Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland


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Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland

Tempus Fugit - Sporting adventures with Barry Wilcox

In the early 1980s I moved to Waterybutts, a shooting and fishing lodge in Perthshire. Here I spent some happy times on the River Tay with Jimmy Last from Scone and we became good friends and occasional drinking companions to the irrepressible Colin Leslie of Cargill. What a man! From surviving the sinking of two motor torpedo boats during the War, to a lifetime on the Tay – someone should write a book about him. Scotland became a fishing heaven for me. I caught fish on the North Esk at Gannochy, fished the South Esk at Kinnaird (catching sea trout at night), caught fish on the ‘freshet’ at the Bridge of Balgie on the Lyon, and enjoyed much success on the lochs and rivers of Amhuinsuidhe on Harris. I was truly spoilt! A spell working in Texas even brought me largemouth bass and alligator gar.

I have had a fantastic time game fishing all over the UK (and further afield). Now I live near the wonderful River Tweed and keep a small but comprehensive range of fishing equipment and high quality hand-tied flies in the gunshop. After more than 50 years with rod and line, I occasionally still fish and arrange full or half-day fishing packages on the Tweed, but more often reminisce with the local ghillies whom I shoot and drink with. I’m sure I sometimes stretch the truth a bit but that’s part and parcel of being a fisherman! I have had some wonderful experiences and made some great friends – long may that continue.

About 25 years ago I was with Hendry, Ramsay and Wilcox, Scotland’s premier shooting agents. As a result of which I met many interesting people from all walks of life. Several became good friends. And there was never any shortage of characters.

Many years ago, we were hosting a small dinner party with friends and business associates when a guest took a fancy to one of the two long-case clocks which graced the dining room. My guest was renowned for his wheeling and dealing and his blunt manner. He opened his tender with a suggestion that our much loved 16th-century refectory table and settle were well past their sell by date, and if we sold him the “grandfather clock” we could invest in something more modern.

Rather miffed, I told him the clock, was not for sale and indeed he could not afford it. My guest took affront this, as being a very successful and another businessman, he was used to being able to afford most things. I informed him after clock was made by the most famous of his craft. My guest pointed out that he doubted that Thomas Phippard of Poole was a famous clockmaker. I continued. “Ah, but he only made the case face, the workings were by Tempus Fugit whose name is also engraved on the face” this seemed to satisfy him. The subject was dropped and we settled into a congenial evening of good food, wine, port and dram or two.

Some years later we were shooting together on a beautiful Highland estate and after an exciting morning of high pheasants, we retired for lunch to a stunning Scottish baronial home. On being welcomed into the great hallway by the laird, my friend shook hands, stopped, looked straight up at the long case clock standing there and exclaimed “Why, what a wonderful example of workmanship you have there.” The laird politely thanked my friend and said he liked his clock but thought it was just made by a local craftsman from Dundee. You may guess the answer: “Oh no it’s by Tempus Fugit”. The laird, though lost for words, was very polite and changed the subject. A business partner who was also at the first dinner and was privy to all that had gone on, whispered out of the corner of his mouth: “If he ever finds out, you’re a dead man”. Fortunately he never did and we remain good friends.

Must go. Tempus Fugit.

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