He was a connsumate keeper and a truly good person. I worked under him for 25 years and would have been happy to have done so for another 25. But that was not to be.
A new Head Keeper will be appointed in due course. In the meantime, the 5 keepers that remain here are 'holding the fort'. We all know what needs to be done and are sharing the load as best we can.
Our hind cull is now well under way, time-wise anyway! The numbers seem to be creeping up almost imperceptibly.
This isn't just because we are a man down. We've also had a lot of mild weather which allows the deer to stay as far away from us as possible. And relentless west winds have only encouraged them farther out.
We've had a fair few stalking guests as well. Including, for the first time, a party staying in the lodge. They were a young bunch and good fun but there were a lot of very inexperienced stalkers amongst them. Including some that had never shot before.
It always gives me a buzz to introduce someone to the sport. It's also fascinating to see how the reality compares to the preconceptions they might have. Almost invariably they find it much harder than they thought it would be. And therefore more rewarding.
The 'virgins' in this group were no different. They raved about the whole experience. If their livers recover, we hope to see them come back next year.
In a few weeks time we have another group coming. Of a very different sort. Yes, there will be a lot of them and, yes, many of them will never have stalked deer in their lives before. However, I'm sure it's going to be a very different week for us keepers...but no less busy.
Busy is good. It's fine to have a distraction from the cloud that still hangs over us. For me, it will take a long time to clear.