John Kingsley-Heath, who has died aged 84, ran African safaris for more than half a century, and as a big-game hunter survived many hair-raising encounters with the fiercest beasts of the bush.
John Kingsley-Heath with a stock-killing lioness he shot in Ethiopia
One such occurred in August 1961, when Kingsley-Heath was leading a private safari along the Kisigo river in Tanganyika. From inside a blind (a shelter for hunters), he turned to see a huge, maned lion crouching behind him not 15ft away. As it gathered itself to spring, Kingsley-Heath shot it, and the lion fled. He and his gunbearers gave chase and found the wounded creature lying on its side, breathing heavily.
Recovering in 1961
It was down, but not out. When Kingsley-Heath's client opened fire, the lion made a single bound of 22ft towards the two men. Kingsley-Heath dropped to the ground and smashed the barrel of his .470 rifle over the animal's head, breaking the stock at the pistol grip; the lion staggered. As his gunbearers and client ran for cover Kingsley-Heath struggled on to his elbows to get clear.
"Too late," he recalled, "the lion was upon me, I smelt his foul breath as, doubling my legs up to protect my stomach, I hit him in the mouth with my right fist as hard as I could. His mouth must have been partly open as my fist went straight in."
With a single jerk of its head, the lion broke Kingsley-Heath's right arm; as he punched it with his left fist, the lion bit clean through his left wrist, breaking the left arm and leaving the hand hanging by its sinews. Next it clamped his foot in its jaws, crushing the bones in it by twisting his ankle.
One of the gunbearers arrived, threw himself on the animal's back and stabbed it repeatedly with a hunting knife. With Kingsley-Heath's foot still locked in its mouth, the lion was finally shot dead. The client reappeared, and with his rifle blew the creature's jaws apart so that Kingsley-Heath's foot could be removed.
"I was bleeding heavily ... shaking uncontrollably, felt cold, and was likely to lose consciousness," he wrote later. "I knew that if I did so, I might die." Instead, after an agonising and protracted medical evacuation, followed by surgery and a bout of malaria, he eventually recovered.
Peter John Kingsley-Heath was born in Jerusalem on December 4 1926, the son of Col AJ Kingsley-Heath OBE, formerly Commissioner of Police and sometime Attorney General of Kenya.
After attending Monkton Combe School, Bath, he joined the Welsh Guards and was commissioned at 18. Towards the end of the Second World War, when he was a serving captain, he was injured by bullet in France; he was later wounded by a landmine in Palestine.
After the war he returned to study History and Law at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Economics at London University. A hockey blue at Cambridge, he was subsequently capped for England and regularly played rugby for Blackheath.
Kingsley-Heath was appointed a Colonial Service district officer in Tanganyika, and then, in 1949, to the East Africa High Commission in Kenya. In this capacity he travelled extensively in Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Arabia, as both an administrator specialising in desert locust control, and as an honorary game warden. The most lethal animal that he encountered at this, or any time, was the hippopotamus; indeed a fellow district officer was lucky to survive being bitten in the buttocks after straying between a mother and her calf. "He made a full recovery," noted Kingsley-Heath, "but I am told he walked like a sailor thereafter."
Throughout his hunting career Kingsley-Heath saw no contradiction between legal big-game hunting and conservation. "For much of the period, game animals were plentiful everywhere," he noted, adding that his conscience never bothered him. "My hunting was done in accordance with the laws of the land and permissions were based on facts that supported wildlife policies." When, in 1978, it became clear that growing human populations were endangering game stocks, he stopped. "It was time to make a change, and I did so."
Until then, however, Kingsley-Heath's life had seemed composed of a series of Boy's Own Paper adventures.
In 1956, before Kenyan independence, he was befriended by Syd Downey, who invited him to join Ker & Downey Safaris, the luxury tour operators. Kingsley-Heath became a director, responsible for opening the company's offices in Tanganyika and for making a survey of wildlife potential in Bechuanaland (Botswana) and Mozambique.
As his reputation grew he was hired to accompany many famous people on safari, and to manage wildlife on the films Hatari (1962), starring John Wayne, and Sammy Going South (1963) with Edward G Robinson. Kingsley-Heath's task on the latter was "to arrange for a charging, snarling leopard full into the camera at point-blank range and for all thereafter to be safe and happy, including the leopard." The cameramen, understandably, were "petrified", but after three "takes" (including one in which a wild leopard smashed the lens off the camera) the footage was secured.
