The ‘science’ at a beaver conference can get a little heavy. Lots of figures and graphs, from folks who are mostly interested in justifying beavers as a ‘means to an end‘. That’s very useful for creating persuasive arguments, but not great for telling stories. Even though the science is essential, to my mind what a conference also needs is ‘heart’.
Meet team heart.
Louise and Paul Ramsay were an epiphenomena at the conference. They flew in from Scotland specifically for the event, and dazzled us all with their tales of the highlands. In her presentation Louise showed an image of their house, and pointed out that when the left section was built in the 16th century, there had probably been beavers in the surrounding waterways, but by the time the larger right portion had been added in the 1700′s, beavers were long gone. Whether it was Paul’s forlorn admission that he had actually been arrested for ‘introducing an inappropriate animal’ (charges were eventually dropped), or Louise’s fearless and deftly delivered Scots brogue reading of Robert Burns at the awards dinner, they dazzled everyone.Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ sprush, We’ll over the border, and gie them a brush; There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behaviour, Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!
Only a truly brave woman could read that aloud to a roomful of 150 people, and then soberly explain that at the time this was written beaver had been extinct in Scotland for so long that the poem is referring to ‘fixing one’s hat’ and not the animal (or the anatomy). Honestly, they were both amazing, but Louise as ‘keystone’ speaker at the awards dinner was breath-taking.
What I never realized was that the original ‘escape’ of the free Tay beavers had happened years before the bruhaha, before the knapdale trial, and with no interest by the BBC. Beavers had been spotted around the Tay since the early 2000′s and certainly before the Ramsay’s ever got their own. Beavers that had made their own way in the world long before Knapdale ever got permission and funding to try an official go.
How proud was I to see that the graphics I had made for their facebook page had made it into Louise’s striking presentation! From Eric behind bars to Rob Roy and the ‘tomb of the unknown beaver’. It’s always nice to contribute.
Louise and Paul have spent years talking endlessly to the media, public figures, the community, organizing meetings, children’s groups, an official charity, a website, reviewing international law, knowing when to push and when to demur, I can honestly say that their job was much, much harder than ours. (And I don’t say that very often.) It made it all the more moving to see how cordial and sanguine they both still are.
Louise ended her wonderful presentation with a passage from the 19th century poet Gerald Manly Hopkins from his work ‘Inversnaid‘. It could not have been better chosen or better delivered.What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.