Bill was master of the moor and a genius at the fishing

Bill Tait.
Bill Tait.

Bill Tait, who has died aged 77, was a Berwickshire countryman of outstanding skill and knowledge; a master on the moor and in the garden and among woods, he was, above all, a recognised genius at the fishing.

Officially retired from his work as a gamekeeper, Bill, who lived with his beloved Peggy at Fogo Muir, never seemed to stop roaming the country on the look-out for new or old pools to fish, folk to help with their gardens or dogs, carefully guiding less experienced gamekeepers, inspiring life-long devotion in the young, always alert to the wonders of nature, respectful to all, and always kind: he was a true gentleman.

William Henderson Tait was born at Tranent on October 14, 1935, the eldest of the two children of George Munro Tait, and Nellie Macdonald. Bill had the habit of marking his birthday by distributing gifts, normally in fish-form, to elderly friends.

While Tait is a well-established Berwickshire name, Bill was proud of his Orkney/Skye heritage and was active in researching his ancestry.

Leaving school at 15, Bill worked as a motor mechanic in Haddington. Having served his time, Bill joined the Army (REME) aged 21 and served three years as a regular soldier and four in the reserve. Despatched to Malaya in a time of trouble, he saw serious action as well as tigers, frogs eating moths and snakes eating frogs; he also contrived to explore the fishing possibilities that Borneo afforded.

Returning home, Bill worked in the hydro-electric industry before securing his first job as a gamekeeper, at the Rosebery Estate where he stayed for five years. He then worked at the Langton Estate for 15 years and then at Marchmont for the next 12.

Bill Tait married Peggy Kirk in 1963. Their four children – Bobby, Helen, Billy and wee Lorraine (born in 1977) – always saw Bill and Peggy as the hub of the family. There are now five grand-children and two great grand-children on all of whom Bill doted.

Bill’s prowess as an angler was lightly worn. While he loved to share his experiences, he was the opposite of boastful about them and was furthermore the gentlest and most inspiring of teachers. Whatever one’s age or background or level of skill, one returned from a day’s fishing with Bill Tait considerably more knowledgeable and, indeed, happier. He was similarly wise and calm and patient on the grouse moor or at pheasant shoots.

Bill Tait was a one-off, someone whose depth of love for the natural world acquired a virtually spiritual dimension. He will be greatly missed.