“Last year’s Christmas special was filmed at Belvoir Castle. This year we are filming it at Lullingstone Castle, Kent. By the time it comes out I will have shot a day at partridge in honour of Her Grace the Duchess of Rutland’s 50th birthday. I am not shooting grouse this year because I’m spending August performing at the Edinburgh Festival. A girlfriend and I have taken a day at Nutley in Hampshire and I have also been invited to several other places. But my plans to shoot in Spain have been thwarted by filming commitments.”
So it’s a busy life for Heather McGregor, the businesswoman, writer and television presenter. But what were the highlights of last season?
“I can only remember the end of the season actually. I don’t think I did any of my own entertaining because we had such a spectacular weekend at the end of the previous season at Ventosilla, Spain. I had a very good day in January with Jan Hall, a great friend, in the snow at Grove Park in Warwickshire. That was spectacular.”
How did the birds perform?
“The birds performed well; they performed better than the people. I have shot in the snow before but never that much and it just reminded me that in one season you can be baking hot in shirtsleeves one day and freezing cold the next. I don’t think I have ever worn more clothes than on that day.”
How did you find shooting?
“It found me, really. Lots of people I worked with in the City recommended it and I finally had my first lesson at E.J. Churchill in September 2002. I shot my first game bird in October 2003. When I started, two things came as a revelation: the first was that trying to track a clay across the sky forced me to empty my mind of everything, so it was very relaxing. I have subsequently learned to fly an aeroplane and that is also very relaxing. You have to concentrate otherwise you fall out of the sky. The second was the satisfaction of actually hitting something, nobody ever told me what that was going to feel like.”
What is your fondest sporting memory?
“I don’t think anyone will ever forget their first grouse. I shot mine at Mar, next to Balmoral. I shot it behind me, going away.”
What guns do you use?
“I was bought my first-ever gun in 2003 as a present, a Beretta Ultra Light over-under. As another present, I was then bought virtually the same gun but second hand, so not a true pair. Then for my 50th birthday I was given a pair of second hand AYA side-by-sides- absolutely beautiful. I use the AYAs for game.”
Aside from your TV work and your role as the Financial Times’ Mrs Moneypenny, how important is shooting in your business life?
“Ninety-five per cent of the people I shoot with are business people. It is so important in my business that for four years we’ve been associate members of the Gun Trade Association (GTA). I joined the GTA because you can courier your guns around the country, as many airlines don’t take guns.”
How does shooting help your business?
“Eighty-five per cent of communication is non-verbal, so face-to-face interaction is the most important thing anyone can do with their clients. Some of my clients are very senior, very busy people, so it is hard to get time with them. If you can spend 24 hours with them, shooting, you can really use that time to build a relationship and you get to know each other so much better for the future.”
Aside from Heather McGregor, other Robert Cuthbert interviewees for Shooting Stars include: