Harry hello and thank you for being my 6th interviewee and when I informed the team at TIFAM that you were featuring this month, the reply was "Well done, a major coup!"
Harry I owe a lot to you for my transition from modern recurve to traditional archery and to the Longbow in particular and as you are well aware, I shot for several years a Fusetake Yumi Longbow that you personally made and i shot it with success. To this day it has been my very favourite bow.
I know that you have now mostly left the archery scene but so many people will enjoy reading this article so here goes...
The 10 essential questions first.
Harry, how did you get into archery?
Anyone who was born and grew up in the Black Forest (Germany), like me, traditionally build a hazelnut bow and arrows as a boy. So we roamed through the woods and played Cowboys and Indians. But when I discovered the female sex and went to work, I forgot bows and arrows. Only at the age of 50 did I turn it back into my hobby to relieve work related stress. In the late 90's it wasn't easy to find an archery club, so I went to the nearest gun club in my area that had an archery department. However, there was only training with Compounds and Olympic Recurves. So I started with Compound. At the first field archery tournament, I met traditional archers and I knew immediately that this was what I wanted.
I did two course in instinctive shooting with Henry Bodnik in nearby Eisenbach. After the basic and advanced course I was quickly on the first places at field archery tournaments. Then I got cocky and registered with the German Field Archery Association to take part in the German Championships in 2000. I still had no idea and I didn't know that a field round involves shooting at targets up to 80 yards and also 4 arrows per target. That was my undoing and I actually ended up last in the Longbow mens category. I was devastated for a week which was a lesson for me.
Your first shoot, where, when and with whom?
My first shoot with my longbow was the club shoot in 2001 at the WTS (Wurf Tauben Schuetzenverein) in Freiburg. And that is when I stood on the winners podium for the first time.
My first International DFBV tournament was in Dahn Germany. Here too I was up there with a 5th place, although this field archery competition was very demanding and, with 380 participants, was not only strong in terms of numbers. Among the first ten Longbow archers were World and European Champions. That was a great finish for me. After that I emigrated to Ireland with my wife Cornelia.
I have to ask Harry how did you choose Ireland to relocate to?
I came to Ireland primarily because Cornelia had fallen in love with this country since she was a child, Like me, her father was an avid fisherman. After the 1st family holiday with our little boys, I fell in love with this enchanting country and its people and knew this would be our new home.
You didn't have to persuade me here and i don't regret a second. Our motto was "Live your dream, don't dream your life!" We were able to do that. thanks Ireland.
That's wonderful Harry, now next question...
Your favourite stand out archery moment?
After I had a really bad result at the World Bow Hunter Championships 2007 in Switzerland and because of target panic, I worked hard on myself in this regard. The following year I took part in the Traditional Archery Society Championships in England with my wife Cornelia and was able to free myself from my target panic. I can still remember my thoughts clearly as I mastered a very long shot over a forest canyon. My competitor had the same result as me and that was our last target. I really didn't care if I scored because we both had massive scores anyway. I didn't really want to win, I was satisfied and I think that's why I got the "perfect shot". As soon as I let the string go I could feel that it was going to be a great hit. And in-fact it was the picture-perfect kill at maximum range. Ever since this day I call it my "F**k it" method.
Ha-ha love it Harry, great answer.
Your favourite shooting bow style of all & why?
Only after I had tried the "full circle" of the different bows did I decide on the most primitive historical Longbow. I started with the compound (Unlimited) and worked my way along- hunting recurve, longboat (AFB) and finally the historical longbow. I built the latter myself and set an Irish SBG record with almost 500 points at the All- Ireland Championships 2009 in Cork. This records still stands today. That convinced me so much and gave me confidence that I have stayed with this bow style until now. It was a bamboo backed IPE longbow, 74-inches long with 58 lbs at a 27 inch draw. The was modelled from a thousand-year-old Japanese "Fusitake" Yumi and due to the moderate asymmetry, this bow was very fast and precise even over long distances In the meantime I have switched to a shorter and lighter American Longbow made of Yew. This selfbow is only 64 in long and just 55 lbs at 27 inches... You don't get any younger!
Right Harry, next question... What have been your proudest archery moments?
It is hard to say but at the top is the visit from G. Fred Asbell - my role model, teacher of Instinctive Archery and "Hall of Fame" bow hunter. He and his wife stayed at our college for a week.
