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The Great Hunters

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Parker Gillmore One of The Great Hunters of the 19th Century

Another amateur hunter in some respects like Harris and Cumming, Gillmore saw service as a Captain in the British Army during the Crimean War, and in China. He had wide shooting experience in North America, India, China and Africa.

In 1875 a Scots laird, Maurice Lothian, sent Gillmore a tempting invitation. “Will you accompany me on a hunting trip to tropical South Africa for a year or two?” By October they were off, stopping first at Cape Town, then sailing on to Durban. They trekked through Natal to reach the Orange Frees State in 1876. Lothian was ill for most of the land journey and left Gillmore at Potchefstroom.

Gillmore pressed on north to Shoshong. Here he met parties of hunters and accompanied them on expeditions against elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and the usual antelope. He returned to Great Britain via the Kimberley Diamond Diggings and Port Elizabeth in June 1876. It is from The Great Thirstland, his account of this expedition, that our first extract is taken.

In the Zulu War of 1879, Gillmore was employed by the British Army as a Commandant of Native Levee. His journeys in search of assistance from African tribes took him through the Northern Transvaal and into present-day Botswana. Weakened in health by this active service, he returned directly to the U.K. where he wrote On Duty – a Ride Through Hostile Africa, the source of our second extract.

Gillmore wrote a large number of books, sometimes under the pen-name “Ubique”. He has an easy, chatty style – often forthrightly personal and humorous. Generally this makes for interest, but sometimes his facile prejudices can prove irritating.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Gillmore had a distaste for the wanton slaughter of big-game. “I shoot to fill the pot” he writes in his introduction to The Great Thirstland. “When that is done I cease to take the lives of valuable food-furnishing animals. Thus I have to record no wonderful bags of game, but simply the killing of what was absolutely necessary for the support of myself and attendants”. This prophetic understanding of the need to conserve wild life will endear Gillmore to the modern reader.

  • “At Close Quarters” - E. Whymper’s impression of Selous and a lion in A Hunter’s Wanderings in Africa, 1881
  • “Selous threatened by a buffalo” – an illustration by E. Whymper in A Hunter’s Wanderings in Africa, 1881