Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 29 Jan 1921

Viola once again refers to the stuffing of creatures. Instead of bats, this time she has shot a great tit, presumably for the sole reason of stuffing and displaying it. Taxidermy was popular in the Victorian period and we can see evidence of this in other records in the Stirling of Gargunnock collection (PD100).

Letters from Viola’s grandfather, John Stirling (1832-1900), to his mother are preserved at Stirling Council Archives. At this time, John, aged 17, was enrolled in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. In a letter sent on 29 August 1850, John speaks enthusiastically of attending lessons in taxidermy which was helping to fill his evenings. He had stuffed a sparrow and once he was proficient at birds, he would move onto animals and how to preserve insects.

“it is a capital way of employing my time”

Although Viola is unmoved by shooting a small bird, she strongly criticises others for their style of shooting, which is likely to leave the creatures in pain. It leaves you wondering if Viola ever shared her opinions outside of the diary and what impact they had.


29 Jan Glen. 12.30 am

Saw two squirrels.

Near stables 3.00 pm

Shot a Great Tit. Trying to stuff it.

The tenants are having a shoot today I hear they

got two deer this morning. I hope they didn’t get

the red one. They are the most hopeless shots

If I couldn’t shoot better than that I wouldn’t

shoot at all. I verily believe that when I’ve

had a little more practice I shall be able to

shoot better with the air rifle than one

of them with a game bird one although mine

only fires one pellet and the other 20 or 30

It is a cruel way of shooting to let half the

beasts go away wounded to suffer and die

later on.

The snow drops are out in masses. In

fact unless more come up they will not last

much longer.