Mike Tomkies


Mike Tomkies

Mike Tomkies The Wilderness Man (born May 25, 1928), is a British nature writer,[1] naturalist and filmmaker who has inspired thousands with his brutally honest accounts of almost 40 years experience living in the wildest and most remote parts of Canada, Scotland and Spain.

Born in 1928, he grew up to serve in the Coldstream Guards where he competed as an army athlete and saw active service in Palestine. He went on to work as a newspaper reporter and was also a successful amateur cycle racer.

An attempt to sail around the world in 1952 ended with him being shipwrecked and having to walk 400 miles (640 km) from Lisbon to Madrid.

He found his way to journalism jobs in Fleet Street and Hollywood where he interviewed and pulled scoops on stars including Ava Gardner (just after her divorce from Frank Sinatra); Mario Lanza, Elvis Presley, Sophia Loren, Errol Flynn, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner, Clark Gable, Dean Martin, Rock Hudson, Jayne Mansfield, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Debbie Reynolds, Joan Collins, Peter O'Toole and Sean Connery.

At 38 he decided to start a new life in Canada, setting out virtually penniless in an old milk truck to build a log cabin on the Canadian Pacific coast. Over his time in Canada he worked as a logger, assistant blaster and sea salmon fisherman but spent most of his time living alone and surviving mainly off the sea. This was where he began his wildlife studies tracking grizzly bears, cougars, caribou, bald eagles and killer whales, which over three years developed into the book Alone In The Wilderness, which was snapped up by Reader's Digest and became a critically acclaimed best seller.

Heading back south to Hollywood Tomkies picked up the celebrity side of his life again socialising with stars like John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Sammy Davis Jr and Steve McQueen; during this time he was also offered a screen test by Doris Day, however, the wild kept calling and eventually he returned to the UK and moved to Eilean Shona, a remote island off the west coast of Scotland. There he rebuilt a wooden crofthouse which had been used as a shelter for sheep and began observing and writing about Scottish nature including golden eagle, black throated diver, pine marten and Scottish wildcat.

The studies and writing continued at a small crofter's cottage called Gaskan on the shore of Loch Shiel, which Tomkies named "Wildernesse", and where he cared for a variety of injured animals, tracked and studied golden eagles over a 300-square-mile (780 km2) area for the government and was the first person to successfully breed the now critically endangered Scottish wildcat and return individuals to the wild.

Tomkies studied eagles in Canada, Scotland and Spain for 42 years (1967 to 2009) spending more than 3000 hours on precarious cliff ledges in his home made "invisible" hides for up to 38 hours at a time. Over his 20 years in the Highlands Tomkies revealed Scotland's rarest wildlife in his books to widespread acclaim from naturalists, conservationists, critics and even the Duke of Edinburgh;

"This book does more than describe a piece of wild country and its population of wild animals: it gives a picture of someone totally absorbed by his subject."

In 1988 he was recognised for his work by being elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

For eight years, Tomkies' only companion was his german shepherd dog, Moobli who assisted him in his wildlife tracking. After Moobli died Tomkies spent the next four years alone, completing his studies of golden eagles and rare Scottish species. He then spent five years in mountain ranges throughout Spain making two films and writing a book about species including brown bear, lynx, wolf, wild boar, vultures and eagles working out of a crumbling old villa with no glass in the windows or running water.

A keen interest in film making also developed throughout the experiences in Scotland and Spain, beginning with mountainous slogs carrying 60 lb (27 kg) of 16mm camera equipment, all the way up to modern miniDV cameras, Tomkies recorded twelve feature length films on wildlife with a focus on Scotland and the golden eagle. Three network TV programmes were made about his life and work in the wilds, the last of which "Wild Cathedral" was repeated seven times.

Today, Tomkies is based in a ramshackle farmhouse in southern England and is still writing books. He appeared in the documentary film Last of the Scottish Wildcats (Coffee Films 2006) and became the patron for a new charity, the Scottish Wildcat Association in 2009, who also recognised his achievements naming him an Honorary Member of the Association for life. Tomkies says his latest book, and first fictional novel, will be his last.

Bibliography


References

  1. ^ Marshall, Alasdair (January 29, 1988). "Call of the WIld". Evening Times. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=i9pAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3aYMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4847,6324753&dq=mike+tomkies&hl=en. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 

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