The new National Gamekeepers’ Organisation Long Service Award saw its first public outing at a presentation ceremony held in the main arena of the Midland Game Fair on Sunday 17 March 2017.
Six recipients were eligible for the award – a unique, specially cast medal accompanied by a framed certificate – for full-time gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies with 40 or more years of employment. A further, separate award category recognises those with 50 or more years’ service under their belt.
Liam Bell, the Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, made the presentations and afterwards hosted a champagne buffet lunch to celebrate the award winners’ life-long commitment to the world of gamekeeping.
The NGO assumed responsibility for running the long service award with the blessing of the Country Land and Business Association, when it was announced in 2015 that the CLA would cease to run its annual game fair at which it had made a similar presentation to gamekeepers for many years. To mark the passing of the baton, it was renamed The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation Long Service Award.
NGO Chairman Liam Bell said: “As a working gamekeeper with significantly fewer than 40 years’ service, I feel greatly honoured to have been able to present the NGO Long Service Award to my peers as I know the tremendous commitment these individuals have made to keepering and to managing our countryside, which would be a far poorer place without them. It was fascinating to hear their collective keepering experiences, and about their lives. I truly hope young keepers today will be inspired by their wonderful example.”
Those eligible to receive the NGO Long Service Award at the Midland Game Fair for 40 or more years of employment were:
Ian Garfoot, 61, has been the headkeeper at Westwick Estate, in Norfolk, for 32 years, having previously worked for nine years at Rothwell in Lincolnshire, often loading for Sir Joseph Nickerson. Mr Garfoot, who trained at Sparsholt in Hampshire in only its second year of teaching gamekeeping, said: “I’ve been lucky and enjoyed my career and I hope to go on for many years to come.”
Steven Hamar, 56, has been headkeeper on the Bulland Shoot, near Taunton, for 23 years. He has worked on three shoots during his career, having started out on a work experience scheme. Mr Hamar said: “Things have changed hugely over the years, with most keepers now coming into the profession from college, which is great, because they are taught the best way to do things from the start. It is a rewarding job, and I’ve loved it, being outdoors, the conservation side, working with the farmers, pickers-up and beaters. I’d definitely do it again.”
Kevin Hubbard, 64, started out as a young man at Garendon Park, Loughborough, before moving to the Littlecote Estate shoot in Wiltshire. He then spent a year at Weston Park, before returning to Littlecote. His next 30 years were spent at the Lower Lodge shoot in West Sussex. Now retired and enjoying training cockers, springers, and Labradors, Mr Hubbard said: “My keepering years were challenging at times, but it is very rewarding when a Gun shakes your hand and thanks you for a great day.”
Godfrey Pitman, 59, retired a year ago, having worked for 39 years at Druids Lodge Estate in Wiltshire, a busy pheasant and partridge shoot. He now lives in County Durham, and is enjoying helping the local keepers on the moors and counting grouse with his wife’s Gordon setters. His advice to young keepers is: “You need your certificates of course, but work hard, be enthusiastic, and remember keepering is a way of life and enjoy it.”
Alec Throup, 57, has been at Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire for 42 years since leaving school in the 1970s, and is one of the estate’s eight keepers. Despite recent knee and shoulder operations, Mr Throup said: “I still love getting up and going to work in the morning, though it’s changed a lot. We have quad bikes now, whereas 40 years ago we just had our boots. Bringing my daughter up on the moor has been wonderful and even now she saves up her holidays from work to come and beat with us.”
Michael Warren, 67, now retired from keepering, started at 16 on the Conghurst shoot, Kent, hatching pheasants under broody hens for the Piper Family. From 1981 he keepered at Sandling Park, Kent, for the late Captain Alan Hardy, and today he still helps the family with the rhododendron garden. He said: “I’ve had a good life in keepering. I was very lucky to work on a traditional family shoot and I really enjoyed going with the Captain to other shoots and loading for him.” [Mr Warren’s award was sent to him in advance as ill health sadly prevented him from collecting it in person.]
An award for more than 50 years’ service was made posthumously at the Midland Game Fair to Frank Jenkins, a gamekeeper of around 60 years’ standing. It was accepted by his son Martin, also a gamekeeper. Frank Jenkins began his long career in keepering in the 1950s at Phepson Manor in Worcestershire, and spent the lion’s share of his working life at estates in the county of Worcester, except for a period in the 1960s in Buckinghamshire. Mr Jenkins retired in his 80s from Huddington Court, Worcestershire, where he remained hugely involved in almost all that went on at the estate up until his death in 2010. Part of his legacy to the keepering profession is, of course, the eponymous NGO Frank Jenkins Memorial Trophy that rewards the best full- or part-time gamekeeping student or apprentice of the academic year.
Earlier this year, a 40-year long service award was made posthumously to Stephen Vale who had worked at the Cornbury Park Estate, Oxfordshire for 4 years and for a further 36 years on the Eling Estate, Berkshire. He was highly regarded for his hard work and dedication and enormously respected by his beaters, Guns, farmers, trustees and other gamekeepers alike. Mr Vale was also a member of the NGO Hampshire and Berkshire Regional Committee. He is dearly missed by his family and all those who knew him. Members of the Vale family were presented with a duplicate long service medal and a certificate at the Midland Game Fair ceremony.
While, also earlier in 2017, William Webb, received a long service award in recognition of his 50 years of employment at the Broadlands Estate, Hampshire.
Nomination forms to apply for an NGO Long Service Award are available from Ann Robinson-Ruddock at the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation National Office, PO Box 246, Darlington, DL1 9FZ. Tel: 01833 660 869. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Gamekeepers' Organisation represents the gamekeepers of England and Wales. It defends and promotes gamekeeping, gamekeepers and ensures high standards throughout the profession. It was founded in 1997 by a group of gamekeepers who felt that their profession was threatened by public misunderstanding and poor representation. The NGO has around 13,000 members. www.nationalgamekeepers.org.uk