Saturday, 1 October 2011

Gordon Langsbury

Having returned from a week abroad, I would, as Carl thought, like to add a few words of tribute to Gordon. He first came to Islay in 1970 and, as so many people do, kept on returning, in his case at least once a year right up until two years ago, when he decided that the journey from Berkshire was too much for his wife, Joy, who was becoming increasingly infirm. I first met him in the mid-1980s, soon after moving here, and when the Natural History Trust moved into its present Centre in 1992 and we had a room where we could host public talks, Gordon became an annual fixture, never bothered about giving up an evening of his holiday. He used to lead birdwatching tours to many different parts of the world and also go on photography trips with other bird photographers at home and abroad. And each year he would transport us, his audience, to places such as Kenya, the Falklands, Texas, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Shetland, the Scillies, etc., etc. His outstanding bird photographs were always accompanied by scene-setting habitat shots, putting the birds in their context and so greatly adding to the interest and enjoyment of his talks.
One evening a few years ago, when he and Joy were having a meal with us, he happened to say: "You know, Malcolm, I've probably now photographed all the regular birds of Islay." And it was that casual remark, followed by the germ of an idea in my mind, that led to us getting together and publishing, in 2006, "The Birds of Islay - A Celebration in Photographs" containing about 170 of Gordon's photographs to which I added brief texts. Gordon eschewed nest photography, except very occasionally, so his photographs are of birds in their natural habitat, feeding, swimming, flying, etc.
Gordon retired from being, in his words, "a village bobby", early enough to have a second career as a professional photographer. Indeed, his careers overlapped, as he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society back in 1978. His work has won many awards and has been widely published in magazines and books, and he was a familiar figure on the bird club lecture circuit. Many's the visiting birdwatcher to Islay who, on seeing the poster for his talk and having been to one of his talks in England, made sure that they came to hear him again. A most approachable and friendly man, he will be much missed by a large number of people including by his many friends here on Islay.

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