Obituary - Archie Gillies, 1971 - 2016
ARCHIE Gillies, who has died suddenly aged 45, was one of a dwindling number of traditional Highland deer stalkers who have no equal on the hill.
I first met Archie in the autumn of 1996 when he came to Kingairloch, aged 26, as a seasonal ghillie to help and to gain experience on a large deer forest. It was obvious from the first day that there was nothing he could take from us - quite the opposite. With the blood of at least five generations of stalkers, fox-hunters and shepherds of the Rough Bounds coursing through his veins, it could hardly have been otherwise. There was no finer sight than watching Archie at work, moving slowly and silently across a hillside with the same skill and precision as a scalpelwielding surgeon hovering around a spinal cord. Often he would vanish from view to reappear not just close to the deer but frequently among them - a difficult manoeuvre and a rare gift not given to many stalkers in a lifetime. With the eyesight of a golden eagle, the wisdom of a raven and the intelligence of a hill fox, Archie excelled in his objective and seldom failed.
Archie was a man for the high tops and faraway places; it was surely appropriate that his first and only position as a full time stalker should be on the mountainous 10,000 acre Inverailort Estate, known of old for the quality and quantity of its deer, as ‘Clanranald’s Deer Forest’. Not for him driving up and down the Road to the Isles looking for an easy beast in the early morning mist or in the gloaming, or emptying a rifle magazine in the general direction of the deer from an Argocat, which so often passes for ‘stalking’ nowadays.
No way binds two men more lastingly than a day’s stalking. The company at a shooting lunch or a city banquet where the talk flows fast and cheerfully, can meet and part strangers. Often they do. No man forgot a day on the hill with Archie Gillies. He could, and often did, walk with kings and captains of industry but never lost the common touch, to parody Rudyard Kipling. Every companion was treated as an equal and addressed with the greatest courtesy, frequently with humour but never with the least hint of servility.
Less than the length of a stag’s leap from where Archie was born in Fort William, there is a graveyard and in it a 200 year old epitaph which reads as follows: ‘A true Highlander, a fine friend and the best deer stalker of his day’. These are the words which come to mind when thinking of Archie Gillies. Prince among stalkers, his name will remain long in the deer and fox-hunting annals of a wide area of the Highlands.
Archie and his family had many friends, evidenced by the hundreds of mourners who came from near and far to say farewell in Arisaig Church last week.
Archie Gillies - prince among stalkers.