Saturday June 5th 2010
This is going to be a week I will remember for the rest of my life! It started off as ‘Fool Week’, memorable enough in it’s own right. Andy had organised everybody to be actively engaged interfacing with the visitors; the keepers were to man the gazebo nearest the pond. They were there to ‘meet and greet’, with an owl on the fist. Vicky had put a lot of work in, preparing an owl quiz, to actively encourage children to read the labels on the aviaries. I myself was in the Owl Garden manning the gazebo there, for ‘pictures with an owl’. Trying to encourage the fun element, and to attract attention, Andy asked me to fetch a guitar in, a request I had no difficulty in complying with. I had the first two days of Fool Week off, as these are my normal days off. My first day was Tuesday, which I thought was pretty quiet. This was my first experience of Fool Week, so I had nothing to compare it with. The following day, I was told, would be busier, and sure enough, Wednesday June the 2nd started off quite promising. We had just attracted a crowd round our gazebo, with a combination of ‘owls and guitars’, when we heard police sirens, and also helicoptors overhead. We didn’t think that much about it at the time, as we were quite busy. Then there was a security announcement. ‘There had been a shooting up in Whitehaven, and there had been some casualties, the suspect was apparently travelling south, in the direction of Muncaster’. We were instructed that Muncaster was going into ‘lockdown’, so as to keep the armed assailant out. The trail of events only gradually became known to us here at Muncaster, and when the powers that be were fully in the know, it was decided to get every visitor and member of staff either into a building, or into the ‘Stable Yard’, where the Cafe is. This was quite a surreal experience, as the yard was crammed with people, (it getting busy). Wandering amongst the visitors were ‘the Fools’, this year’s contestants, as well as Owl Centre staff with owls on their arms. The imagery was quite intense, and looked like some late medieval festivity in Florence or Venice. The entertainers did their best to keep people happy, but it was getting quite hot by now, and more and more people were being crammed in to the Stable Yard. I was one of the stewards outside the yard, and peole were requesting me whether it was alright have a cigarette in the entrance. By now the full facts and figures had become known to all of us, and that there had been fatalities all the way down from Whitehaven. Myself and Andy fetched some extra seating to keep people comfortable as some of the older people were getting a bit anxious. Peter Frost Pennington ferried some people to and from the Stable Yard to the Castle, another safe haven.
Eventually, a body was found in Boot in Eskdale, and it turned out to be the remains of the person responsible. When this became known, the ‘all clear’ was given, and people could resume their normal activities. It has to be said that things weren’t the same after that. It transpired that 12 people had been killed by this person, the nearest to Muncaster being in Seascale. Some of the victims were known to us, as they were regular visitors to Muncaster. The solicitor who had been shot earlier in the day had been involved in drawing up important documents for the World Owl Trust, and was also known to us. I think it is only a quirk of fate that prevented the killer from coming to either Muncaster or Ravenglass. This also reminds us that life is truly precious, and needs to be lived to the full. Our hearts go out to all the families who have suffered bereavements due to this terrible chain of events.
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|World Owl Trust
Registered Charity Number: 1107529
Limited Company Number: 5296745
The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.