Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland


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Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland

A good nose

It must be nearly 50 years ago that I was picking up with my black labrador Sally on a well-known Southern estate when one of the many humorous episodes of my life occurred.

Laden with pheasants from a very successful drive, I approached the guns who were taking refreshments and generous libation, only to be summoned by his Lordship. “Young Wilcox” he called, “I have a cock runner down between that hedgerow and the start of the kale”. Off I trudged, a little round-shouldered as I had seen one of Charlie’s dogs coming back from that area with a bird, albeit a hen. However I was not one to argue with his Lordship! After much searching I returned empty-handed, convinced that it had been picked. (Later in my picking up career I would have probably had a cock and a hen in my bag in case of such eventualities!).I tried to slip back to the group unnoticed but his Lordship fixed me with a soul searching look – “Any success young Wilcox?”. I had to admit “No Sir”, to which he replied, “Never mind, when George comes through with Rodney, he’ll find it”

My ego and my pride in Sally took a huge knock as ‘Rodney’ was a hard headed yellow lab worked by George, the Head Keeper, who had ‘carte blanche’ as far as his Lordship was concerned. George arrived to discuss the next drive and despatched Rodney with a casual wave of his hand towards the next county. It might sound a little un-Christian of me, but Rodney was known as an ace ‘pegger’, and there was no way that he wouldn’t return with a bird and had a 50/50 chance of cock or hen! After 10 minutes or so, his Lordship spotted Rodney coming over the plough from a completely different direction with a ‘retrieved’ cock.

“Look at that young Wilcox” said his Lordship, “My God, George, your Rodney must have the best nose in the county!” Seeing my slightly crestfallen look, George’s quick wit soon lightened proceedings – “He’s got a good nose my Lord, but not as good as  Mrs C’s (his wife)”. His Lordship enquired as to the meaning of this, to which George replied, “Well my Lord, this morning in bed, Mrs C said to me – ‘George you dirty devil, you’ve farted!’ – and I honestly hadn’t but was about to!”

The assembled company of guns, beaters and pickers up collapsed with laughter and this once again reminded me that a days shooting is not just about killing pheasants, or about showing your prowess with a gun, but something more. As my Grandfather always said – “A successful day is when guns, beaters and dogs all go home with their tails wagging!”

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