Saturday 30 June 2018


Scotland’s young gamekeeper of 2018 was crowned at Scone Palace on Friday (29th), fringed by veterans with nearly 200 years of combined land management experience.
It was generation game on day one of Scottish Game Fair as Craig Hepburn (22) was declared Young Gamekeeper of the Year, an award presented by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.
Selected from a final shortlist of 3, the highlander, who works at Candacraig Estate, was presented with first prize by SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser and NFUS Vice President Martin Kennedy.
Also receiving the inaugural SGA long service medals were four stalwarts still employed after over 40 years of managing Scotland’s countryside.
Hamish Ferguson (76), Michael Ewen (64), Lea McNally (66) and ‘nipper’ of the quartet, Colin Espie (63) received specially engraved medals for unbroken service.
SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser said: “It is great to see ambassadors, spanning the generations, being recognised. In Scotland’s Year of Young People, we have Craig- in his early career- standing shoulder to shoulder with individuals whose passion and devotion to good land and river management are examples to all.
“Scotland is internationally renowned for its landscape and it is the gamekeepers, farmers, ghillies and land managers, with their hours of toil and care, at the frontline.
“These professions and the skills and stewardship required bring people to Scotland, put food on tables, sustain fragile wildlife and keep young people and opportunity in our glens.
“The SGA is delighted to honour Craig, Hamish, Michael, Lea and Colin for the part they have played, and will continue to play, in a major success story for Scotland.”
Craig completed Modern Apprenticeship and NC qualifications in gamekeeping at North Highland College UHI before becoming beat keeper at Candacraig in 2014.
Despite being a 6th generation gamekeeper, Craig’s progressive outlook, education work with youngsters, commitment and early promotion to second position impressed judges.
“Gamekeeping is in the family blood,” said Craig. “I think gamekeepers today, as well as working hard, have to do their bit in education so the public understand more about what we do and the benefits of that.”
At the opposite end of the seniority scale, stalker and gamekeeper Hamish Ferguson was honoured for 61 years of service, starting at Balmoral in 1957 and continuing today at Glenogil Estate, Angus.
Stalker Lea MacNally’s 40 years of helping clients pursue the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ at Glenquoich landed him a medal, while Colin Espie’s 47 years at Glen Tanar Estate guiding guests in stalking and landing the ‘king of fish’ was rewarded.
Michael Ewen, who started out as a ghillie on the Spey in December 1969, collected his prize, admitting he never imagined he’d still be on the Rothes beat 48 years on.
“I didn’t think much about it,” he said, “I always loved fishing. The opportunity came up and I took it. I think today’s young ghillies move jobs more. I suppose it is quite rare these days to be in one place, or one job, so long but we have been lucky with our guests.

“The Spey is a big employer and it’s vital we do all we can to ensure we still have fish in future.”