I’m wondering if Charlie Allan remembers the last time we met down on the farm, more years ago than I care to recall. There was a lot of laughter – as there always is when he is around – and a lot of mucking about in a field at the farm of Little Ardo in Methlick, Aberdeenshire.

Let me explain right away just in case Fiona, his wife, takes a hissy fit ... though that seems unlikely given that Fiona – known as The Breadwinner to readers of Allan’s farming column in The Herald – has a sense of humour to match that of her husband.

From somewhere or other, Allan had heard about an American craze entitled hog calling contests. (He always had some wheeze on the go.) The expectation was that if you kept the poor porkers short of rations, they would run to the caller expecting lunch.

He chuckles. “It was just a piece of nonsense to try to get extra people to go to this bothy ballad event. It was a two-man job to train the pigs, but when I called to them, ‘c’mon, c’mon, c’mon’ (in a high-pitched squeal that only a pig could find seductive), someone would open the hatch and the pigs knew to run straight to me and get fed.”

Well, it didn’t work for me no matter how I whooped and hollered ... and it seems that it didn’t work for Allan on the day either.

“We kept them quite hungry so they would be gagging. Sadly, on the day, something went wrong and they got hold of heaps of food and weren’t caring for any more, so it was a bit of a damp squib.”

Charlie Allan, as anyone who knows him will confirm, is a modern Renaissance man. Farmer, writer with several books to his name, academic, rescuer of The Leopard magazine which the family ran for a few years, BBC producer and presenter, singer and writer of bothy ballads, sportsman with enough trophies to fill several cabinets and raconteur extraordinaire – the list goes on.

He’s been down to Wigtown Book Festival this week to speak about his father, John R. Allan, the respected author of the Scottish classics, Farmer’s Boy, now in its 10th edition, and North-east Lowlands of Scotland, due out in its fifth edition.

Let’s also not forget that, along with the present Marquis of Aberdeen and Temair and other locals, Allan fought to keep Methlick public loos open, and when the community took them over, he took his turn on a rota to clean them. “We painted them and put flowers at the door. I don’t think we had training, but we had to read an information pack on what you do with needles and, of course, there were never any needles in Methlick.”

Eventually, the council was shamed into taking the loos back. Point taken, though Allan says they’re nothing like as clean as they were.

It would take several books to do him justice ... so it’s just as well he’s writing them himself. Which is why Allan is giving up his weekly column in The Herald.

He needs to get on with volume two of The Truth Tells Twice, published last year, which tells the story of Little Ardo, which his grandmother’s family, the Yulls (after a family row, it’s said that one branch changed their spelling from Yule) had farmed for 174 years.

But it is also about Charlie’s own youth, bringing vividly back to life the lost world of farming in the 1940s and 1950s and including anecdotes about ancestors, such as John Yull whose horse, Clatterin’ Jean, would get him home from anywhere in Aberdeenshire, drunk or sober, once winning a bet that he could guide her home merely by hanging onto her tail.

The second volume will take Little Ardo’s story up to the present day. Farmer’s Boy told the story of his father’s upbringing on his grandparents’ farm outside Aberdeen. Is this his version?

“No … mmmm … yes, I suppose so. I’ve got some nice, long quotations from Farmer’s Boy which is a fine, easy way of getting some good writing into it.”

Charlie’s columns for The Herald will be sorely missed. Every day, his hero, Mossie – farmer Ian Davidson – rings him up and says mournfully: ‘It’s a S-A-D day …”

“Mossie is a brilliant farmer who is revolutionising aspects of grain growing and pig keeping, but he is also a guy who loves to laugh and is such fun,” says Allan.

But it’s not just his victims who are desolate. The emails and letters have been flooding in to protest at his decision … although one male reader says it will save his marriage because his wife usually wants to read something on the other side of Allan’s column and they’ve had many a fight over the years.

Readers have laughed with him. They have entered into the spirit of his various ploys.

“Most people put up with dog’s abuse, and quite like it,” he says mischievously. A favourite was the story of the small farmer who turned the tables on the banker who had made his life a misery. “The day came when he sold his farm and the banker said: ‘We’ll be able to offer you half a per cent interest on your money.’ And the farmer said: ‘Na, na, when I had an overdraft, you needed eight and a half per cent from me.’

“The farmer said: ‘When I came in looking for more money, you made me sign over my farm, so I’ll need the deeds of your bank.’”

