From the onset , this was never going to be a birding day. Having changed my plans I had more of a relaxed day travelling north and even had a proper lunch in the early afternoon and had time to go through the papers!! I stayed over at Penrith where I intended to have an early start to both reach the 1800 hours ferry at Kennacraig, Argyll following completion of the traditional large supermarket shop en-route. I'd also the intention of travelling a little further south of the ferry terminal and picking up on the Snow Geese I'd missed out on previously, which I understood were still there, so time was of the essence.
Having reached the Travelodge in good time I had the opportunity to oversee plans for the day after. It was then that I heard from Matthew that long-standing friend, John Wint , had died on the Friday. This was gut wrenching news and threw rational thought askew. John had contested with cancer for several years in a stoical, dignified way and we all had admiration for the way in which he carried on despite a series of periods of serious illness and operations. My last face to face conversation with him had been at the Birdfair in August when I actually thought he looked much better than I'd expected. He assured me that he took things day by day, as he clearly was doing, involved, as he was with the BTO ringing demonstration as in years previously.
John had been involved in the "team" of us who developed the Wintersett Ringing Station in the early 70's, where his energies and good advice were essential ingredients to the success it enjoyed. We also had a trip to Gambia in the early seventies from which a whole series of memories and experiences emerged. We took a boat trip up the river to Basse , which took four and a half days, within which time a fire broke out on board where villagers had been cooking on deck. Initially things were chaotic, as the Captain was asleep in his cabin, but eventually " fire fighting appliances" were employed ( buckets on ropes dipped in the river ) and the fire itself extinguished. Quintessential memories experienced together!!
Latterly John had been much involved with the Yorkshire Naturalists Union, served as its President and was also Recorder for one of the Vice Counties, evidence that, even in the hard times, he carried on regardless. He'll be sorely missed and with each emerging memory comes a deep sadness, anger even, that he would have undoubtedly contributed much more had the opportunity being allowed. John was a good bloke, a gent, but always one of the lads as well. A bad, sad day!