy for the first time, August 1971.The previous owners are in this photo (Rodney Koehler). Photo has been fully restored.

As I began to process the photos and work on restoring some of them (some are partially restored, a few needed some major work), I felt sad that these were never included in her book. You may read the words of her stories, but to see a few of the images that go with them is to better understand Anne’s piece of the world, and the telling of her stories. I am really going to miss her.

Anne Priest herding sheep on the point
"Working sheep on the point." September 1991.

If anyone has any other special photos of Anne to share, please be sure to contact me. I can add them to our BLU Library collection (Anne Priest Gallery) on the website. Please feel free to post some of your own memories about Anne here if you’d like.

Here’s a blog called the Nova Scotia Island Journal: Life on McNutt’s Island, by Anne Yarbrough, with some posts about Anne Priest.

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