End of an era as Bute ranger retires

Billy Shields (front, with members of the Bute Conservation Volunteer group) retired in October after 20 years as Mount Stuart's Bute countryside ranger.
Billy Shields (front, with members of the Bute Conservation Volunteer group) retired in October after 20 years as Mount Stuart's Bute countryside ranger.

Mount Stuart said goodbye to one of its longest serving members of staff recently with the retirement of Bute countryside ranger Billy Shields.

Billy has worked for the Bute family for 35 years and been a Countryside Ranger for the last 20, but Billy’s family has had a long association with the Bute family, a connection which goes back to the 1700s.

The first known Shields working on the Bute Estate was in 1796 and was listed as a ‘trapper of rabbits’. And another of Billy’s relatives was responsible for ensuring the electricity supply to Mount Stuart was kept constant during the First World War, when the house was used as a hospital.

As a countryside ranger, Billy worked across the 10,900 hectares of the Bute Estate, assisting and advising visitors of the many walks and areas of special interest on the island. He also had a major role in rural conservation and education and gave regular talks to pupils in the three island primary schools, a role which he took very seriously.

Bute Estate factor Bob Baines said: “Billy will be a hard act to follow. Not only is he dedicated and hard working but he has a real love and understanding for the island.

“He has an astounding knowledge of the area and he will be very sorely missed. Billy is also the last generation of Shields to work at Mount Stuart and it is no exaggeration to say it really is the end of an era.

“Billy is involved with many groups on the island: he is a director with Bute Conservation Trust and is a member of Bute Bird Group. He also loves cooking and is a keen wildlife photographer.

“We all wish him a long and happy retirement, and hope he and his wife Margaret enjoy their well earned holiday in New Zealand in January.”

Mount Stuart’s new Bute ranger, Ian Brown, started work last month.

* Read some of Billy’s reflections on his time at Mount Stuart in the next issue of The Buteman - on sale from Friday, November 6.