Allan reported regularly on the Magpie Mafia, which acted together to combat the magpies which chase away garden birds and eat their young. With some satisfaction, he noted that the “Mafiosi” disposed of more than a tonne of magpies throughout Scotland by using traps. “You need a live magpie to bait your trap and there were all kinds of clandestine meetings to pass on birds. There was tremendous feedback.

“The Capo Mafioso from Bearsden supplied at least 50 birds to various people. You can’t let a captive bird go because the other birds go for it, and this woman kept the call bird. I think she didn’t have the heart to ring its neck.

Allan’s departure brings to an end a family connection with The Herald going back to 1928, when John R Allan started on the paper as a trainee journalist. More than 30 years later, Allan was due to follow his father into The Herald until he was offered a job as an assistant economics lecturer in Glasgow University – even before he got a first (unexpectedly, he says) from Aberdeen University. The Herald job was the one he wanted, but the university money was too good to turn down for a young father.

Allan, 70, and Fiona 72, his wife of 48 years, live in what looks like a converted steading but is actually a cleverly disguised new-build round the corner from the lovely 18th century farmhouse where the Elder Investment, his daughter, Sarah, now lives with her husband, Neil Purdie, better known to readers as Potions.

Allan was just 57 when he retired from farming and handed it over to Potions. “Neil, although a trained ship’s engineer, has never wanted to do anything but farm,” says Allan.

Sarah, of course, should really be Potions because she is a pharmacist and between them, they run a chemist’s shop, which Allan points out helps to compensate for the state of farming today.

It would have been too much of a wrench to leave Little Ardo completely, so they took two acres of the farm into separate ownership to build their home.

It’s easy to understand why the couple were loath to leave this spot. Little Ardo may lie on the so-called bleak Buchan side of the River Ythan, but it’s surrounded by big skies and a patchwork of fields that stretch in all directions: away in the south to the iconic hill of Bennachie and, to the west, the Glens of Foudland. Over on the distant hills, you can see a line of wind turbines, some of which, Allan says with a grin, power Mackie’s ice-cream. His mother, Jean, was a Mackie.

Some see wind turbines as a blot on the landscape, but not the Allans. They have their own mini-windmill, giving minuscule electric bills.

It is, as you might expect, a warm and happy home. Hospitality seems second nature here and they have a plate of home-made broth and oatcakes laid on. They laugh a lot, the two of them, with that joking familiarity that a long and successful marriage brings.

Allan was a student of economics at Aberdeen University. Fiona was two years older with a university job and a car when they met. She says: “I will never forget coming into the sports field at King’s and I saw this race and this wonderful pair of sky-blue running shorts disappearing way in front of the rest.”

Now grandparents of 10, they married young and within four years had four of a family. “Then we discovered what was doing it …” Allan says, laughing.

He has called his daughters the Investments “because in African culture, girls are an investment because you can sell them for a few cows,” explains Allan.

“Sarah, the Elder Investment, who has the farm, would be worth many cows.” Susie, a journalist, is the Younger Investment, while the Wasting Assets are his sons, John and Jay. “They quite like the names, in fact. My daughters went to university while my two hally-rackit sons just couldn’t wait to get away from school and away to the oil and get on with all the devilment in the world.”

John Robertson Yull Allan, named after his paternal and maternal grandfathers, now runs a bistro in Alford, while his brother, Jay, named after Jay Scott, the great Highland Games athlete, runs the Salmon Inn in Methlick.

The couple seem to have led a charmed life but they’ve had their crosses to bear.

Jay was a soccer hooligan in his youth and wrote a book called Bloody Casuals.

“We didn’t enjoy visiting him in Craiginches [he was in prison for a few weeks],” concedes his father, “but we are very proud of the book, the fact that he learned the lesson which so few learn, and that he has built a successful life for himself and earned a Rotarians award for his contribution to his community.”

Over the years, the couple’s careers took them round the country, including Glasgow and St Andrews, and Fiona’s job as an IT consultant saw them move to Kenya for three years once the children had left home.

“We have felt very much at home in all of these places,” he says. “I think if the other one was there or at least within reach, we were pleased enough. I think that was the key.”

North-east men are not renowned for being particularly romantic, so that’s probably as good as a bunch of red roses.

