Report from Chris Smith
WE ARE a grandfather. Unto me are born seven enchanting baby wild
boar. Fatima, the proud mother, is the only person more chuffed than
me. Fatima's intelligence exceeds that of any dog I've ever met. She
could probably out-grunt most MSPs. We don't think Jasper, their
father, knows much about his accomplishment.
All baby mammals are ench-anting. Even baby Scotsmen. I adored my quota of kittens, puppies, guinea pigs, hamsters and polecats, but infant pigs have extra loveability.
The thrill of my cluster of babies is in mapping out their careers. I reckon my seven boar will be 27 next spring and 100 by 2006. Compound interest is very much like pig fertility. Within a decade, my furry children will outnumber the Scottish Conservative Party.
I have two boars and five sows. It is perfect. Enoch will be released in the wilder reaches of Galloway. Malcolm, named after the Lothian and Borders Police Sergeant Malcolm Henderson, who is in charge of wild beasts, will spread his seed in upland Perthshire. My neighbours assumed I chose the name as a tribute to the illustrious Sir Malcolm. Not even the sharpest boar is as quick-witted as the future MP for Kensington.
Officialdom regards the wild boar as extinct in Scotland from the 16th century. They were gone before the wolf and the beaver. This is wrong. I was brought up in Knapdale, and knew of two boar who would roam near Lochgilphead. The psychiatric patients at the Argyll & Bute almost tamed them with treats. The wild boar is only aggressive when it is guarding its young or if cornered.
Although my affections are entirely engaged by these little porkers, I know all my daughters' fates are only breeding before oblivion in a casserole of sausage. These beasties will probably not be hunted, but in only a few years I see my heir-boar providing better hunting sport than ever the fox did. The tourist quangomen ought to be enthused, but they are timid folk ... far more coy than these tuskers.
I take pleasure in the harrumphing noises from their nest, but greater joy at the harrumphing we will hear soon from Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Farmers Union. Poor SNH is composed of good people, but collectively they are daft. They are even opposed to the dormouse being restored to the Rhinns. In their private hearts, SNH staff are all pro-boar ... and pro-bison, bear and moose. Officially, they will seek to stop my marauding Sus scrofa (the Linnean name) sussing out the Scottish countryside.
The Stalinist mercantilists of the NFU are opposed to Nature winning back the land. They prefer Scotland denuded of trees by their grim sheep deserts. Man is the only predator of the boar - until our lynx population grows to its niche limits. The soldiers of the XXth Legion Victoria Victrix, stationed at Trimontium (the Latin for Melrose), used the wild boar as their regimental emblem. I like to think my babies and I are only reviving a long-lost continuity. The Romans named us Caledonia as a compliment to the mythical Greek forest of perfect hunting - Kalydon. So, in that sense my little squealing bundles have better Scottish credentials than all our conventional bores.
My prodigies need sponsors. They have such intelligence and courage, I'd like to offer them to David McLetchie as mascots for the Scottish Tory party. It seems they are sticking to the lemming as their logo. Who would like to adopt these cuddly, speckled personalities before they grow into 20-stone mounds of muscle? One of our football teams? In Dumfries, they could change their name to Swine of the South.
My pig expert assures me my babes will all be weaned by autumn and must exhibit the spirit of enterprise to snuffle and grunt their way through next winter. Looking at them today, when Fatima, with her teats nibbled heartily, will permit a view, I have no doubt my apprentice ruffians will transform the countryside of Scotland. And me a nice Jewish boy.
Peter Clarke chairs The Wild Beasts Trust.
© The Scotsman, 21 st January 2004
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