Op-ed: Gilpin Bradley’s lifetime commitment to Scottish salmon farming should be honored

Gilpin Bradley

Gillian Osborne is the marketing and communications manager for Wester Ross Fisheries.

On 30 September, Gilpin Bradley resigned as managing director of Wester Ross Fisheries after a lifetime’s commitment to salmon farming in Scotland.

Gilpin, who is the same age as Scottish salmon farming itself, has been a leading light and champion of Scottish salmon, particularly in the export market, for decades. It was his father, Dr. Robin Bradley, who pioneered the early research into salmon farming at Ardnish in the 1960s, for Marine Harvest, a Unilever subsidiary. Without this crucial work and the significant research funding by Unilever, Scottish salmon would not be the success story that it is today.

Gilpin cut his teeth feeding salmon from his father’s backpack as a toddler. His childhood echoed with the sound of those few early and excited pioneers, all eager to meet and discuss the challenges of farming salmon, including the late Duke of Edinburgh, who visited in 1972. Home was synonymous with farm and the steady stream of farm staff seeking the legendary, never-ending supply of scones emanating from his mother Dorothy’s kitchen were always a welcome presence and are remembered fondly to this day. Home and community are very important to Gilpin. Apart from a few years in London at Morgan Grenfell Investment Bank, he has dedicated his working life to farming salmon in the West Highlands of Scotland. 

Wester Ross Fisheries was originally founded by Alan Mann and Gilpin’s father Dr. Robin Bradley. Against all odds, following a successful management buyout in 2006, the company was nurtured by the capable hands of Gilpin Bradley, David Robinson, Hugh Richards, and Colin Milne. Gilpin has steered its course ever since and is responsible for the successful creation of the enviable Wester Ross brand. Known throughout the industry for favoring an all-natural approach to slowly grown, medicine-free, and hand-fed artisan salmon; Wester Ross salmon has managed to consistently achieve a premium price. Customers around the world value the exquisite taste of Wester Ross, which is a testament to the carefully chosen and time-honored traditional methods and skills that are kept alive at Wester Ross. 

At Wester Ross, Gilpin established a successful export business to North America, and today, Wester Ross salmon can be found throughout North America. Just last week, retired salmon farmers Dave and Tina Tierney, who started out working at Wester Ross, said they were delighted to visit Mac’s Chatham Fish in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A., and find Wester Ross in their chiller.

“We offer Wester Ross salmon in our retail stores and our restaurant menus for one simple reason: scored by any measure, it’s consistently great. Our customers trust us to deliver the best fish we can find, and Wester Ross fits the bill perfectly,” Mac’s Chatham Fish General Manager Parker Staniar said.

With a focus on heritage but an eye on the future, Wester Ross has always been committed to the environment and sustainable stewardship. Hands-on and always at the helm, Gilpin managed Wester Ross until it was the very last independent seawater salmon farm in Scotland. Following the sale to Mowi in June 2022, Wester Ross has retained its exclusive individuality and is the last independently managed Scottish salmon farm.

In Bradley’s own words, “There is enormous pleasure in the smallest being bought by the largest in the world, and yet managing to retain its unique position as a premium, artisan product in the marketplace.”

A former chair of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organization (now Salmon Scotland) and twice awarded the coveted Scottish Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year, Gilpin will hand over that latter honor later this month at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness. The venue is a familiar one. At just 14 years of age, in a 14-foot boat, the entrepreneurial Gilpin created a successful business selling lobsters to local hotels and restaurants. The Kingsmills Hotel was one of his best customers. Hand-hauling lobster pots is no job for the faint-hearted, but the steely determination and charming, engaging manner of the teenager were the measure of the man he would become. A man who would go on to achieve so much, often in circumstances in which others might flounder.

There is a bittersweet irony to the handover, because Gilpin retires on health grounds, having recently been diagnosed with cancer. With the indomitable spirit for which he is well known, he is preparing for a grueling treatment period and a return to his former good health. In the meantime, Wester Ross will be in the capable hands of Mowi and the committed custodians of the long-established Wester Ross team.

Gilpin Bradley: the man; the ambassador; the export champion and the salmon farmer. We thank him, and we are in awe of his achievements; It goes without saying that we shall miss him and of course, we wish him well. 

Photo courtesy of Seafood from Scotland


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