In 1964 Kingsley-Heath joined another company, Safari South, in Bechuanaland, playing a major part in the development of tourism there. The work required an him to make an annual overland migration with men and equipment south from Nairobi along 2,158 miles of dirt tracks to Francistown. The voyage included many tricky moments, including the ferrying of a 10-ton supply truck across the Zambezi on a rickety barge. The crossing was, Kingsley-Heath noted, "a time for prayer".
Over the next 14 years he survived perilous near-misses with every member of Africa's so-called "Big Five" – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Perhaps his most bizarre adventure occurred in Kenya, near the Galana river between Nairobi and Mombasa. It was there, in 1967, that Kingsley-Heath and a client were tracking a bull-elephant "carrying good ivory". Once the elephant had been killed, the client and a gunbearer leant back against the trophy only to feel it shift behind them. Wordlessly, they looked around to find a rhino nudging up against the body.
With nowhere to run or hide, the two men were forced to take refuge on top of the dead elephant where, to their horror, they were repeatedly charged by the rhino, a protected species that they were unable to shoot. Finally, as the elephant rocked back and forth under this assault, the client "could stand it no longer" and shot the rhino, forcing Kingsley-Heath to make a embarrassed call to the chief game warden. "Strange things happen, stranger than fiction," came the reply, but with photographic evidence of the multiple gore wounds in the dead elephant, their tale was believed.
Kingsley-Heath, with his wife Sue, decided to leave Africa in 1978. Having run 2,000 acres on the slopes of Kilimanjaro when not hunting (growing wheat and driving beef cattle through hundreds of miles of bush), they decided to try farming in England. Here they played a major part in introducing Texel sheep from the island of that name in Holland into the British national flock.
With the support of the Prince of Wales, Kingsley-Heath also developed a Cornish Lamb Consortium for Cornish farmers fighting against abattoir and supermarket price domination.
In 1990 he was asked to return to Africa, where he was appointed chief park warden of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda; he later became assistant director of national parks, staying for six years. He continued to lead safaris into his 80s, accompanied by his wife and in later years by his son Nigel, but their quarry on these occasions were photographs not trophies. Meanwhile, at home in Cornwall he planted his farm with thousands of trees to promote the natural wildlife around him.
In 1957 Kingsley-Heath won the Shaw and Hunter Trophy, awarded to the professional hunter who produces the finest trophy for a client. His book, Hunting the Dangerous Game of Africa, was published in 1998.
John Kingsley-Heath, who died on May 12, was the first to admit that he craved excitement from boyhood to the end of his life. "When my friends tell me that I have led a remarkable life," he reflected, "I have to admit having done my best to make it so."
His wife and three sons survive him.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Paul J Rainey lived less than 100 miles from me when he was at Cotton Plant. I remember going by the hunting dog/hardware store of Mr. Dunn," Wilson Dunn", now (Dunn's Sporting Goods, Mr. Dunn started the museum in the back of his store) that is now the Bird Dog Hall of Fame, Retriever Hall of Fame and National Field Trial Hall of Fame. There were several dog men there from around Grand Junction where the Grand Nationals are held every year. My Dad said they were professionals, professional dog trainers. He said their dogs would sell for more than our house. I saw a pic of Er Shelley once, he had become the head trainer for Rainey's bird dogs and later trained his Hounds Curs and Airedales to hunt African Lions. He (Shelley) was sitting with an English Pointer right there in that store but he was already dead and gone when I was there with my Dad, I was four when he passed. Although Rainey was a great outdoors man and adventurer, Shelley was just as important when it came to accomplishments and overall development of the great traditions of our Southern Culture. Er Shelley was world famous for his dog training abilities as was many of his apprentices, have you heard of Clyde Morton? Look him up. Shelley was the one who came up with the idea to chloroform the Polar bear and ride him through the streets on the back of a flat bed truck to the zoo. I think he rode on the back with a rag and a bottle of chloroform and Rainey drove. I hate I missed those two. Shelley died at the age of 85, he was inducted into the National Field Trial Hall of Fame in 1957.
The name Paul J. Rainey may have been forgotten by most of the world, but in the hills of northeast Mississippi he has become a legendary figure.
