Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland


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Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland

Game shooting

Near the end of the Second world war a young German prisoner of war called Heinz (who at 14 years old seemed a low escape risk!) was sent to work with local farmers including my Grandfather. Heinz remained in the village after the war as he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of his family and his home was now in the Russian sector.

Although older than myself, Heinz became a good friend both on the football field and later, in the pub!. He carried on farming for some years and then ploughed his energies into the building boom of the 1960’s, rising from groundwork to brickwork and becoming a reputable builder of some stature.

Then came game shooting – Heinz took to it like a duck to water and I profited in a small way by selling him several guns including a trio of Woodwards. We shot together for many years and I well remember a hilarious episode that took place on Glenshee whilst grouse shooting.

We had eaten (and drunk!) a very good lunch and it was a scorching hot late October day. Heinz, my old friend Steve, and myself were to be on pegs 6,7 and 8 respectively, pegs that were near the top of a very steep hill! We set off together and by the time we reached Heinz’s butt, the lunchtime wine and port together with a few years of good living were taking their toll on him. We left Heinz sitting with his back against his butt in the warm sunshine, his gun out on the ground beside him. It was late in the year and there were masses of grouse, packed-up as you would expect them to be.

Steve climbed on and made ready at butt 7 and I was almost at 8 when I saw movement from the flankers flags and a massive pack of birds could be seen heading for the centre of the line. Shouts of ‘Grouse!’ raised Heinz from his dozing and as the birds were dealt with along the rest of the line, he could be seen scrabbling to his feet, shooting at departing birds now almost out of range.

A ripple of laughter ensued at Heinz’s expense, followed by Steve’s friendly taunt that could be heard down the glen – “No wonder you lost the bloody war!” Heinz suffered much leg-pulling that evening although he did get a chance to get his own back (but that’s another story!).

Looking back, this episode reminds me how much fieldsports, game shooting and sporting camaraderie can transcend barriers of nationalism, social standing, wealth and even conflict. I am privileged to have been involved in many such episodes and to have shared so many memorable experiences.

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