28 April 2020

Lockdown Library


by Rick T.

28 April 2020

Suggested Reading for Lockdown!

Each week the blog will feature a nature writer who's work has inspired us.

This week, Community Outreach Officer Rick Taylor recommends Mike Tomkies.

I think it's entirely fair to say that I would not be working with Golden Eagles today if it wasn't for Mike Tomkies. His books and his life have been a huge inspiration to me.

Mike was born not far from where I grew up in Whitley Bay, on the North East coast of England in 1928. His first career as a successful journalist saw him lead a lavish lifestyle, rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood stars of the day such as John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant to name a few. Then, at 38, he turned his back on the bright lights and retreated into the Canadian wilderness, building a cabin and living alone, close to nature and surviving on limited supplies and what the ocean provided . After returning to Scotland, Mike continued to live as a recluse in extremely remote locations (a constant theme in his writing) to study the rare and stunning wildlife of the Scottish Highlands. His work encompassed all of the wildlife around him but two of his main focus species were the Scottish Wildcat (which he bred at his home) and the Golden Eagle.

Above is an extract from 'A Last Wild Place'. Mike's writing is not just a diary style report of what he sees when, but an immersion into a landscape and a frame of mind that values wildlife and wild places above all else. It is wilderness philosophy. His dedication, fieldcraft and compassion for the living creatures he studies is outstanding and his style of writing makes you feel like you're right there with him through all his adventures and hardships. In short, it's the perfect, escapist, lockdown read and so much more!

Golden Eagles feature heavily in Mike's middle books. Killer treks carrying heavy loads to remote eyries, usually alone, are rewarded by hard won insights and magical moments shared with the Eagles.

Sadly Mike passed away on 6th October 2016. I corresponded with him briefly by letter (his replies were written on a typewriter and mailed from Spain where he was living in his campervan filming vultures and Eagles at the time!), asking him for his advice on the the forthcoming project. He was in full support and the collection from his funeral was donated to the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project.

I can't recommend Mike's books enough to anyone with an interest in nature and wild places. He is, without doubt, my personal favourite wildlife writer.

Thanks for the inspiration Mike and I'm sure your work will help to inspire future generations for years to come!

Wildlife Bibliography:

Alone in the Wilderness/Between Earth and Paradise/ ALast Wild Place/ My Wilderness Wildcats/ Liane - A Cat from the Wild/ Out of the Wild/ Golden Eagle Years/ On Wing and Wild Water/ Moobli/ Last Wild Years/ In Spain's Secret Wilderness/ Wildcat Haven/ Wildcats/ Rare, Wild & Free