Ian Kellie Brooke
11th April 1949 – 10th June 2021
Ian Brooke was one of the stalwarts of the birding community on Islay and it was a huge loss when he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at his home on 10th June.
Ian gained a BSc in Agriculture from Aberdeen University and spent much of his early life involved in various aspects of farming in his home area of the Borders in Southern Scotland. He first visited Islay on a family holiday in 1989. Both he and his wife Margaret fell in love with the island and moved here ten years later, buying the Old Manse and a set of holiday cottages at Kilchoman. They quickly fitted into island life and became active and appreciated members of various organisations promoting Islay as a tourist destination. But the move to Islay allowed Ian’s already keen interest in the outdoors, wildlife and especially birds, to flourish. Above all, Ian was a practical man who got involved and got things done. He became a trustee of the Islay Natural History Trust and an active volunteer at the local RSPB reserve. He helped produce the “Islay Walks” booklet and developed the associated, very successful “Walk Islay” week offering guided hikes to out of the way locations of special interest across the island.
Keen to promote Islay further Ian began sending regular birding notes to Birdwatching Magazine. In 2007 he quietly got on with setting up the Islay Bird Blog, posting chatty, daily accounts of the birdlife on Islay and beyond– something many of us on Islay had talked about doing, but never got around to. He also instigated the “Islay Bird Nerds” informal meetings once a month - open to anyone interested – resident or visiting, to get together, meet new faces and catch up on bird news. “The Blog” has become a greatly appreciated and valued focus for any birdwatchers interested in Islay and from the accumulated records Ian was able to contribute each month to the Argyll Bird Club database. Not one to rest on his laurels, he dreamed up the great idea of Islay having a presence at the annual British Bird Fair to further make birders aware of the island’s great potential. Quietly canny, he realised that whisky was the other element that made Islay special, so he convinced the distilleries to donate dozens of bottles of whisky that he and his other dedicated volunteers could give out as free drams at the Bird Fair. Understandably, the Islay Stand was a huge attraction and success over many years of his hard work and organisation and was awarded “Best Small Tourism Stand”.
Retirement for Ian and Margaret meant a short move to Shepherd’s Cottage at Kilchoman. Although out of the way at the end of a dead-end road, his friendly, unassuming and easy-going manner and the wonderful welcome (complete with coffee, tea, biscuits and cake) any visiting birdwatcher would receive from Ian and Margaret, turned this into something of a social hub for all visiting birdwatchers to drop in for a blether. Ian and Margaret’s retirement home further illustrated Ian’s passion for putting ideas into action. He planted hundreds of trees, created flower and wild bird food meadows, ponds, built a birdwatching hide and an elaborate shed to encourage Choughs to breed. Installation of CCTV cameras gave him and his many visitor hours of interest watching the daily comings and goings of his garden’s wildlife. Right up until his last days he was excited to share video footage of his nesting Barn Owls.
The wonderful mix of quiet self-effacement and calm good humour combined with deftly putting ideas and words into productive action will be sorely missed by all his friends on Islay and beyond. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Margaret, his wife of 44 years and to his son Andrew at this time of loss.
Personal tributes also came from
I am gutted tonight to learn of the sudden death of my friend Ian Brooke at Kilchoman on the Isle of Islay. Ian, supported by his wife Margaret and his friends on the island, have dedicated many years to the recording of the birds and wildlife of Islay and Jura. He will also be remembered for the well-supported Islay and Jura stand at the Rutland Bird Fair. Over the years many a birder has wobbled away after sampling the malts and shortbread on offer. Thank you for allowing me to be your friend Ian and our thoughts and condolences are with you, Margaret, your family and friends. You will never be forgotten Sir!
Ken, Maureen and all at Burbagebirders Travel Club!
In 2007, Ian started a daily blog about Islay birds, listing sightings reported to him by locals and visitors alike. He rarely missed a day, ending almost every year with over 350 entries. It was an invaluable blog which was much consulted by visiting birders who, in turn, were encouraged to let him know what they had seen, which he then posted so that everyone was kept informed. He also encouraged contact between local and visiting birders by instituting informal monthly meetings, convivial get-togethers of the 'Bird Nerds'. He and Margaret were, for several years, valued Trustees of the Islay Natural History Trust. A very sad loss of a good friend.
Ten days ago as I was sat in my hide on Islay filming hen harriers, less than two miles down the road, my good friend Ian unexpectedly passed away. It was a terrible shock. I have known Ian and Margaret for more than thirty years and have lost count of all the tea and biscuits that we have been provided with. Their door was always open to all visitors. Ian started the Islay Bird blog more than fourteen years ago and provided visiting birders with a daily picture of who was on the island and what they had seen. For non-birders Ian started the "Walk Islay" weeks which were extremely popular pre-Covid days.
One of the highlights of Ian's year was the Annual Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. Along, with others, Ian would stand all day extolling the virtues of Islay to all visitors who would leave the stand topped up with shortbreads and Whisky!
Ian loved his extensive garden on Islay and there are not many birders who can count Hen Harrier and Merlin as daily garden visitors! Ian you were an absolute star. Sir.