HAVE YOUR SAY ON RURAL ISSUES
When I was at school, I read Gavin Maxwell’s book Ring of
Bright Water. Enchanted by the story, I travelled to Sandaig and saw the house and one of the otters with Andrew Scot (Gavin’s otter keeper). Later, I wrote to Gavin about my visit to his home and surroundings, and – after the fire that destroyed Sandaig house – he invited me to his new home on Eilean Bàn.
Gavin expressed the hope that I would make use of my interest in keeping a diary and writing about the countryside. On his death, I entered a competition for young writers about my experience of meeting Gavin, with a story titled
Back to Paradise. Melvyn Bragg , the competition’s judge, highly commended my story, which he found to be “very moving” and added that he had enjoyed it “enormously”.
Encouraged by Melvyn’s comments, I became a regular contributor of a country-walks feature in The Northumbrian Magazine, until I left the north-east of England in 1992 to live on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. To emulate Gavin’s lifestyle, I chose to live in a remote farmhouse on the edge of the Brontë moors for over 20 years, with only wildlife for neighbours. During this time, I earned my living as a countryside ranger and helped the public to learn about the countryside through guided walks and events and by giving illustrated lectures.
Gavin Maxwell’s influence led to me becoming a teacher, ranger, photographer and writer. Without him, it is unlikely I would have achieved the same success.
Thanks to the way of life I chose, my daughter has recently gained her BSc (Hons) degree in zoo management. She told me she had been inspired by my sparking her interest in the wildlife around our home.
It is Gavin Maxwell whom we have to thank for the ending of otter hunting in this country, through his wonderful powers of description of the countryside and animal relationships, which continues to inspire many others.
There is now a Gavin Maxwell Society (maxwellsociety.com) which is seeing a steadily growing membership: a living Editor Fergus Collins replies: It’s fascinating to see the deep and enduring impact that Maxwell has had on your life. For me, it was Gerald Durrell but with a similar outcome.
testimony of Gavin’s power to enthuse others in the things that he loved. Peter Short Accrington, Lancashire