Professor Sir Christopher Evans, the Welsh biotechnology entrepreneur, talks game shooting with Robert Cuthbert.
Port Talbot-born Sir Christopher Evans is a biotechnology entrepreneur chair of Arthurian Life Sciences Ltd. Although he came into game shooting later than most his enthusiasm is boundless.
You are a hugely successful biotechnology entrepreneur but how did you find shooting?
“Years ago I was doing a deal with a guy called Dr Neil Stafford, a medical entrepreneur. We had a breakfast meeting and he turned up in his shooting gear. I asked him why he was dressed like a Morris dancer and he was surprised that someone like me, who does lots of things, was not a shooter. I’d never lifted a shotgun in my life and knew nothing about it. We did the deal and he asked if I wanted to meet a friend of his, who was coming into the deal with him – they were shooting together. Of course, I had no Morris dancing clothes, so I put on a bobble hat and bright red Wales rugby shirt, a donkey jacket, jeans and wellies and I went with him. I met all the guys, including a guy called Cliff Carter, now a great mate of mine. I shot 18 birds that day with Neil’s Browning and I was hooked.”
How long ago was this?
“About nine years ago. I went to Holland & Holland soon after and said I needed one of everything. So I got two of everything and spent about £8,000… mostly on socks. I also picked out a Royal Deluxe over-under with 30-inch barrels. I said maybe ‘I shouldn’t take this today’ and he said I couldn’t because I didn’t have a licence yet. While all that was going through, I rang a shooting shop near me and asked them about a peg on a shoot somewhere. They rented me a gun and told me where to turn up. I showed up the next day at a big manor house and this butler guy opened the door and said “you’ve obviously come for the shoot”, because I was wearing every single item I’d bought from Hollands; the waistcoat, the coat with the hood up, cartridge bag, cartridge belt, spotless new wellies and my hearing protection on my head… switched on, of course. I went in my Rolls Royce. I wish someone had taken a photo of me, I must have looked like an absolute knob.”
How many days have you enjoyed since then?
“I don’t do hundreds. I tend to do between 12 and maybe 18 a year, I’m just too busy.”
Purely with friends or does work creep into it?
“Work is in all of them. The first shoot was business because we’d just done a deal. I would say that on every shoot I’ve ever been on, there is someone who is interested in what I do or I’m interested in what they do. My field is medical science and it’s brilliant mixing business and pleasure. All the banter about sports and rugby with all the ribbing, it’s all in there.”
Is shooting a purely British thing for you?
“I’ve done Spanish partridges at La Cuesta, which was fantastic. They were three of the best days of my life. Massively high birds…so high and fast. I loved it. The overages bill, well, that was a laugh. There was one drive called The Cinema and someone wound me up by saying the most anyone has ever shot there was 130. I shot about 200 on my own peg, on that one drive. I’d forgotten I’d paid my money to go on the trip and it was 50 Euros a bird. I shot a hundred birds over on that one drive. I had a huge overage bill on that first day. The next morning on the first drive, all the guys were telling me to take my time, but I got all excited and got about a third of the birds in the first few minutes. It cost me a fortune, about 18,300 in overages in total but, that aside, I loved it.”
The best shoot in the world?
“No, that’s Richard Caring’s place in Somerset, The Lakes. It is quite simply the finest shoot in the world.”
Richard is clearly a great friend, but who are your other shooting buddies?
“Richard is actually a very good shot indeed and I usually shoot there with Bruce Ritchie, Robbie Tchenguiz and Lord Linley. Cliff Carter and Neil Stafford are the two guys who first got me going. They are entrepreneurs, but not necessarily known to anybody. Then there’s Neil Wurfbain, Danny Hassell, Dr Wheeler and Paul Snook. Theo Paphitis from Dragon’s Den and I shoot quite a lot together and he took me shooting with George Digweed. George is an unbelievably brilliant shot. He shot with us up in Yorkshire and he downed a bird at 130 yards… almost impossible. I could barely see it; it looked like a bee to me.”