1. How did your South Uist Estate journey begin?
I started with Storas Uibhist in 2008 as a part time administrative officer while my son was in pre school. During my time with the estate I have encountered many opportunities but I have always been drawn to the outdoors, regularly hill walking, fishing, supporting the fishery manager in general and managing my own small hill croft with livestock. Having been a member of the Army cadet force in my teenage years and latterly as an adult instructor my passion was always to be in an outdoor setting, learning, teaching, enjoying! As my son grew, so did my hunger to change roles so when the opportunity came up to join the Gamekeeping team I grabbed it with both hands, needless to say my current role as Head Gamekeeper has been challenging but one I have relished, I cannot see myself being content in any other position than this one!
2. What is your favourite spot on the Estate and why?
Oh, I have many! But to describe one location then it would have to be at the peak of Stulabhal. As you look north it affords a fantastic view to the east of our 3 highest peaks, Beinn Mhor, Beinn Choradail and Hecla. Look South West and I get a birds eye view of my hometown of Lochboisdale, look due West I see the croft land, the fertile Machair ground, Askernish Golf course in its Glory and beyond that, The Atlantic. It is especially tranquil at dawn. With a pair of binoculars in hand, maybe a flask near by it is a place to sit, spy deer, maybe catch a glimpse of an eagle, just take 10 minutes, reminisce about the summer solstice fishing outings had on Loch Snigiscleit below, the numerous days stalking across the hill ground, the quality snipe days, the woodcock walks with Clients and being part of those special “firsts” for many.
3. What is your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job would have to be the variety on offer and the uniqueness of the role of a Gamekeeper on South Uist. I like working with people but similarly I enjoy lone working and this job allows both.
As well as managing the ground to the benefit of our many quarry species and Deer herd, my role as Head Gamekeeper allows me the opportunity to invest in people; Clientele, local community and staff, generally seeing staff happy and content in their own performance, clientele grinning ear to ear having enjoyed a day and having a positive impact for the local community; the above mentioned is very rewarding.
Each season brings a different set of duties and responsibilities on the Estate, spring and summer sees our work supporting the local community, improving assets, pest control a, fishery work and then during the autumn and winter we welcome clientele to the estate when many other forms of tourism has ceased.
4. What is your perfect day out on the Estate?
This has to be the most difficult question to describe one perfect day but here goes…
From the peaks you can appreciate the beauty of the entire island, drop to the East side and you really feel the remoteness and can enjoy the silence. I am always drawn to the hills, gun or rod in hand or not, whatever I choose, that is where I will navigate to.
A summers day walking to Uisinish across the peak of Beinn Choradail, through Gleann Uisinish with a rucksack on my back prepared for an overnight stay in the bothy with good company would be high up there in best days out.
5. Best bag? When and where?
It would have to be a lone day walked up woodcock in January 2022 once our clients had finished at Grogarry lodge. I went into the hill for brace of woodcock, my location, classified! For me the thrill is in the dogs working. Watching my young cocker spaniel “Fada” enthusiastically hunt through the heather, the excitement as he momentarily points ahead of the imminent flush, the whir of the woodcock leaving its seat, the raising of the gun, the Labrador retrieving efficiently, great fun. A showing of 10 birds that day which was impressive and encouraging as a single gun.
6. South Uist Estate attracts clients back annually, what do you think draws them back each year?
I’d say what attracts the clients back each year is the variety of wildfowl; morning and evening flights, the unique snipe ground, our rough walked up woodcock, spectacular Red Deer stalking and the most scenic Fishing lochs one could find anywhere in the world.
The wild scenery, the challenge, the remoteness, the sunrises, the sunsets, the colours, the skies, the sea and of course we must not forget Grogarry Lodge, no where else on the island provides exclusivity like it.
I also understand that the people; the staff and the local people alike are important to the clients, good food, a good dram, the fire, warms hearts, vast knowledge and consistency.
7. Looking forward what excites you most about the/your future of/on the Estate?
Continuing to provide a quality experience for our visitors.
Continuing to behave in a sustainable manner, do what we have been doing well for centuries, playing part in the vision and implement change as a team in areas we have not being doing so well.
Leaving a small piece of legacy on the ground, even if that is only preserving and protecting the land, improving access, teaching people, supporting people by providing opportunities.