GOOD TO SEE that Shooting Times and Country Magazine has belatedly caught on to our existence, and that its columnist Alasdair Mitchell enjoyed the Countryside Alliance-related letter from Ian R Mitchell in TAC55. Writing on page 7 of the 7 November issue of Shooting Times, Alasdair Mitchell curiously declines to name IRM (perhaps through not wanting to risk wading into the confusion with IRM's country-loving counter-self Ian Blank Mitchell), but writes "[TAC55] has a splendidly splenetic diatribe from one of those old-fashioned class warriors whose prejudices are so evident in the Scottish Executive's treatment of rural people. This dinosaur seizes on a claim by a Countryside Alliance member that she would 'die in a ditch to defend hunting', and comments that: ...many readers of TAC would doubtless welcome the entire membership of the CA dying in any ditch..."
Alasdair Mitchell goes on: "I asked the editor of TAC, David Hewitt, whether he would be happy to print the same sort of opinion if it related to, say, an ethnic minority, or gay people. After a pleasant but inconclusive chat, Mr Hewitt warned me not to misquote him."
It's curious how Alasdair Mitchell seems to have missed IRM's central point, namely the conflict of interest inherent in Caroline Tisdall's membership of the CA and also as a board member of the John Muir Trust. Nor - despite his evident objection to what he sees as some kind of incitement to cause mass CA ditch-death - does Alasdair Mitchell seem to have the slightest problem with Ian Blank Mitchell's statement, made in the selfsame TAC55, that "as a profound critic of the landowning agencies, like SNH, RSPB, NTS et al, I am accusing them of Nazi-style behaviour insofar as they put conservation before people." (Nigel Hawkins of the JMT, surely one of the "et als", is likewise exercised by IRM but unbothered by IBM - see here pp16-17.)
IBM is every bit as entitled to make his point (although Paul Hesp offers a robust rebuttal on page 16) as is IRM to make his comments about the CA. But it is odd that Alasdair Mitchell seems completely untroubled by IBM even though the latter's assertion is likely to be seen in most eyes as even more extreme. Perhaps a clue is to be found in the "Kennelnotes" piece on page 54 of Shooting Times, where Keith Erlandson writes: "The only head of state to ban hunting was Adolf Hitler, whose record regarding human rights does not stand up to scrutiny." Hmm. There's something of a theme starting to emerge here.
And could the preponderance of Mitchells in this story also be a factor? I stupidly didn't think to ask Alasdair Mitchell during our phone conversation whether he was by any chance related to Ian Blank Mitchell of Islay, but it would be interesting to know. What is a safe bet however is that he's not from the same bloodstock as the "dinosaur" Ian R Mitchell of Glasgow.
It's always amusing to see how basic mistakes are scattered through such pieces (maybe TAC does the same), ranging from the subtle and admittedly fairly inconsequential "Scotland's finest and first hillwalking fanzine" when we've always been the first and finest, to the bizarre inability to get the name of the mag right: "The Angry Corries". Likewise the editor is "David Hewitt" when the phone conversation began with Mitchell asking "Hello, is that Dave Hewitt?" (And anyone named Alasdair must have vast and tiresome experience of being converted to Alastair, Alistair, Alister etc.)
Shooting Times as a whole makes for an interesting read on a know-your-enemy basis. There is plenty of hellish stuff as you might expect - an ad for "mixed sporting breaks" including goat-stalking on the Eilean Darach estate in Wester Ross; a description by John Humphreys of how he killed a pinkfooted goose ("It lined up on my nose 10 yards up, and when it was close, I gave it one"); and a letter from FJ Taylor of Leighton Buzzard defending his role in a lark cull. "At first," Taylor writes, "I was apprehensive, but I am a great believer in the expression 'Don't knock it until you've tried it', and, in all my 83 years, I have never seen better quarry respect or recognition." He ends thus: "I am glad I went and I truly hope that I will be invited again to participate in this perfectly legal pursuit." ("Don't knock it until you've tried it": what a crap - and dangerous - philosophy that is. Let's give burglary a go... Buggery... Invading the Sudetenland...)
There are plenty of pictures of overweight men holding cocked weapons if you like that kind of thing, but more surprising is the evidence for a crossover of interests between shooters and baggers. "Wildfowlers asked to submit bag returns" runs a page 8 headline, while the "Shootlunch" sidebar on page 18 describes how to make Marilyn's Harvest Fruitcake. Shame about the apostrophe, but referring to those who harvest Marilyns as fruitcakes is probably fair enough. Then, on page 17, in a feature about partridge shooting "over the undulating hillsides of Essex", David Tomlinson writes: "The Aerial shoot, by the way, occupies the second highest point in Essex, reaching almost 350ft." That's almost Blancoesque.
TAC 56 Index