Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Monday, 28 February 2011

A Tribute to Gordon Barnes

It was five years ago last week that my dear friend, Gordon Barnes, died a few days after returning from a birding holiday to Luxor.

Gordon was the most wonderful friend. A fellow Brummie, he escaped city life by setting up home on Fair Isle in 1960 ; initially as an assistant warden at the Bird Obs and then as a crofter. There he met his wife Perry and together they lived there for fifteen years.

One thing that Gordon may be remembered for is the finding, and the subsequent looking after of a great bustard on Fair Isle in 1980. He looked after the female bird by feeding it mice and cabbages. The bird became part of the first great bustard release on Salisbury Plain. Unfortunately the project didn't succeed and the bird was put into a zoo where it crashed into a fence and died. Here are a couple of items from that time :

I met him in Swanage in 2000. By then they both had set up home there. I met him one day when going seawatching at Peveril Point. A more fabulous friend one couldn't wish for and I miss him still. I just know he's been watching over me throughout all of last year.

When I get the chance I'll write about him in more detail for his is a story that deserves to be told. A magnificent man.

all the best everyone,



  1. Here is a story I just heard for the 1st time... Seven and a half year old Fair Islander Kenny Stout found the Great Bustard in the field next to his house Barkland and told his father who took a shot at the bird but missed! Kenny who was given a RSPB wildlife explorer membership from Gordon for his birthday looked up what he saw in his new bird book and then told Gordon. Shocked and in disbelief Gordon re-found the bird the next morning... the rest you know. Kenny still lives at Upper Stoneybrek and work on the Good Shepherd I'm sure you met him. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for that Tommy. Great to hear from you. Give my best wishes to Henry and your dear wife.
    Please ask Kenny if he could email me at and tell me the story. I'd love to share it with Perry, Gordon's wife. She'd be thrilled to hear all about it. I've just got to come back to collate more stories about Gordon. Still love the isle - the 'fairest isle'.
    Love to all,