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Top executive wanted: must like sheep

WANTED: AN effective leader with proven business ability, good planning skills and team-building expertise. Love of penguins and sheep an advantage.

One of London's top recruitment consultancies has been engaged to find a new chief executive for the Falkland Islands government - a job described, with typical British understatement, as "one of the most unusual and challenging in the world".

The successful man, or woman, can expect to earn around pounds 75,000 for running this "small but very complex" administration. The job includes a comfortable family house overlooking Stanley harbour and the use of an official car. In return he, or she, will have to adapt to a somewhat inhospitable environment where no trees grow, and the sheep outnumber humans by roughly 340 to one.

Bill Phillips, the executive director of City headhunters Norman Broadbent, says there have already been a healthy number of applications from both men and women.

"It is a fantastic job and one in which the candidate's personality is as important as their qualifications," he said. "But it can be lonely and the person will need to be a pillar of the community as well as being able to fit into the fabric of island life. They must also be a social animal."

A buzzing social life is not something that is usually associated with the Falklands. Indeed, it has been said that life on this tiny piece of Britain in the south Atlantic resembles that of the Orkney Islands 30 years ago, when a knees-up at the village hall was the highlight of the social calendar.

But representatives at Falkland House in London are swift to defend their community against such slurs. "It can be very lively," protested Wendy Teggart, a native Falklander. "There are five pubs in Stanley."

Plainly, applicants who are more inclined towards the delights of Britain, where there are often more than five pubs on one street, need not apply.

"We have a thriving social life," added Ms Teggart. "There are sports facilities and a swimming pool as well."

Parties aside, it is a job that Andrew Gurr, whose contract has come to an end after five years, will miss. "I was running a Training and Enterprise Council in Cheshire when I saw the advertisement in the paper and it looked like a challenge," he said. "It really has been immense fun and one of those jobs where everything is interesting because it is so varied.

"You have to be a good listener. One minute I can be trying to resolve a dispute over a broken fence, and the next I'm discussing the future of Argentinian foreign policy."

He also has to be able to sort out the internal airline and plan the way forward for the islands' pounds 20m-a-year fishing industry. "At the moment, there are a lot of poachers from Taiwan and we are in the process of arming our boats."

He admits that the scenery is somewhat bleak but enthuses about the clarity of the light and the abundance of wildlife. "You have to be very resourceful to live here and the islanders are very tough and capable of sorting things out themselves. But they are also becoming more and more sophisticated."

Mr Gurr has not yet decided what his next career move will be, or even where, but he has become very attached to the islanders' way of life. One of the things he will miss most is the abundance of mutton. "In Britain they just give you old lamb which is not the same thing at all," he said. "I wouldn't say mutton was an island delicacy because it is so common, but it is a dish I have grown very fond of."

Alas, his wife does not share his tastes. She is looking forward to rediscovering Marks & Spencer's ready meals.