I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who wished me well on the surprise announcement that I had been awarded an honour from the Queen.
Those who know me will understand that, while the MBE is something I will always treasure, praise and attention is never something I look for. To be honest, these things tend to make me a wee bit uncomfortable.
Anyway, I am truly humbled by the award and it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I am even more humbled by the words of kindness since the announcement was made; well wishes from people I haven’t seen for years or folk I don’t really know all that well. I suppose it shows that the work we do counts for something and is valued. My family have also been wonderful.
For me, the good thing about all of this is that it frames gamekeeping and gamekeepers in a positive light. In my eyes, this award is for everyone who starts out on the journey to be a gamekeeper or comes to it through another route.
It is a profession which does not bring the riches of the earth but, because of the benefits good stewardship brings, rewards beyond financial gain or status. But it can be damned hard and often under-appreciated.
Due to being the Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the work I undertake for gamekeepers and gamekeeping tends to receive additional recognition but when I collect this honour, I will be collecting it for all the individuals I have seen over the decades that put in so much to help our work and way of life, behind the scenes.
I know so many of them; people who go right back to the start in organisations like the SGA; folk who would balk at the thought of recognition because putting in the hours was just something that they wanted to do and felt they should. There are tremendously loyal people in our corner and we should be very thankful to them and our community and I suppose this is what the award has demonstrated to me more than anything else.
When folk come to our shoots, whether from another part of the UK or from overseas (sadly, not this year), we are basically ‘front of house’ for our estates but also, at times, for our country.
Visitors come here for sporting experience but they want to see good land management and a sound approach to achieving that. They take these experiences home to other lands and talk about them and share that experience elsewhere. They value the attention from the gamekeeping staff, the banter and the characters they meet and these things form positive memories.
Over the years, the many SGA Committee members have given up countless family Sundays to travel to meetings to try to make sure that what we do is appreciated by wider society and to protect people’s work and working practices from legislation which will have negative impacts on our lives. They do it because it is their passion and to give something back to a vocation which has served them well. They also do it because they want the gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies of the future, and their families, to have a profession they can take pride in and one which has not been made impossible by bad law, red tape and punitive legislation.
It’s not just Sundays, either. So many have given time in so many other ways, on so many other days, to keep the ship afloat and sailing in the right direction. That may be hosting or helping at fund-raising clay shoots or community events or organising visits to schools, talks with Police, discussions with MSPs or the countless other things we need to be involved in to remain current and relevant.
So, this award is for all of them - all the behind the scenes folk who do, and have done, so much to keep the flag flying for gamekeeping over so many years.