Savage pride and quiet respect
Shooting Times & Country|April 15, 2020
Savage pride and quiet respect
We know from ancient cave paintings that our ancestors revered their quarry and it’s vital that we retain our traditions, says Patrick Laurie
Patrick Laurie

The shooting world is full of tradition. From plus fours and tweed caps to our enduring obsession with side-by-side shotguns, it’s clear that we place tremendous value on heritage and continuity in the countryside. As a community, we’re often mocked for our tweediness and the attendant “lifestyle” that comes with our sport, but traditions seem to mark a kind of respect to those who went before us.

It is interesting to wonder why we are so fixated on our traditions, particularly when so many of them are relatively new. Germans and Scandinavians observe hunting traditions that have their roots in medieval chivalry, but most of our culture harks back to the Victorian period. There are many modern Guns who would not look out of place standing beside Edward VII.

And despite advances in outdoor clothing, many of us still choose to freeze in crispy old wax jackets that were outdated half a century ago.

In common with many shooting enthusiasts, my father made me learn the poem A Father’s Advice before I was allowed into the field. Slow at school and generally reluctant to learn anything that even resembled poetry, I memorised the verses in record time because I had a clear objective in mind. It was a matter of hours before I was able to recite “never, never let your gun pointed be at anyone / That it may unloaded be, matters not the least to me”. In learning those words I had swallowed a sensible but extremely dated piece of Victorian sporting literature.

In more recent years, during the depths of a sleepless night with my newborn son in my arms, I fished around my brain for something to say to soothe his crying. Before I knew it, I was spouting A Father’s Advice and remarking that “all the pheasants ever bred will not repay for one man dead”. It turns out that I had engraved that poem on to my DNA.


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April 15, 2020