Obit­u­ary - Archie Gil­lies, 1971 - 2016

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deaths - Iain Thorn­ber

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.

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