a gamekeepers life
When Garry MacLennan arrives at the young stag he has just shot, its eyes are already sightless, blue like topaz under the Scottish summer sky. While MacLennan works, the last air escapes in a sigh from its lungs, and when, after minutes, the animal is gutted, the fur on the warm flanks still twitches. Garry MacLennan throws the rumen into the heather, wipes the knife on the grass. His hands are bloody. They have killed a thousand times. And by doing so, have saved a thousand other lives. That’s how MacLennan sees it. The same hands that cut his son from his wife’s body now support the beating heart of the stag he shot moments earlier.
Seen at 30000ft from the comfort of of a transatlantic flight, the Scottish highlands can appear as an illusion, magnificent hills and valleys and thundering rivers, these seemingly vast stretches of unfettered, unpopulated wild ostensibly forgotten by time and people. At a glance it could be a repository for all our ideas about wilderness at its wildest. And yet today no patch here goes unclaimed, whether it’s marked, monetised, or fought over. Disturbed by man from its natural balance, it now falls to him to maintain the equilibrium. Farmers, foresters, gamekeepers, and ecologists all are now required to achieve what once man simply took for granted, and looked upon as inexhaustible.
In the Cairngorm National Park is Invermark Estate, one of 340 sporting estates in Scotland. Here Garry MacLennan, 35, is a fourth generation gamekeeper and custodian of these lands. What is clear to him, is that with more than half the planet’s population living in cities, our relationship with the wild has been increasingly divorced from our everyday reality. We’re now less a part of that wild world than consumers of it. It is these lands that have supported his family for generations, and it is here that he see’s his sons continuing his work. Here time is marked in seasons not by the clock, his presence etched on the hill like the autumn muirburn.
Pictures of the Year (POYI) Environmental Vision Award 2019