In 1898 Rainey, a multi-millionaire adventurer and big game hunter, arrived in Tippah County and purchased 11,000 acres of land in the community of Cotton Plant with the intention of making it into a hunting preserve. He later purchased the Ratcliff property and converted the small home located there into one of the largest estates in Mississippi. By the time he completed the additions, the lodge contained twenty-three rooms and featured a large, indoor, heated swimming pool at a time when few homes in Mississippi had running water. At the opposite end from the pool was a large trophy room filled with mounted heads and skins from his hunts around the world.
The nine bedrooms, kitchen, dining facilities and living rooms were encompassed in the middle section of the dwelling. On the grounds were fish ponds, a sunken garden and a round, brick polo barn designed to hold fifty horses. Rainey continued to purchase land until he owned or controlled over 30,000 acres in Tippah and Union Counties, which he stocked with wolves, bears, foxes and pheasants.
Tippah Lodge, as Rainey called it, became known for its gala parties and hunts. He was a renowned host who spared no expense to entertain his guests. Well-known figures from all over the nation and the world attended; when the lodge became inadequate for the hordes of guests, he built a large hotel in New Albany to accommodate them. This hotel boasted Italian marble floors and was one of the most luxurious in Mississippi at that time. In front of his estate beside Highway 15 the GM&O Railroad built a special siding and station where Rainey in his private Pullman car or his party guests could arrive.
More and more Rainey came to look on Tippah Lodge as home and sponsored many lavish parties and fox hunts there. He also owned a large plantation in Kenya, Africa, a twenty-three thousand acre duck preserve in Vermilion, Louisiana, and a racing stable in Long Island, New York. He was active in car racing, steeple chase riding, and his feats in polo caught the attention of the King and Queen of England when his team became the first American team ever to defeat the British. His hunting expeditions are legendary and his bravery was unexcelled. He pioneered the field of motion pictures on safari in Africa and was the first to successfully hunt lions from horseback with hounds. While on an expedition to the Artic, he single-handedly lassoed the great white Polar Bear called the "Silver King" and brought it back to New York where he donated it to the Bronx Zoo.
As a wealthy, handsome, international playboy, Paul Rainey attracted many women but never married. The circumstances of his death have been the source of much speculation even until this day. In 1923 he was on a journey to Africa on yet another safari when he reportedly had an angry encounter with a dark, mysterious stranger. This man supposedly told Rainey, whose birthday was the following day, that he would not live to see the next day. True enough, Rainey became ill that evening and died. He was buried at sea. However, many people refused to believe that he was dead but speculated that he was living in Europe under an assumed name.
One of the stories that circulated for several years was a supposed sighting of Rainey by a former servant at Tippah Lodge. It seemed that when the servant recognized the tall, well-dressed man walking about the property, he approached him and called him by name. The man didn't reply but thrust a large bill in the old servant's hand and walked away... just another story typical of the myths that circulated around that time.
According to the headlines of the September 20, 1923, issue of The Commercial Appeal, his death was reported by radio message from his sister, Mrs. Grace Rainey Rogers, who was accompanying her brother to Africa on this expedition. Also with Rainey on this trip was his long-time companion, May Peters Graham. At the time of his death on September 18, 1923, he was 46 years old.
From William Faulkner's "The Reiver's"
"But in winter of course (as now), it was different, with the quail season and the Grand National Trials, with the rich money of oil and wheat barons from Wall Street and Chicago and Saskatchewan, and the fine dogs with pedigrees more jealous then princes, and the fine breeding and training kennels only minutes away now by automobile--Red Banks and Michigan City and La Grange and Germantown, and the names--Colonel Linscomb, whose horse (we assumed) we were going to race against tomorrow, and Horace Lytle and George Peyton as magical among bird-dog people as Babe Ruth and Ty cobb among baseball aficionados, and Mr. Jim Avant from Hicory Flat and Mr. Paul Rainey just a few miles down Colonel Sartoris's railroad toward Jefferson--hound men both, who (I suppose) among these mere pedigreed pointers and setters, called themselves slumming; the vast rambling hotel booming then, staffed and elegant, the very air itself suave and murmurous with money, littered with colored ribbons and cluttered with silver cups."
I'm researching more on Er Shelley and Mr. Wilson Dunn for later.
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- Just Another Savage!
- I’m a Southern Boy, just 56 last November, I get around here and there, Central America, Africa, Red Bay. I’m a Father, Grandfather, Husband, Artist and general flunky of sorts. Live in a little historic town in an old building I own, upstairs in a loft thing. Just wanted to hear myself think I guess, talk about the need of simplification, show some art, express an interest or two, and see where it goes. That’s it!, That’s the deal.