What/Who inspired you to take up taxidermy?
A fascination for wildlife from early age but actually taxidermy, I guess that's Mike Gadd's fault plus World of Nature (Pete) and Chris Elliott.
When did you start and what was the first item you worked on?
Late 1970s dealing in taxidermy while learning from Mike Gadd. If I remember, my first item was a Starling which Mike Gadd ripped apart to point out mistakes.
What was your first break into the industry?
Taking commissions and getting Mike Gadd to do them, and joining the Guild in 1980. Started own business in 1983 after retiring from London Financial Market.
Work History / Career
- 1964 - Started out in the London Stock Exchange although as a kid I wanted to become a vet. After a few years, moved to a computer firm where computers were housed in large temperature controlled rooms and were the size of a large fridge/freezer (IBM 360's) and computer tapes were stored on reels about 12 inches diameter. Always had an interest in butterflies and started setting insects for a London gallery. We used to get one shilling for each mount but could keep one specimen of each for our own collection.
- 1967 - Purchased a Land Rover and planned with a school friend to drive to East Africa to work with East African Wildlife Society of which I was a member. We arranged sponsorship with Readers Digest, did a month long European camping tour to check out the Land Rover and was all ready to go. Unfortunately, the Israeli army decided to invade Egypt in what we now know as the Six-Day War and kind of cut off our planned route.
- 1970's - Joined an American stockbrokers and then four years later, found me in the dealing rooms of a foreign exchange brokers buying and selling US dollars among other currencies. Whilst there, I started dealing in taxidermy, mainly deer head specimens, to my fellow workers who just fancied a large head to hang over their fireplaces and cases of insects of which I had a ready supply. Ended up on Vallium, so decided to give up the financial markets and pursue my interests in taxidermy. Used to go up to Yorkshire and learn from Mike Gadd who I completely blame for my current situation including joining the Guild - and the rest is history
- Since 1980/81, mainly commission work and educational hire.
- 2001 - Started The Taxidermy Law Co.
- Involved the Guild with DEFRA (then DoE) in 1981 on release of Wildlife & Countryside and later with EC Regulations.
- Getting the Guild accepted by government and all enforcement authorities as bona-fide organisation.I've attended government meetings ever since.
- Successfully got RSPB to invite the Guild to National Wildlife Conference (about 1992) and I have attended to date.
- Arranged head of Licensing (DEFRA) to Guild Conference.
- Arranged with DEFRA list of Guild Taxidermy Inspectors.
- Joined the Guild as member of PAWS (Partnership Against Wildlife Crime).
Who inspired you the most when you were learning?
That's down to Mike Gadd.
Who inspires you the most now or is it just Mother Nature?
Mother Nature and the Law.
Have you helped or taught any successful students?
No, left that to those recommended by the Guild.
What Interests do you have other than taxidermy?
- Books, especially on natural history which over the years has turned out to be a reasonable investment.
- Medieval coins (Plantagenets to Tudor), which has resulted in an even better investment (especially with gold coins which I also dabble in), all stored at the bank for safety reasons.
- Attending auctions for all sorts of antiques.
- Large collection of vinyl records, mainly 1960's.
How have you seen taxidermy change?
Over the past 40 years, taxidermy trade has changed substantially. When first starting up, the legal side of things was a bit sketchy with little control. The Protection of Birds Act 1954 was the rule to follow, but recording each specimen was a bit airy fairy. In 1975, CITES came into force with its controls on import and export of certain species and with the introduction of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, things began to change and although allowed to work under a General Licence, more thought was given to the origin of the specimen. Records were a legal necessity. Taxidermists were registered under the Act and needed to work with the RSDP (Registered Sellers of Dead Birds) scheme with its DoE stickers, but due to a cost cutting exercise, this was stopped in 1992. The European Union then introduced various controls culminating in 1997 with EC Regs 338/97 and the introduction of Article 10 licenses for certain species which along with various updates, we still work with today - although the dreaded Brexit may well have an effect in the near future. Certainly since the Guild was formed in 1976, one of its remits was to help improve the quality of work that was being produced at the time - this without doubt it has achieved by holding seminars and conferences and offering the only qualification available in the art. It has also brought together the taxidermy profession, both UK wide but also internationally producing outstanding work and cementing it as a true art form. It has also represented the trade at Government level and there is no doubt without its intervention, we would be in a far worse situation than we are now.
Accredited Member and Honorary Member. I was also the first winner of the Don Sharp Memorial Trophy.
Guild Committee Work
- Committee member since 1980/1
- Chairman in 1992/3, 1994/7 and 2000/1
- Legal Liaison Officer from 1981 to 2019 when I retired
Umpteen times at:
- Guild conferences on law
- National Wildlife Officer Conferences
- National Police Colleges
- Scottish Police Wildlife Conferences, Scottish government
- National CITES Conferences London
- Society of Fine Art Auctioneers (I was made an Honorary Member in 2019)
- Auction houses
- many others
I have judged on three or four occasions at Guild conferences, but I was more involved in registration of specimens at the conferences.
Kim McDonald, 2020