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.