Mike Tomkies is inextricably linked to the cause of the Scottish Wildcat, being one of the first to bring them back to public attention through two books written in the 1980s about his experiences living alongside them and helping them survive in the remote Highlands. Eventually those two books were collected together as Wildcat Haven, and when the project was designed to launch in the very same area Mike had lived, it was named in honour of his work.
Mike remained a passionate advocate of Scottish wildcats and was an honorary director of Wildcat Haven until his death in October 2016; he endorsed and supported this project as an advisor from 2008 when it was established under the Scottish Wildcat Association, of which Mike was a patron.
A life in the Wildernesse
Mike was born in 1928 in Nottinghamshire and grew up around nature and wildlife in the Sussex countryside, but eventually became a professional journalist, interviewing the stars of the silver screen in Hollywood.
Coming into middle age, Mike began to rethink his life and an ambition to live back amongst nature and write books about it, taking time out in Canada to build a remote log cabin and learn how to find animals like mountain lions and bears from native trackers.
The experience only left him wanting more, and eventually he moved his entire life to the Scottish Highlands, eventually settling in a remote cottage that he called Wildernesse in the acclaimed series of books that followed, sharing his experiences living miles from other people or even a road with his devoted dog Moobli for company.
Mike’s first love was eagles, and he surveyed a huge number of nesting sites over a 300 square mile area around the cottage, whilst also coming to help a whole array of other species, often by nursing injured animals back to health, including the Scottish wildcat.
Fascinated by the animal after catching a photo of one, he came to be offered two orphaned wildcat kittens to try and raise. The books that followed told a remarkable story of discovering the unique character of these animals, destroying long held myths of their status as savage man-killers, and instead describing a remarkably independent, brave and intelligent survivor demanding of the greatest respect.
The kittens advanced to adulthood establishing territories around Wildernesse and eventually having kittens of their own, whilst Mike went on to carry out some of the first research into hybridisation, raising his concerns a full 20 years before anyone else thought about it seriously.
At his death, Mike lived in a remote farmstead in Henfield, Sussex where he wrote and involved himself in helping the wildlife around him. He remained an important part of wildcat conservation making a memorable appearance in the documentary film Last of the Scottish Wildcats, acting as patron for the Scottish Wildcat Association which first established the Haven project, advising on the design of the project and becoming an honorary director of Wildcat Haven when it was established as a stand-alone organisation.
We always have been, and continue to be, immensely grateful and proud of his support.