Cyril had been threatening to die for twenty years. Yet, every time I saw him he was walking and talking, driving and shooting. Even when his gait was slow, his eyes poor and his stance bent, he out-shot most of us at Helice, though by the time I met him properly, around 2008, he had largely given up game shooting.
The revelation from friends stateside that Cyril had finally succumbed a day short of his eighty-second birthday came as a shock. It shouldn’t have, people had told me he was in declining health but he seemed, to me, indestructible. He had told Chris Potter just hours before he passed, that he was 'circling the drain'.
Cyril was an engineer by training and made money quite early in life doing something clever, the details about which are lost to my poor memory. He also had health problems in mid-life, severe ones, which probably led to his constant claims that he didn’t have long left. He was a tough old goat. “You should have seen me when I was young; I was a bull” he once told me during a lament for his latterly weakened state.
With the means to indulge his chosen sport - live pigeon and Helice (ZZ) he put himself into it 100% with astonishing results. Cyril won a lot in the ring and continued to compete beyond the age that most men hang up their guns.
Cyril’s attachment to the British gun trade reached its zenith with the acquisition of Atkin Grant & Lang, which he ran with gunmaker Ron Solari. “I loved that man” Cyril once old me. Together, they made some distinctive and fine quality guns during their tenure at the firm. Cyril also collected old British guns and renovated them for practical purposes.
He put weight into the stocks of some, and weight into the barrels of others, some he chamber-sleeved from (the then unfashionable) 16-bore to (very-desirable) 20-bore and sold them to his American customers. He set-up his guns for shooting disciplines. His guns were ‘shooters’, rather than collector grade but he always had the work done to the highest standard.
Cyril’s Houston home was modest, neat, and furnished with the ephemera of a life-long gun enthusiast and shooting exponent.. He maintained his critical eye and his attention to detail well into his eighth decade, as well as his enthusiasm for his subject. His wisdom was delivered dead-pan but with a twinkle in the eyes. He was kind enough to tell me on the ZZ range at Houston ‘You are a good shot, don’t let anyone tell you to shoot gun-up if you prefer to shoot gun-down, the style works for you,”.
Cyril has left a written legacy to the followers of his chosen sport in the form of his books. The first, ‘Lock Stock & Barrel’ guides readers through his appreciation of British guns and gun-making. His second ‘Live Pigeon Trap Shooting’ contains a lifetime of expertise and understanding of the sport and everything connected with it.
Rest well Cyril, you left your mark on so many of us.
Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )