This past year, I have lost the two old friends who introduced me to shooting sports, pastimes in which my father had no particular interest.
The first was Paul who took me small-bore target shooting was I was about twelve. Paul came from Devon and had been a lieutenant in the Royal Signals, stationed in Egypt at the end of the Second World War. His father had been out in Australia when the First World War began and was with the Australian Machine Gun Corps at Gallipoli and in France, where he won the Military Cross. Paul’s hobby was small-bore rifle shooting; and he was good at it. We would go to the indoor range which was built onto the R.E.M.E. garages at the local Territorial Army Depot. It was in his company that I learned gun safety and range rules.
The second was Jimmy. His father had been a gamekeeper on an estate near Carnwath. He enjoyed shotguns and rough shooting, but didn’t say much about it. When I took up an interest in the same, he was an unexpected advocate who lessened my father’s apprehensions.
I grew up with these friends of my parents. Both were at my father’s funeral. Both were too ill to be at my mother’s. Being on the other side of the Atlantic, I couldn’t get to theirs. Theologically, I would not burn incense for the dead. However, when I open the breech to eject a fired case and smell the gases, Paul and Jimmy come to mind.