Or was it that moment at Markree Castle in Sligo where I was awarded "Archer of the Year" In 2004. Or was it when I was the first Irish archer to get a "hotshot" patch. Or becoming all All-Ireland Champion for the 10th time and the Mayo Archers winning every traditional title in that Championship.
The year 2011 was exceptionally good as I took part in 15 tournaments and won them all. 2012 was also a very good year. In the years that followed I was unlucky. Firstly I broke my foot which was a big handicap and the year after my wife Cornelia died. As a result I lost my passion and interest in competitive archery.
Harry, I really liked Cornelia and met her several times at shoots or at your place. She was lovely and was really well liked within archery circles. That was a terrible - unbearable loss and a very sad time for you and I too have been in the same boat as you when it comes to losing a wife and soulmate and it is just awful. You and I have chatted about this on a number of occasions and agree that we are extremely thankful to have experienced life with these terrific ladies and have all the wonderful memories to fondly remember.. And regarding your competitive successes and honours, all I can say is wow!
What is the best thing about Archery?
Of course you have to see the camera 3 and fun in the foreground and when you compete in international tournaments you get to travel all over the world. i would never have vacationed in Estonia if it wasn't for the 2008 European Bow Hunter Championships but the best thing about archery is that you get very involved with yourself. You concentrate exclusively on yourself and the brief moment in which you release the arrow This is the moment of truth. There is nothing more exclusive than archery "when you go you go and when you eat you eat! Confucius also said "The way is the goal!" - this one word actually contains everything that needs to be considered -only those who have really understood this will find fun and fulfilment in archery and this knowledge can also be transferred very well to many other areas of life. It is a real help in life when you do something with joy and not only judge the end result.
Harry, Your favourite archery woods, do you excel Ash or enjoy any other sporting pastime? course or venue?
You might as well ask me which is my favourite grandchild! I love everyone. Nevertheless there is still a tiny favourite. In my 20-year career I have shot on many courses, shooting ranges and halls whereby the most beautiful ones could be found at the World Bow Hunter Champs and European Bow Hunter Champs. For first place I would choose the course in Bergamo in the Italian Dolomites.
The furthest distance you have travelled to an archery tournament/ event?
that was probably the ATA archery trade show in Indianapolis there we wanted to look around for interesting innovations for Flybow. Unfortunately. the largest archery fair in the world was primarily designed for modern bow hunters. Nevertheless it was worth the trip because we met very interesting people again like Byron Ferguson.
Do you excel at or enjoy any other sporting pastime?
Since I've always been sporty I've had several sporting hobbies over the years These included wrestling, Taekwondo cross-country running, skiing, air rifle and muzzle loader shooting, motorcycling and fishing. I started fishing on authorised in brackets when I was a child I'll bet with worms and alike. It wasn't until I met my father-in-law that I started fly fishing and got around the world as a result. First Austria then Canada Northwest Territories of America and finally Alaska. I was last there with my two sons 12 years ago and it was fantastic as always.
Re: Shoots, do/did you like camping, tents, caravanning, etc or are you a hotel/ B&B person, or a travelling on the day despite the distance person?
I like being independent and therefore prefer camping or caravanning. Nevertheless, I always stayed in a B&B or hotel for multi-day tournaments. Today I would do it with my converted Ford Transit Camper van but I didn't have that before.
Yes Harry, I followed your online progress reports as you converted your Transit a while back, a very nice job Sir.
Now Harry, your random selection of questions...
Who is/were/are your inspirations in life? (personally or in sport or society)
To be perfectly honest that has been my wife Cornelia so far but now I've had to re-invent myself and I also found new inspirations. For example- I became interested in genealogical research. My Great-uncle left me a family book which he wrote from my perspective for my better understanding The information contained in it dates back to the 17th century and is very interesting because some individuals who my Great-uncle knew personally are described in detail. Now I can put myself in the shoes of people and situations very well. I can embark on a journey through time which I can actually do in my camper van. Last year I vacationed in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany to visit the places of my ancestors. Of course this also includes the living family. I was able to combine that wonderfully with my other hobby photography.
And... your favourite place on the planet is?
I'm in good hands here in Ireland. But I would like to travel to warmer countries during the wet and dark winter time. Otherwise I feel very comfortable in my adopted home. There is no other place on earth that has such friendly and relaxed people as here!
What new skill would you love to learn Harry?
I would like to be able to speak foreign languages. In my time only a select few went to college and I wasn't one of them We had six children and no money. It's really hard for me to learn languages. After 20 years in Ireland I still struggle with the English.
What do you hate the most?
This is by far the bureaucracy I hate it Maybe that's because I like to keep things as simple as possible. Believe it or not that was one reason to emigrate from Germany. In Germany everything is over-regulated so that the many civil servants don't get bored. Guess who has the largest freely elected parliament in the world with 736 seats?
Favourite food or foods?
Actually I like to eat everything except "hedgehogs and broken glass"! Just yesterday I saw another photo on Facebook where someone had posted "Sauerbraten" with red cabbage and that made my mouth water but my absolute favourite dish is roast wild boar or other game dishes and for dessert -a real Black Forest cake with lots of cherry schnapps!
A funny thing that has happened to you?
When I was young I was really a hot-head and the following happened to me while I was working as a heating engineer on a construction site. When I wanted to take the outside elevator of the high-rise building it pulled away from me even though I had called them to wait for me. They didn't stop the elevator and I cast and scolded Lowdy. Then the elevator suddenly stopped on the fifth floor and drove back to me. The elevator cage opened when it reached the bottom again and a worker who operated it invited me inside. When I saw that it was the foreman from the construction company I explained to him that he could have waited the 10 seconds for me, especially since I had to go to the 24th floor. Tall and athletic he remains surprisingly calm despite all the previous insults from me. He could have beat me up properly in the cage. That happened quickly at the time because he was German Champion in boxing -as I found out later. We met more times following this. In the years that followed I retrained as a construction and industrial manager in the same construction company where "Martin Wehrle" worked. We then met regularly, became very good friends and laughed about the strange way we met.
Ha very good Harry, That could have turned out differently. Now if you could be at one particular past event, occurrence or occasion what would it be?
With my van to an open air concert with The Who, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, AC/DC or Black Sabbath etc.
Somehow I know this next question might lead to an interesting answer Harry, The most daring or dangerous thing that you have done?
At the age of nine I was balancing over a steel arch of a 20 metre high railway bridge which was only 50 cm wide. When I was 12... no I might leave this particular story out.
After a few motorcycle and car accidents which I survived, military service came. At the age of 20 I landed in a tree with my parachute which is really life threatening as broken branches can easily impale you or puncture an artery. Some years after that, back on the building site I got stuck on a 380 volt power distribution box. When I wanted to plug in the cable drum early one dark morning, I stood in the water and was very fortunate in my misfortune as I was able to free my cramped hand just in time. The blood literally boiled and squirted out of the fingers with which I had accidentally touched the exposed electricity poles. And i survived. I'm sure I've used up my contingent of guardian angels by now.
The one thing that you would never do again...
besides the things from the previous question Harry ha ha!
I didn't have to think long about this question. I would never again make it a decision against my gut just to please someone. For more than 10 years I was in good hands in the craft profession and I really enjoyed it. That should change after I met my wife. Instead of following in my father's footsteps and getting a master craftsman certificate in heating engineering, I let my father-in-law talk me into studying business administration and joining his publishing house. It was fun at first but when we finally had 80 employees on the payroll within 20 years it got stressful. In the bottom of my heart I was a construction person and loved dealing with simple knitted construction workers and occasionally with soldiers. But in a publishing house you deal with academics such as authors, editors, accountants, tax authorities, business partners, and bankers. Although I earned very well during this time it made me sick in the long term and so it wasn't worth it all.
And finally Harry, are you a glass half full or glass half empty type of person?
Actually I'm a realistic person that's between optimistic and pessimistic I'm actually very gullible by nature even naive but life skill taught me to be more suspicious and so I became a realist.
Thank you for your time and for the very interesting answers Harry. I just wish to add on behalf of archers including all your traditional archer friends in Mayo and all around this country, a huge thank you to both you and your company Flybow (Cornelia included) for all your help, interactions, patience and advice over the years. You have been a fulcrum for the beginner and experienced archer alike and we sincerely appreciate you and acknowledge all you have done to promote and strengthen the traditional element of this sport here and even further afield. Go raibh maith agat. Harry enjoy many years of travelling, touring, fishing, photography etc, and following the trails from that book that your Great -uncle left you. Catch up with you again soon. Regards - Andrew