Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ronald Stevens

This is not Bertie Wooster with a Gyr, but the great, innovative English falconer, naturalist, and writer Ronald Stevens, who lived for many years on an estate in Ireland and was the first falconer to understand Gyrs since the death of Colonel Thornton in the 1820's.

With then- young John Morris (my generation) he also bred the first hybrid falcons, from a pair made of a Saker from Colonel Kent Carnie and a local Peregrine. We corresponded for a couple of years shortly before his death at, I believe, 93.

Dog colleague Sir Terence Clark has been searching for info, and I have been able to give him a little and some contacts. I wrote:

"I corresponded with him extensively when he was old and still have five letters over several years, some long, I could scan. Unfortunately a lot of magazine material etc has gone by the way.

"He was an innovative falconer and the first after Thornton (who died in the 1820's!) and before the American grouse hawkers to make a success with Gyrfalcons-- outside of Asia anyway. He collected birds, knew Haile Selassie, and flew Peregrines at enemy pigeons during the war.

"Although English he settled on an estate in County Galway in Ireland with red grouse. He kept both a Gyr or two and a Lanner at virtual liberty (also a flock of parakeets!) One Gyr would fly home after the hunt.

"He was a mentor to many, among them sportsman- falconer-writer John Morris. He and Morris bred a clutch of very early hybrids, Saker X Peregrine if memory serves. He at least was acquainted with TH White-- I will look in my White- Mavrogordato letters. Youthful photos of him look like they come straight from PG Wodehouse. In old age he resembled a cross between Churchill, Buddha, and a benevolent toad, and wore Chinese coolie hats in the summer."

We would all appreciate any info not in the books. For instance who other than Stevens (right) and the King of Buganda are in this photo?


Tim Gallagher said...

Steve - You should ask Tony Huston about Ronald Stevens. I think Tony was about five years old and living in Ireland when he first met him. (This was was in the mid-1950s when his father was directing "Moby Dick.") Stevens later became Tony's falconry mentor and gave him his first bird, a merlin as I recall.

William Pinchers said...

has anyone got any pictures of photos we can access for the archieves of falconry please these are priceless to our art.thankyou william pinchers