Two individuals who launched the careers of young land managers and helped drive up standards in Scotland’s gamekeeping profession have jointly landed a new conservation award.
John Waters (72) and Iris MacKenzie (65) were presented with the inaugural Ronnie Rose award by Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg at Moy Highland Field Sports Fair yesterday (fri).
The award was introduced by the SGA this year in memory of acclaimed Scottish wildlife manager and author, Ronnie Rose, who passed away at his home in Eskdalemuir last December.
The judging panel received nominations from all over Scotland for the honour, which recognises individuals who have made a lasting contribution to conservation, species management or rural education.
John and Iris worked together for many years at the now North Highland College UHI in Thurso, helping students gain practical placements and learning opportunities on the college’s early gamekeeping course.
The first of its kind in the highlands, the course helped launch generations of young land managers, regularly achieving a 100 per cent success rate for students moving into full-time employment.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “What John and Iris achieved at Thurso is remarkable. They left no stone unturned trying to help youngsters make their way and there are gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies across Scotland, and their families, that have a lot to thank them for today.
“We received many high quality nominations, from all aspects of land management but, in the end, the decision was unanimous and we are delighted to be recognising both John and Iris in our Year of the Rural Worker, 2015.”
Both John and Iris worked on educational projects at Thurso with Ronnie Rose MBE, whose pioneering work in wildlife management and forestry are now staples of forestry best practice.
“Ronnie did a lot of work at the college, playing a big part in establishing exchange visits to Denmark and Sweden. We shared a lot of the same ideas and approaches,” said John, who worked as a lecturer on the gamekeeping course for 23 years until his retirement.
“Ronnie was education all the way but he was adamant the students should never forget the basics which was the practical, hands-on work and that is what we focused on.
“When I started at Thurso, the course had been running one year, mostly with skill-seekers, but a lot of good kids have now gone through that course and have gone on to senior positions. Many still keep in touch.”
Iris worked for 12 years as Training Organiser in the Gamekeeping section and helped place youngsters at estates Scotland-wide.
Known affectionately as ‘Auntie Iris’, her role helping the pupils also extended to amateur psychology and moral support.
“A lot of the youngsters were only 16 years old and needed a bit of extra help. John and myself would travel all over Scotland to find placements for them. It gave me a great deal of pleasure seeing them progress. We regularly had all the students going on from the course straight into work and a lot of them are now Head Gamekeepers.”
Ron Rose junior is delighted the pair have received recognition in the first year of the award.
“The Rose family would like to take this opportunity to thank the SGA for sponsoring an award in recognition of Ronnie’s lifetime of work in wildlife management and conservation by acknowledging and celebrating the work of others who have devoted their time and energy to similar effect.
"We are delighted that the first winners are John Waters and Iris Mackenzie. We are sure there are many former students out their now working in countryside management who would like to join us in acknowledging the significant contribution they have made and congratulate them in receiving this award.”