The winner of the inaugural Scottish Young Gamekeeper of the Year award is Islay Estates keeper, Alan MacDonald. A graduate of Thurso College, Alan (24) has worked for Islay Estates on the island of Islay for the last eight years, and has been described as having a great enthusiasm and aptitude for his job together with a quiet, gentle charm and relaxed style. His responsibilities as a Beat Keeper on 20,000 acres of Islayâ€™s northeastern quarter include the annual cull of 60 red deer stags and 70 hinds together with the release of 800 partridges and pheasants and the development of a woodcock shoot. On the biodiversity front, Alan is involved in opening up woodland and clearing rhododendrons for the benefit of both wildlife and rough shooting. He also maintains footpaths for the many visitors and walkers who pass through the estate.
SGA chairman, Alex Hogg described Alanâ€™s approach to his job as a model for modern gamekeepers, and said he was impressed by his knowledge not just of the hill environment but also the underlying debate which surrounds shooting and conservation. 'Alan is a young guy but he demonstrates a thorough understanding of our profession and the important role we play in the modern Scottish countryside, where increasing numbers of visitors need to be welcomed and managed. At a challenging time when many different agencies are attempting to stake a claim to the countryside, we need competent personable men like Alan to be out there working quietly as our ambassadors.' Continue reading....Mark Oddy, estate manager with The Buccleuch Group, supporters of the award, said the competition was the first in Scotland to recognize and reward the hard work and dedication of Scotlandâ€™s young gamekeepers. 'These young professionals play a vital role in the management of Scotlandâ€™s unique and special countryside, making important contributions to biodiversity and the protection of threatened species. We want to encourage the great work they do and help ensure that Scotland stays great,' he said. Alanâ€™s boss, Jack Adamson, head keeper on Islay Estates, praised his protÃ©gÃ©â€™s conscientious approach to the job, and said the estateâ€™s guests all enjoyed Alanâ€™s company and regularly asked for him to accompany them on stalks. 'He has a good manner and a great sense of humour, and Iâ€™ve never heard anything but praise about him,' he said. 'He came here as a very young 16 year old, but his familyâ€™s keepering background and his natural aptitude for the job have turned him into a great young keeper. Iâ€™m absolutely delighted he has won this award â€“ it is well deserved.' Alanâ€™s award is an exclusively designed length of tweed to be made into a suit by Lovat Mill of Hawick in the Scottish Borders.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.