It is with deep regret that Woodlore must pass on this sad news:
There is truly only one certainty in any human being’s life, one day our time on the earth will end. Sadly, that moment came for Professor Gordon Hillman on Saturday, when after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease he passes quietly from this world.
I know from the many comments I receive that Gordon was much loved by viewers of the Wild Food series. What few will know is that even then, while filming, Gordon was also coping with his condition, which would cause him to sometimes take strange awkward poses or even to freeze. But despite these challenges he remained a human being of energy, with boundless enthusiasm for life an unquenchable fascination in nature and an irrepressible sense of humour.
At our first meeting an instant friendship was established through our mutual passion for wild plants. This would blossom into a collaboration of over ten years solid research as we tried to understand what wild foods would have been available to Britain’s last hunter gatherers at the end of the British Mesolithic, a time before organised farming and the availability of cooking pots. The research was both massively rewarding and difficult, the nearest I have ever come to self-poisoning, was as the result of one of Gordons experiments.
But beyond plant lore we also shared a passion for Lord of the Rings. On long drives to the Scottish Highlands we would pass the time recounting scenes from those wonderful books. A Gandalfian character himself, Gordon once pronounced, “I have never really trusted anyone who does not like ‘The Lord of the Rings’”. Many miles were eaten up discussing the grove of Mallorn trees, what species could have inspired them how marvellous they must have been…
Gordon was also for many years a regular member of the Woodlore instructional team, most notably during the Journeyman Courses in Scotland. Here he would immerse himself in nature, skinny dipping in the loch each morning before heading out in search of wild plants to energise the course participants. As all of the best, natural instructors do, he had the ability to mesmerise his students. More than once I was told, ‘I could listen to him all day.’
Inevitably the day came when sitting beside a Lochside campfire, in a particularly beautiful spot, Gordon saw the opportunity to tell me that he would no longer be able to join me in the field. In truth we had both known this for some time.
Gordon was the kindest human being I have ever known, wherever he went he made friends and left people smiling; no better example being the time that we spent together with Aboriginal communities in the Australian outback. To say that he was loved by the Aboriginal people we worked with would be an understatement.
There are places which will always remind me of Gordon, some where the memories are so vivid that I can no longer visit them. In a world where so many pronounce themselves as experts when they are but mere beginners, the loss of such a man, a true expert, is most deeply felt.
My thoughts go out to his family who he so loved, as well as to the friends who cared for him in recent times.
– Ray Mears