Nick Holt, the ambitious owner of Holt’s Auctioneers, has a passion for shooting and international dealing.
Robert Cuthbert: What’s on the agenda for 2015?
Nick Holt: “I’m in America in January for the Dallas and Vegas shows, both Safari Club International events. They are the two big shows in America, similar to the CLA Game Fair over here. America is still a big client of ours, mainly for buying. Then we’ve got IWA in May.”
RC: Do you work hard at marketing?
NH: “Ever since I went out on my own I knew our little island couldn’t provide enough stock to keep the company going. Also, on the buying side of things, English gunmakers like Purdey and Boss are worth more overseas. So in the early years I went off and travelled. I needed to find people in their allotted country who spoke their language and knew their legislation. I’ve ended up with over 40 agents worldwide.”
RC: Your business is on the Sandringham Estate. Is that part of Norfolk special to you?
NH: “Absolutely. I’m very lucky. I’ve been at Sandringham for more than 12 years now. At Sandringham you are not just a tenant, you are more or less ‘asked’ because it fits in with the estate. It belongs to Her Majesty The Queen, rather than being run just as an estate, so your tenancy is with her rather than anyone else. That was my lucky break. It happened because Eddie Cadogan sold the property I worked from to the Kuwaitis, so I had to find a new place to hold my auction in. I met a wonderful chap involved with the Honourable Artillery Company in the City, whose brother happened to be the agent at Sandringham. I told him I had moved to Norfolk, so he rang his brother and I had a phone call within two weeks. They had a place to rent and they asked if I’d be interested. Prince Charles was there at the time and he had been getting my catalogues, so it all fitted beautifully.”
RC: How has your season been?
NH: “I am shooting twice a week. I enjoy it, of course I do, but it is good for business as well. I’ve got to be seen in the field and people seem to like inviting me, which is nice. I think if someone invites you to a day’s shooting, you really should do your utmost to make it; it’s incredibly generous. If they are kind enough to invite you, then you should do your best to be there.”
RC: How did your season kick off, were you amongst the grouse?
NH: “Yes. My season started on August 12. I actually bought that day. Once a year, there is a GWCT dinner in Edinburgh. I am always invited on to the Christie’s table. Bernard Williams, the director of Christie’s in Scotland, does the auctioneering at this event. I bid on a day’s grouse, in the Jedburgh area of the Borders. To be able to walk-up grouse on the Twelfth, amongst four or five guns, for 30 brace or something, it’s so special. This year the weather was wonderful. It is a tiny little moor and so beautifully kept. On a well burnt moor you get the young heather, no more than a foot high; it’s an easier walk and far better for the birds.”
RC: How did you find shooting?
NH: “My father shoots so that is where the interest came from. He is not a bad shot but is not by any means a great shot. I was lucky as I had an uncle and cousin who had an estate in Scotland. We used to go up there on holiday and I think I shot my first grouse when I was about 12. Before that I had shot rabbits and God knows what else. I was beating from the age of five. My parents don’t have an estate or anything but next door there was an estate called Shortgrove, where my father shot, so when he was shooting I would be one of the beaters. When we used to go on holiday to Scotland in August for five weeks, I was lucky enough to get a bit of fishing, a bit of grouse, a bit of this and that.”
RC: Who are your shooting buddies?
NH: “Whoever, really. I don’t have a syndicate who I wander around with. I am a tart and I am quite happy to admit to being a tart. I do have my own days where I ask friends, but generally I am very lucky, I get invited a lot.”
RC: A testament to your lovely character, I’m sure.
NH: “Well I think it is more that than the accuracy of my shooting.”
Robert Cuthbert’s interview with Nick Holt first appeared in the February 2015 issue of Shooting Gazette.