It’s a fishy tale involving a Highland laird who boasts connections to Jane Austen and the Queen, his palatial pile on the River Dee and a syrupy TV documentary that goofed.
Andrew and Nicola Bradford were lauded as an “extraordinary couple” in a programme broadcast on ITV3 last Sunday because of the way they manage Kincardine Castle and their 3,000-acre estate in Aberdeenshire.
But the programme went too far when it wrongly suggested that Andrew caught the salmon eaten by paying guests. If he had, it would have breached the River Dee’s conservation code, and could have been illegal.
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Along with shooting, fishing and farming, the one-hour Great Estates documentary described how the Bradfords entertained corporate guests to fine wine and food. According to their website, a banquet for 80 costs over £12,000.
On the broadcast Andrew Bradford told guests that his great-great-great-grand-aunt was the author of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. He said that the Queen used to regularly visit when she was young, and staying at the royal Balmoral estate a short distance away.
But the programme commentary also said that the salmon on the menu was from the river. “In generations gone by, the task of catching the salmon would have fallen to the salaried gamekeepers,” viewers were told.
“But tonight, and on every night when such dinners are hosted, the fish is caught by Andrew himself.”
If that were true, it would have breached the conservation code drawn up by the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, of which Bradford is a member. It requires that all salmon and trout caught be released back into the river to protect fish stocks.
Serving the salmon to paying guests could also have breached the Conservation of Salmon (Prohibition of Sale) (Scotland) Regulations 2002. They prohibit the sale of “any salmon that has been taken by rod and line.”
But according to Bradford, that section of commentary was “a complete load of b*****ks”. It was in part of the documentary about fishing and shooting in which he was not involved, he said.
“We were surprised to see the section as we knew nothing about that part of the storyline which, as far as I was concerned, was fictional and I dismissed it as being the sort of things that filmmakers create to add a story.”
The statement about him catching the salmon that was served was “categorically untrue”, he stated. “If I recall correctly I mentioned my surprise to the director at the time I saw it and was advised that it was introduced to make it all run better.”
Bradford didn’t make a formal complaint, but he did caution viewers on his website. “There are one or two items in the programme which should be taken with a pinch of salt,” he said.
The documentary was made in 2013 by B4Films, based at Ellon in Aberdeenshire, and has been broadcast in the US as well as in the UK. According to the company’s creative director, Jim Brown, the Bradfords did not ask for anything in the film to be changed when they were shown it in advance.
“Perhaps, our researcher during the pre-interview had misunderstood the discussion with Mr Bradford. This is exactly why we show the film for fact checking before it goes near any broadcaster,” Brown told the Sunday Herald.
“This appears to have been just been an unfortunate mistake, and I thank you for pointing it out to me. I will go back into the edit and correct it before it is broadcast in any other country.”