How catching and training a kestrel changed the life of a young British boy.
When Hines was 11, he failed his exams for grammar school. Unable to attend with his older brother, the author was sent to the secondary modern school, “where my education didn’t matter.” That was his first introduction to the English class system in the mid-1950s. Always a naturalist at heart, Hines soon was reading all he could find regarding falconry. It was near Tankersley Old Hall that he took his first kestrel, called Kes, and began training her. Now a true autodidact, his reading led him to T.H. White, T.E. Lawrence, and J.G. Mavrogordato, author of A Falcon in the Field. In hopes of visiting countries with a history of falconry—e.g., Sudan, India, and nations in the Middle East—Hines applied to join the Voluntary Service Overseas. The author was posted to Nigeria, where he was exposed to members of the fading British Empire and their racist, classist attitudes as well as native anger against their former rulers. Hines’ return to England, where he was to begin an environmental studies program, coincided with the making of a film based on his brother’s book about his kestrel training. The author trained three kestrels and served as falconer for the film, though his brother initially took all the credit. Throughout his memoir, Hines provides captivating descriptions and explanations of training the kestrels and how to “hack” them back to the wild, and the author’s love of his subject inevitably shows through. His discovery that the upper-class world of falconry wouldn’t have welcomed him once again exposed the social divisions of his country. His love of falconry and the environment influenced his life, and that obsession drove him to learn the history of his own class and become a television producer and director.
A delightful story of a boy, his birds, and his pursuit of knowledge in spite of society’s dictates.