Bruce Sandison adopts a very interesting approach here. Using a voice recorder he interviewed keepers, gillies and stalkers, and country sports professionals, and then with secretarial help transcribed the recordings. Voilà: Glorious Gentlemen.


For the most part the format for each chapter follows a similar pattern: the character is introduced through a short biography, the emphasis is on how they came to take part in fishing, shooting etc, then how they came into their professions. So, for example, we find out that as a young man Bill Drury was a coal miner. As a young father he and his wife decided to make a move to keepering first on a riverless estate, then as a river watcher on the Naver, which led to a position on the Spey, and later on the Ponoi. Bruce’s account of the events is much more entertaining than my summary, but what surprised me was the amount of simple chance and luck involved in most of the changes and steps in Bill’s career.

In that chapter Bruce briefly compares events in his own life with Bill’s. Where Bill managed a fishing camp on the Ponoi, Bruce ran a camp in Chile. Those sections read like the author making it clear he can empathise with his subject, and confirming that chances like these do happen in fishing. The thing is, Bruce is a highly skilled writer who really can tell a tale, so the weave of his stories with the biography and anecdotes of the subjects of each chapter has charm and fascination.

Glorious Gentlemen goes beyond the familiar genre of amusing tales told about gnarled old gillie/keeper/stalker. Bruce uses a dash of journalism, of factual biography, his and theirs, blended with the often amusing stories and anecdotes so he and we are laughing with them not at them.