In October 1912 Jack Gordon, ornithologist, entomologist, field-sportsman and world-renowned egg collector appealed for people to come forward with final contributions for his soon-to-be-published book Birds of Wigtownshire. However his enterprise, begun more than 120 years ago, has only just come to fruition. The result is a book that opens a window on the past and a time when many species were far more abundant than today, when the region’s landscape looked very different.
Jack Gordon’s Birds of Wigtownshire (1890-1935) was finally published thanks to the efforts of Chris Rollie, Area Manager for the RSPB, who inherited Jack’s notes, and his fellow ornithologist and author Richard Mearns of Dumfries. Over the last three years they edited the papers “as a labour of love”. This is a chance to hear a wonderful story and understand how the environment, and attitudes, have changed.
The book recalls a time when open moorland and peatland were far more extensive and before the huge conifer forests were planted. It was also an era when most farms had an arable element, with spring rather than autumn/winter sowing of cereals, and therefore lots of stubble which was a vital resource for seed-eating birds. Weedy turnip fields were numerous, too, and full of birds. It was also a time when raptors were heavily persecuted (something Gordon tried to limit) and there seemed no contradiction between loving birds and taking their eggs.
Jack’s actual name was John Gordon McHaffie Gordon and he lived at Corsemalzie House, in the Wigtownshire Machars. A man of many parts he was captain of Wigtown Burgh Golf Club and was a local tennis champion. After wartime service he returned to Corsemalzie and spent countless hours recording an astonishing amount of information. He also corresponded widely with the local aristocracy, landowners, gamekeepers, shooters, farmers, fishermen and lighthouse keepers. In this way amassed information that provides a fascinating insight into country life, landscape and land management in Wigtownshire between the wars, as well as the status and behaviour of birds in the county.
This limited edition book is available from Chris at the book signing or from The Bookshop, Wigtown (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01988 402499) or the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club at Waterston House, Aberlady. Alternatively, if you live in the Glenkens area you can get a copy directly by emailing email@example.com.