“The finest falconer I ever knew was Kim Muir.
He was at Eton with me, though much younger,
and he kept a great assortment of hawks while
he was there. More tears were shed for hard-
riding, hard-living, lovable Kim than for almost
any man that I ever knew.”
an Kay Muir was born
on July 10, 1916, the
only son of Matthew
William Muir and
Clara Gardiner Muir,
the brother to older sister
Gillian. His family was of
ancient lineage traceable back
to 367 AD when his Irish
ancestor Fergus Mor invaded
Scotland with a band of
warriors and took over lands
in southeast. His immediate
family was what the British
called “landed aristocracy”.
Through the centuries they
had built up a sizeable family
fortune and large holdings of land that placed them as leading members
of country society. His father was a well-known polo player and the
second of his line to hold the Mastership of the Cotswold Hunt. His
mother won a medal for life saving, and his sister was crazy about
Around the age of two Kims parents acquired Postlip Hall near
Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. Postlip was an ancient manor house of
hand hewn stone dating to the Jacobean Period (1600-1625), but built
on the foundations of a 15th century monastery which in turn was built
on a succession of smaller homes dating to around 900AD. It nestled
in several hundred acres of the Cotswold countryside. The estate came
with a circa 1100 stone chapel built by the Normans – Kims mews was
about 150 feet opposite its door – and an enormous medieval tithe
barn in which Kim could exercise his sparrowhawks and goshawks in
inclement weather.
We do not know when Kim first acquired a love of falconry but surmise
it was when he was about eleven or twelve years old. By the time he was
nineteen he was accounted to be one of the finest falconers in Great
Britain. He achieved this distinction through his keen observation of the
ways of hawks and falcons, through sallying forth with other prominent
falconers of the day such as Hugh and Norman Knight and Gilbert
Blaine, and through a studious reading of E.B. Michell’s The Art and
Practice of Hawking. And, of course, he achieved his accolades through
the trapping, possession, training, and hunting of longwings and
shortwings, being out with them in the field every chance he could.
Kim had a remarkably open and friendly personality that just drew
people to him. His friend John Buchans words seem to describe a
universal feeling everyone who met him held for him. We often hear the
saying “he had a magnetic personality” but, in Kims case, this seems to
be an understatement.
Kim was educated at Eton College, England’s most prestigious prep
school, where students were prohibited from having pets. Kim, however,
convinced the headmaster he had to have hawks there as a science
project and so throughout his four years various raptors lived in the
science lab and were often taken out doors for “science experiments”.
Following Eton Kim enrolled at the Royal Military College Sandhurst.
The Muirs were a warrior family with generations of soldiers in their
family tree, but Kim almost did not earn a commission. The first spring
at Sandhurst eyas season came around and Kim went awol in the dead
of night to go to Wales to collect a nestling peregrine. He did not make
it back to Sandhurst in time for roll call and was severely reprimanded.
A second spring arrived and eyas season came round again. This time
Kim hired a bi-winged airplane
to fly him to Lundy, thinking
to get there and back again by
a much faster method than the
car he used the last time. The
falcon was collected but a dense
fog blew in and Kim did not get
back in time. He was rusticated”
– expelled for a semester or longer
or permanently at the discretion
of the commandant. Through the
intercession of his well- connected
step-father and his own “how can
you say no to Kim personality
he was eventually re-admitted.
Kim graduated and was commissioned a lieutenant in the 10th Royal
The Hussars were a cavalry unit which fit in well with Kims second
great love: horses. He had an adventurous and competitive spirit
and racing made his blood flow fast. He and his older sister Gillian
founded a business to breed, train, and race thoroughbreds. His greatest
ambition in the racing sphere was to ride in the Grand National
Steeplechase at Aintree. This is the most prestigious race of its kind in
the world, a dangerous ride over a course four miles in length. Riders
have to negotiate 30 demanding jumps. Kim achieved his ambition
in March 1940. Of the 32 horses entered in the race only seventeen
finished. Kim was 8th, on his horse Away”, which he had bred himself
when he was 17 years old.
At the time Kim joined the Hussars they were only beginning to become
mechanized”. Horses, which had been their vehicles for over a hundred
years, were giving way to tanks and trucks. The first tanks they were
issued were referred to by Kims cousin Betsy as “teapot tanks. They
were small and squat like a teapot, and like teapots their armor was so
thin a stone from David’s slingshot could probably penetrate it.
Peter Devers, Richard (Rocky) Montgomery, Stuart Rossell, James and Nancy Cowan,
Bill Barbour, Paul Beecroft, Steve Barton, Griselda Cuthbert, Tom and Renetta Cade
A month after the race the Hussars were sent to
Normandy, to fight the Germans in the Battle of France.
At Huppy sur Mer his unit met the German army on
May 27th 1940 and were routed. Of the 40 tanks the
Hussars had, 39 were swiftly destroyed. Kim escaped his
burning tank, dragging with him his severely wounded
sergeant, William Locker. They hid in a low growth wheat
field waiting for night to come. His commanding officer located him by voice in
the evening and told Kim to make his way to the ditch they were hiding in. Locker,
however, was slowly bleeding to death
and Kim would not leave him to die
alone and friendless on foreign soil.
He would get out when Locker got his
strength back the next day.
Two days after Sargeant Locker died
the Germans moved off and the men
of the 10th Hussars came back onto the
battlefield to search for their missing.
They found Kim Muir, his heart literally
blown out of his body by machine gun
fire. He was 23 years old. The Hussars
carried Kim to the communal cemetery
at Hodeng au Bosc and laid him to rest
alongside his friend 2nd Lieutenant J. S.
On Kims tombstone is carved the image
of Black Jess, his most famous falcon.
Kim was rarely without a hawk during
his short life, and his sister Gillian made
sure he would never be without a hawk
during his long death.
(Paul Beecroft & Peter Devers)
Above-Poslip Hall near Gloucestershire where Ian was