Sixty-six years of very happy reading
I was born in 1942 during World War II. At the end of the war, my father came home from the Royal Navy and we moved into a new prefab on the outskirts of Southampton. We were surrounded by cornfields, and I can remember watching the end of summer rabbit shoots among the corn stubble. The rabbit was a large part of our staple diet.
When I was seven years old we moved to a council house on a tiny estate also on the outskirts of Southampton.
It was there that a local lad of about 18 years of age who was a fanatical ornithologist used to take me and other children into the fields and woods to learn about birds and to collect birds’ eggs. We were taught only to take one egg from a nest and replace it with a small pebble. He also showed us how to blow an egg. Can you imagine what the PC brigade would say today... It would probably result in a seizure.
As well as taking us on forays for birds’ nests, this young lad would give me his copies of Shooting Times. I have been reading it ever since. At the age of 15, when I started work, I made my first purchase of a single-barrelled shotgun with a 10-shilling licence from the local post office — no questions asked (happy days).
At this time I was also haunting the local library which, by chance, was Chris Packham’s library. I think we would have been borrowing different types of books. Mine were the wonderful works of Denys Watkins-pitchford(bb). My favourite book, which I still occasionally read today, was The Poacher’s Handbook by Ian Niall, with beautiful wood engravings illustrated by Barbara Greg.
Aged 23, I acquired my first firearms certificate — priced five shillings, and two and six for a variation — and bought my first .22 rifle and also a .38 pistol. I continue to shoot today, with rifle, sporting rifle and shot gun, at the age of 75.
I have always enjoyed my sport and have been a regular reader for around 66 years. Even when I travelled abroad I had someone buy Shooting Times for me, and I took a lot of pleasure in having a nice pile to read when I got back. I used to buy my Shooting Times in Whsmith until a few years ago when it took an anti-shooting stance. I now have it delivered direct to the house.
Like me, the magazine has improved with age. Thank you for many years of very happy reading.
Michael Watson, via email
Happy memories of summer rabbit shooting