This is a lovely, gentle and eminently readable book that takes you into the lives of some of Scotland's best known and most respected stalkers, gillies and keepers. Bruce Sandison is an author who will be well known to and appreciated by anyone who has any interest in angling in Scotland, and in "Glorious Gentlemen" he broadens out his theme to include those other foundation stones of country life, and the rural economy, shooting and stalking.
Many of us who love Scotland and spend time travelling around it will be aware that country pursuits play an important role in the life of many rural areas. But for all too many of us this awareness is for practical purposes limited to the occasional glimpse from the road of a distant figure up to his or her midriff in a beautiful river, or the even rarer glimpse of a shooting party en route to the hill. For too many Scots, and too many visitors to Scotland, these aspects of everyday life seem inaccessible, unavailable, and ever so slightly mysterious, like leftovers from a different world that in other respects has long gone.
"Glorious Gentlemen" goes a long way towards setting the record straight, towards allowing the rest of us to see the ways in which the activities of those employed as stalkers, gillies and keepers fit into aspects of rural life that are more visible and more widely understood. Back in the 1980s, the author interviewed a series of those employed in these activities, and published what emerged as "The Sporting Gentleman's Gentleman". His latest work does the same thing for the modern generation, and the results are set out in eighteen chapters, most of which focus on a discussion with a particular individual about his background, his work, and particular noteworthy incidents that have occurred.
This may not sound an instantly appealing synopsis, but it overlooks the sheer humour that bubbles out from the pages of each discussion; the sheer love of the author for the world he is showing us; and his consummate skill in getting the tone and level of detail just right. This is book that will certainly appeal to anyone with an interest in fishing, hunting or shooting in Scotland, but its real joy is that it is also a book that can be readily accessed and enjoyed by the rest of us.