I was really saddened today to hear about the death of Terry Nutkins, one of YPTE’s Presidents, who I have known for many years. I remember some highly amusing lunches that I had with Terry, accompanied by the great Johnny Morris, Terry’s co-presenter on Animal Magic and an amazing ambassador for animals. Terry loved life and had a great sense of humour. He and Johnny in the same room meant that anyone else there was going to be spending a lot of time laughing.
I remember back in 2002, YPTE’s entire staff team having been trained as inland waterways helmsmen, took a group of 30 ten year olds for a week-long trip along the Caledonian Canal. The trip was their prize for the Barclaycard LivingLand Awards, and was a real environmental adventure of a lifetime.
Terry was a big part of that trip. We moored up on the second night at Fort Augustus and toured the Abbey there that evening. At the time, it was Terry’s and he was on hand to welcome the children and show them round. Next morning, we were whitewater rafting on the nearby River Oich and Terry joined us as a guide, pointing out the wildlife to be seen on the calmer sections of the river.
A few days later, he was with us again as we went on an expedition to the wonderful white sands of Sandaig, on the west coast, of mainland Scotland, looking across the Sound of Sleat to the Isle of Skye. This almost untouched spot was the place where, as a boy, Terry had lived with the author Gavin Maxwell in a small cottage called Camusfearna, helping him to look after the otters that he kept as rather wild pets. Terry was able to show the children the fingers that were missing knuckles – bitten off by the otters at one time or another – to show just how wild and unpredictable creatures they were.
Crossing the stream via a simple rope bridge (two ropes across the stream, tied to trees on either bank), watching the children drink water from the stream – possibly for the first time and harvesting seafood on the beach were memories that will stay with me always. And Terry was there throughout, a big part of that fantastic adventure.
He was also there with us later that summer, this time in Surrey, as a guest at our wedding. That caused quite a stir, with lots of my wife’s friends – more members of the Really Wild Show generation – saying “Oh my God, that’s Terry Nutkins” and getting rather overexcited. I think he enjoyed it.
We saw him less in recent years, as most of YPTE’s activities are based in the South of England, while Terry lived in a remote part of Scotland’s west coast. A wonderful character, a brilliant naturalist, full of life and fun. Terry was a great supporter of YPTE and a great guy to have dinner with. He was only 66. It’s such a shame.