Many of you will know that Ian Brooke passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in June, leaving a big void for many. You can read a wonderful tribute to Ian on the Islay Birds blog. I’ve known Ian for almost 20 years and he’s had some big influences on my life. These are my personal memories of Ian and how he influenced my life:
Back in 2003 Ian started the WalkIslay Islay walking week where every April daily guided walks by local people around the island were set up. Because of how Easter (and my birthday) fell that year I happened to be on Islay for a long weekend and joined for one of the walks. I enjoyed it so much that I returned the following year for the full week, joined by my mother. And as they say, the rest is history. I’ve been on every WalkIslay week since with the exception of 2018 where a bad leg injury stopped me from going (and 2020 as well as 2021 were cancelled due to Covid 19). Through the walking week I got to know a large number of people and made many friends. I got to see many parts of Islay I probably wouldn’t have seen without it. I learned various things about Islay’s history, nature and geology I might not have learned otherwise. Not to mention all the wonderful memories and pictures of beautiful walks and events during the walks. All because of Ian’s idea and drive to set up the walking week, his drive to find walk leaders and his enthusiasm to make it work. Not to mention the great Islay Walks booklet he helped creating. All something that gives me inspiration for walks on Islay to this day.
The other big influence is birds (and other wildlife). As everyone knows Ian was an avid birdwatcher. Over the many years I’ve known Ian (and through him many of the other birders) this led to me developing an interest in wildlife and birdwatching. While I’m still very very amateurish (and will always be) I now spot birds I wouldn’t have seen a decade ago during my daily walks, I at times actively go out to watch and photograph birds, something I wouldn’t have thought of doing 15 years ago. Not something that Ian actively pushed, just something he planted in me through his enthusiasm. Closely related to this is the well known Islay Birds blog he started in 2007. As some may know I’ve been blogging in some way for about 20 years, with this blog going since May 2006, something Ian knew and read. He picked my brain, I gave him some pointers and ideas, and soon after the Islay Birds blog appeared. A regular update of the birds spotted on Islay (and elsewhere) as well as some regular weather and rainfall updates in Ian’s personal style. Something I’ve had in my feedreader ever since and read regularly. Something I remember soothing my nerves when I had booked an October visit slightly earlier than usual. The week before I was due to leave for Islay I was checking for the arrival of the Barnacle Geese, one of the main reasons for an October visit. Monday, nothing. Tuesday, nothing. Wednesday, nothing. But the winds have changed. Thursday, they have arrived! Phew……. It was also very nice to see my own reports mentioned on the blog by Ian, being from Islay or even from West Berkshire.
Of course I also have fond memories of the many many cups of teas and biscuits enjoyed at Ian’s and Margaret’s kitchen table. The meals we’ve enjoyed together. The phone calls. The emails. The times I’ve helped Ian with some IT problems when I could. The stays at Kilchoman Cottages which they ran for many years until they retired. The help they gave me at various times. The hours spent in Ian’s own birdwatching hide at Kilchoman, chatting, looking out for birds or viewing footage from his CCTV camera.
Those are my personal memories of Ian and my little thank you to him. When I see a rare or unusual bird I still think, “Oh, I need to send that to Ian” and probably will for a long time. The Islay Birds blog will be continued in his memory, so in a way I will still be sending it to him.
Thank you, Ian.