Outdoorsman, writer, bookseller, dog breeder. Born on Sept. 21, 1928 in Niagara Falls, Ont.; died on Sept. 10, 2013, in Ottawa, after surgery for colon cancer, aged 84.
Bill McClure had a keen eye for all that was important to him. From the love of his life, Kathryn, to rare books, fine hunting dogs, a perfect grouse cover, a good campsite or a fine piece of jazz music, he pursued his passions with enthusiasm.
Bill’s interest in the outdoors and hunting developed in his childhood in Niagara Falls. He was an avid Boy Scout and his family often spent vacations camping and fishing in rural Ontario. He became a lifelong hunter, mostly for game birds. Knowledgeable about nature and wildlife, he found peace when in the woods or on the water. Every spring he could be found in the family’s sugar bush near Ottawa, presiding over the sap boils. The spring ritual continues with the third generation making maple syrup.
Bill and Kathryn Skinner married in 1955 and got their first dog, a beagle, soon after. They bred Brittany spaniels for more than 50 years, involving their three daughters and son in the kennel business located outside Ottawa. Bill was recognized as one of the foremost authorities on gun dogs in Canada. He wrote for several outdoor and hunting magazines for 25 years, and in 2004 a collection of his writing was published in the book Brittany Tales.
After retiring from a 25-year career as a social worker in Renfrew, Ont., and Ottawa, he and Kathryn established a mail-order book business specializing in sporting and dog books, both new and antiquarian. Bill loved to explore used book shops across North America in search of treasures and his sharp eye and memory aided him in his quest. Kathryn marvelled at his ability to consistently find that one book that was valuable among hundreds on the shelves. He had an extensive personal collection, including many rare first editions.
Bill took an interest in people from all walks of life. He was compassionate and on several occasions employed young people who were finding their way in life and needed a helping hand to build their confidence and sense of self-worth. He was curious about the world and often took the time to delve into the lives of those he encountered. He was known for his sharp intellect, dry wit and interest in the human condition. And he was generous with his wise counsel on how to live a full and happy life.
Bill had deep-rooted values such as devotion to his family, integrity, honesty and respect for nature, and he could be uncompromising if those values were challenged. He had strong opinions on many issues including the long-gun registry, which he opposed. He never hesitated to contact politicians to express his displeasure – or pleasure – about a policy.
In an interview published in Gun Dog magazine in 1983, Bill said: “Kathy and I have tried to instill our values in our children. Our life so far has been filled with the joy of seeing our four children grow to maturity, each of them fascinated with the grandeur of their country and its wild places. The six of us have lain in our sleeping bags and listened to timber wolves howl. We’ve caught trout together, dined on grouse, and shared in the peaks and valleys of 25 years raising gun dogs. What more can we ask except that our grandchildren – and theirs, if they wish – enjoy the same experiences.”
A heartfelt sentiment from a dedicated family man and a true Canadian outdoorsman.
Karen McClure and Alison Cumminger are Bill’s daughters.