Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rest in Peace, Stephen Frank

I was saddened to hear about the death of legendary British falconer Stephen Frank (at right, above), who passed away last Saturday morning. Steve was one of the most interesting people I've met in a lifetime of falconry. He lived for decades in a battered old crofter's cottage on a lonely grouse moor in the Scottish Highlands, above the Dornoch Firth. He was one of a handful of British falconer who kept the sport alive in the years after the Second World War. Steve cut quite a figure in the field in his youth, always racing full speed over the moors like a wild stag, clad in sneakers and a bright-red sweater (which he hoped his falcon would key in on) as his falcon circled high above him. And he was constantly shouting encouragements to his falcon and his dog, his voice echoing across the moors. He was always a picture of vigor, exuberance, and boundless optimism. When I visited him a few years ago, we sat together drinking tea in front of his old cottage, basking in one of those rare Scottish days when the sun is shining. His old pointer, Handel, lay curled nearby on a battered easy chair with stuffing sticking out of torn seams in the tweed. We spoke endlessly about hawking and about bird dogs—which he loved as much as his falcons. The last time I saw him, he was already well into his 70s, and he'd had a hip replacement, but he was in no way ready to give up the sport he loved. He was training a new eyas tiercel Peregrine and a pointer pup. This was his answer to creeping old age and its accompanying infirmities. He will be greatly missed.


  1. He was one of natures true gentlemen and he'll be sorely missed by all who had the good fortune to know him and experience his hospitality at Londornaich,,R.I.P,
    Alvin Holland

  2. I met Stephen several times when I used to visit friends in Brora, Sutherland after I attended school in Dunrobin Castle and later worked on the construction of the Highland I oil rig at Nigg Bay in the mid-1970s. Stephen appeared to live for falcons and falconry and stayed in a croft house on a grouse moor of I believe he said 1,000 acres from the beginning of the grouse hunting season until the snow stopped it. He also used to fly his falcons on other moors (e.g. Crackaig (Loth) which was owned by the Dugeon family). Yes, as stated above by Tim Gallagher, Stephen used to shout a lot during the days hunting because he used to say to me that it transferred the excitment to his dogs and the falcons! My friend from Brora said "I never knew that falconrry was so voicifereous!" on his first outing with Stephen. On some days, three or four dogs (often English pointers: such as Queenie (his favourite) and Tiggie, et al.) would be used to 'honour' the point and wait in a classical style while the falcon made her pitch high above and slightly up wind 'waiting on'. Once the dogs flushed the grouse you would miss the falcons' stoop if you blinked during it and there was an explosion of feathers when the bird hit the grouse. Classic stuff which will be remembered forever!

    I had falcons for 13 years and started when I was at Dunrobin Castle as a school pupil, and later trained and hunted with a wide range of hawks (sparrow hawks and goshawks), falcons (peregrines and sakers) and (hawk)eagles, but I never achieved the skill and ability of Stephen Frank with them.

    I now live and work in the tropics (Colombia) and work on the diagnosis, immunology and pathogenesis of tropical haemorrhagic fevers and, unfortunately, don't have the time to fly falcons.

    By the way, my last name comes from the fact that my ancestors were falconers for the king of Scotland.

    In conclusion, I really am grateful to Stephen as a very, very nice person who showed me classical falconry at the highest level.

    Andrew Falconar PhD

  3. Sad news , my recollections of meeting Stephen Frank were my father (Roger Fisher) taking me out with Stephen up on the moor with his peregrine and pointers and Sir James Robertson Justice . My recollection of this as I would be only 6 or 7 was his pointer freezing in the heather and Stephen Frank running in after releasing his peregrine up above and low and behold a Scottish Wildcat jumping up out of the heather. This memory is as vivid now 46 years later and still tell my friends about it so must have had quite an impact. I can remember on the same day Sir James Robertson Justice looking at me and saying "Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails that's what little boys are made of " . Great memories that will never be forgotten.

    Mark Fisher
    Melton Mowbray