Despite the age on his passport, Allan has the look and the physique of a man 20 years younger. He stands just over 6ft tall and is fit, not gone to flab as so many former athletes do. The years of obsession – as the Breadwinner puts it, rolling her eyes – with sport of all kinds have paid off.

World champion caber tosser and a regular at Highland Games, footballer, rugby player, cricketer, cyclist, marathon runner, he has done it all and usually excelled.

Allan’s latest passion is cricket, and he takes us down to the Laird’s Cricket Ground in Methlick, the pride and joy of its founder.

“The weather is against us up here. We have got the wettest climate of any nation that attempts to play cricket, so the wickets don’t get hard and true, but I’ve heard it said often – although I don’t believe it myself – that there are more cricket teams in Aberdeenshire than in Yorkshire.”

This year, Allan points out, he turned out six times for Methlick Cricket Club’s second team and he shares the job of groundsman with local man Dennis Pratt.

“The laird gave us this very valuable site right in the middle of the village for an annual rent of a dram, though we give him a bottle of good malt for a site that must be worth £5m.”

As Allan tells it, he had a blessed childhood. He was born in Stirling (in a taxi) when his parents were living in the village of Blairlogie, the only child of John R Allan, and his wife, Jean Mackie, who had been a journalist on the Daily Express.

“To understand my childhood,” he says, “you have to understand that my parents, both graduates, were passionately interested in education – the child development type of education.”

As a result, he was sent to a succession of progressive schools, ending up at the leading Dartington Hall in Devon.

Allan can recall crying only twice in his life – once when he heard of the death of his ­ ­childhood friend, Donald Dewar, Scotland’s first First Minister. “But I don’t think I was crying for those boyhood days. I think I was crying for Scotland.”

Dewar’s parents were friends of his parents and they spent several childhood holidays at Little Ardo, holidays Allan recalls as being long and fun-filled.

With both parents away during the war – his mother to teach – young Charlie, who up till then had known nothing but adoration, was left with a governess, a horrific woman he calls Miss Dread, “a middle-aged monster”.

Granted, she may have been severely provoked when he painted his trike and the front steps pink but her punishment gave him nightmares and today she would probably be accused of child abuse.

After giving him the “mother and father of hidings”, she loomed over him with her fox fur complete with snarling head and claws and told him the fox would come and eat his head off.

“When I told my mother, I was packed off to my granny’s in Tarves, Aberdeenshire. She was Mrs Maitland Mackie and she was lovely. It was her husband who founded the company that makes the ice cream.”

Allan was given an honorary Masters of the University degree by Aberdeen University. “I think it was for agitating to set up the Elphinstone Institute, a branch of the university that would look after the burgeoning ethnology of the region.

“I had also written and recorded the bothy songs and I was one of the two people who ran the biggest and best bothy ballad concert at the show ground in Turriff. A reputed 10,000 people turned up to crown the new bothy ballad king, Tam Reid, who died recently.”

Ask him what he’s really proud of, though, and Allan surprises you. “I’m ridiculously proud of the fact that my first book was for Penguin – a text book called Theory of Taxation. It has been translated into Spanish and French and fairly recently, I got some royalties from Japan. When I read the proofs, it took me a long time to realise they were written back to front.”

Despite everything, he also had time to be a farmer. Prompted, Allan runs through his farming achievements. He has always been a pioneer and had the first embryo transplant unit for cattle in Scotland on the farm.

“I showed the champion bull at Perth several times, the supreme champion at the Royal Highland Show and I had the top price at the sale of Gelbvieh cattle in Edmonton in Canada and the top price of the World Simmental Convention in Calgary.”

With so many of his forebears thirled to the land, it is understandable that despite his careers in the worlds of academia and journalism, farming remains in Allan’s blood.

“I sometimes think that if I had £5 million, I’d like to buy myself a small farm and start farming again,” he muses. “But I’m very conscious of the old joke: ‘How do you make a small fortune in farming? The answer is start with a big one.’”

He frowns. “People still think farmers are wealthy. But there are now something like a fifth as many farms as there were when we were children.

“And that’s the answer to the question why you never see a poor farmer. They are the four out of five who have gone bust or stopped farming.”

Finally, Allan takes me down to old Methlick kirkyard to see the grave of his parents.

Canny farmer that he is, he relates how when he was getting his mother’s name carved on the stone, he thought he might get his own carved there as well as a job lot.

Fiona, thankfully, wasn’t having it. Charlie Allan is too lively a presence to be marked down for dead before his time.