The final curtsey and a dead eagle

If Glenmazeran is indeed Richard Benyon’s place in the Highlands then I’ve just come across an interesting story from there in last year’s book, The Final  Curtsey, written by Margaret Rhodes, the Queen’s cousin.

Margaret, used to pop up to Glenmazeran for a spot of fishing and shooting as any gel would.  On the way up north she would sometimes call in to see the old Duchess of Portland at Welbeck  Abbey who was ‘rather frightening and deaf’.  This would presumably be the same Duchess of Portland who was the President of the RSPB from 1891 until her death, at the age of 90, in 1954.

Margaret writes of Glenmazeran:

‘There were eagles galore. In those days they were classed as vermin and, on a grouse-shooting estate, had to be controlled. I was allowed to use a 20-bore shotgun to help control them.

Out one day walking in a wood, something flopped out of a tree. I went bang and to my surprise the ‘something’ fell to the ground. It was an eagle and I carried my trophy home slung over my shoulders. I was immensely proud of myself and received the plaudits of the family. The downside was to be infested with ticks and lice.’

What japes! Maybe the Duchess of Portland was only feigning deafnesss – maybe she couldn’t bear to listen?



17 Replies to “The final curtsey and a dead eagle”

  1. What a sad era that must have been? There are many similar accounts in literature of the time & it appears to be the attitude of previous generations too.
    Education in these issues is vital.

    1. Val, I suspect it wasn’t actually a sad era and was probably a very happy and fulfilling era for certain sections of society whilst others just accepted it. The problem is that the ‘others’ have moved on and certain sections haven’t; that clearly is currently causing friction in this area.

      1. Bob – I think you are right. The fact that this book appeared last year with these tales (and others about killing tigers, bears etc abroad) suggests a certain wistfulness about the ‘good old days’. And if you are wealthy, and own large estates, it is always more possible to live in the past. And, apparently, it is even possible to think that the rest of the taxpaying public should pay for research on species spoiling your fun!

  2. Given the status of both eagles in the areas of Scottish grouse moors has anything really changed?

  3. What I meant was sad in a retrospective way. They knew no better if it moves we can kill it. That attitude started the devastatiin we see today.
    So yes it was a very sad era

  4. There used to be people galore. In those days they were classed as vermin and, on a grouse-shooting estate, had to be controlled.

    So they were cleared out and forced to live in Glasgow, Lochgelly, America – anywhere else but home. The eagles just moved in and tried to become the new heads of the food chain.

    Nobs like to shoot grice. Sparts like to tick boxes. Nature abhors a vacuum.

    1. Filbert – I do enjoy the vast majority of your comments here. Please keep them coming!

  5. Think we agree about most things Mark including Filberts comments but sometimes find it hard to know exactly what he means.

  6. Hi Mark,I am concerned with the fact that the RSPB are making a really big hoo-haa about this DEFRA proposal and rightly so,do not get me wrong anyone I have sent a letter.
    My concern surrounds the fact that in my opinion the Hen Harriers plight is 10 times worse and RSPB only make token references to helping the V L e-petition in remote passages of print.
    Now think that means to me that the RSPB are miffed that it is a private petition and if so what a sad reflection on them it is.
    As Mark has said before leaving RSPB he organised a raptor protection petition and had well over 200,000 signatures so would assume a similar response to the V L petition if the RSPB really put its mind to it.
    How ironic the RSPB are not hurting Chrissie they are really hurting our poor population of Hen Harriers.
    Can hardly believe what is happening.

    1. Dennis – Martin Harper did tell me, although it was some time ago now, that the RSPB would throw its weight behind the vicarious liability petition so I am sure they will. But it is taking quite a while isn’t it?

  7. I think you are right Dennis, harriers are a more important issue. The petition whilst important is not the be all, if and it seems a big if they get the signatures then it only means it will be debated in parliament it does not guarantee any change. I can only suggest that those who contact their MP about buzzards also go to town on the harrier issue.

    I learnt on Thursday that our efforts in the Dales in 2002 we almost to no avail as ******** killed four or five of a brood of six at roost a few weeks after they fledged but before dispersal. Also in 2007 our last success, which reared one via supplimentary feeding with estate co-operation, the male was shot by ******** and so eventually was the youngster. ********* was told if ******** was ever put in the position again of having to tolerate a harrier nest (in other words kill them before the birders find them) he would be sacked.

    Attitudes like these stink and it will not be solved by more protection of harriers at nests or roosts but by somehow changing attitudes or massive enforcement.

    1. Paul – thank you for this comment. I have removed a few words from your comment and inserted ***** in their place. I don’t know the local circumstances and I am not sure whether your original words would have enabled individuals to be identified. I’m sorry about that and I value your comments greatly – please keep them coming. And I agree with what you say.

      1. I do understand Mark, the first incident did not involve the estate where the harriers nested but two of the four neighbours, the second incident could probably have been identified by those who know the area but then may be somehow we need to name and shame these people. In 2008 we lost two pairs of harriers in the same general area whilst they displayed and site selected, a diligent but criminal man keen on keeping his job and home, I wonder! But then all the neighbours now have rabidly anti harrier people on the ground, I know I’ve had conversations with them all. How we try and solve this is crucial, but I must admit to a degree of despondency. What is clear is that current approaches are not working and the loss of English harriers and this dreadful buzzard thing, (which will doubtless increase those prepared to take the law into their own hands) could be the thin end of the wedge. Gohawks eat red squirrels and pine martins eat caper eggs and young could it be them?

  8. If you have never heard of the words ‘Raptor Politics’ then you should have. As Paul says Goshawks eat Red Squirrels but they eat far more Grey Squirrels. One nest showed 68% of all food being brought in was Grey Squirrel. So this is how politicians use the words they need forgetting the other. The Pine Marten is eaten by foxes but foxes are removed trying to protect Caper eggs and young. Foxes also eat Hedgehogs which also eat the eggs. It is easy to brake up the food chain and blame everything on one species!

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