Declan Feeney huntsman of the East Down foxhounds at the meet at The Lakeside Inn Downpatrick

Feature Articles by Noel Mullins

The East Down Foxhounds at The Lakeside Inn Downpatrick by Noel Mullins

Declan Feeney huntsman of the East Down foxhounds at the meet at The Lakeside Inn Downpatrick

Matthew Forde of Seaforde had a pack in 1768 which became the Lecale Harriers. In 1887 they became the East Down Harriers and changed to a foxhound pack in 1947. The country is mainly grassland, stone walls, banks and hedges.

Chairman – James Armstrong
Masters – Donna Quail and Pat Turley
Huntsman – Declan Feeney
Honorary Whippers In – James Armstrong, Daisy Dillon and Brian Toner
Honorary Secretary – Donna Quail
Honorary Treasurer - Kelvin Henderson

If you are attending Downpatrick Races and want to let the traffic clear, take a turn marked The Mill and Ballydugan Lake and you will find a real gem of a traditional Irish Pub, The Lakeside Inn complete with its half door. It is an old coaching inn with the stables still intact. It is owned by Margaret and Geoffrey Ferguson who are the epitome of hospitality. Margaret’s family have owned the Inn since 1890, and she herself was awarded Ulster Barperson of the Year. Her mother Meta is still fondly remembered by the photo over the bar. Margaret who is a keen local historian, flower and craft enthusiast, arranges fishing permits on the lake if you like course fishing, and even accommodation a few yards up the road at Ballydugan Cottages owned by Jeni and Jim Morrison. They are well known breeders of Holsteins and Aberdeen Angus cattle, and Jim has a keen interest in animal genetics.

Not only the publicans were out to meet the East Down Foxhounds at their meet at the inn, but also local farmers like Tom Edgar and his sheepdog Jim. Last year Tom told the huntsman that the foxes had taken 24 of his hens and were as fat as fools, and he did not want to lose any more! Mrs Black stopped to say she had taken her pony in so they could draw away, and farmers David Nicholson and Stephen McGinn were also down to say they had taken all the locks off the gates and wishing the followers an enjoyable day. Stephen Murray a stone mason of Stoney Ways who specialise in all types of traditional stonework as well as landscaping was also there in support. It was a refreshing example of community spirit, upholding old traditions and respecting each other’s sport.

Pat Turley who took on the mastership this year farms on Downpatrick Racecourse where his Kingsfield Haylage business is based. His son Patrick trains about 20 point to pointers together with 12 breezers, so performance is targeted at the sales. Patrick has the ideal background for training as I remember him hunting 12.2 ponies with the East Down and riding up front with the huntsman. I asked him when he was a teenager what he wanted to do when he left school and he said be a jockey. He rode for 5 years, won 20 point to points then went to Ann and Tony O’Callaghan’s Tally-Ho Stud in Mullingar where top stallion Kodiac stands. Then he set up his training operation at home where he has installed a carbon fibre jumping strip. Two of his graduates My Whirlwind is with Nicky Henderson and Power Pause with Willie Mullins.

The other new joint master is Donna Quail whose Arakan Quest trained by Brian Hamilton and ridden by Keith Donoghue was running in Gowran Park as we left the inn. Viewing the race on her phone she was delighted with the ride Keith gave her horse to slot into third in testing conditions. Her daughter Toni is an international junior eventer associated with Ringfort Rua and currently riding out point to pointers in Wexford and was second recently in a point to point in Tipperary.

It is worth travelling to the East Downs just to see how huntsman Declan Feeney handles 17 ½ couple of hounds on his own. He is a one man band, does his own hunt horses, hounds, and the hunt country, and evens finds time to operate a knackery for fallen stock. Looking over the fence was Camilla his donkey who won many of the prizes at the Trim Show as she works under a plough, harrow, and side car. The pair are going to do an re-enactment of the coaching stop at The Lakeside Inn soon. Declan was riding Harvey a former eventer when ridden by Declan Cullen. He previously hunted his Diamond Chin mare who was a real hunting machine for 14 seasons.

Willie McDowell a local Suffolk Cheviots sheep farmer is a great support to Declan. Craig Cavan the former master for 35 seasons farms beef and tillage locally. He plans the hound breeding programme with the huntsman, and they have had considerable success at all the major hound shows particularly at the National Hound Show in Stradbally. BBC Countryfile have been filming recently at the kennels with the huntsman and honorary whipper in and veterinary surgeon Daisy Dillon, and also at the hunt point to point at Tyrella.

Masters Donna Quail and Pat Turley were on horseback as well as Bartley Murphy, John and Leona Laverty, Kieran Murray, visitors Neil Keary former huntsman of the Iveagh Foxhounds now hunting with the Dunfreese in Scotland and Lynn Mackey from the Iveagh. Hunt chairman James Armstrong was away on business. Following by car were Gerry Gibney and his son Aidan, Paddy Gilmore and his friend Erica, Sean Fowler, Cathal Rogers and his children Emmy, Ruben and Jude, Maura and May Savage, Ron Barr, Herbie Andrews and his wife Margaret, Jimmy Traynor and Stephen McGinn.

While a number of hunts cancelled, not the East Down, as they were hunting in drumlin country formed after the Ice Age melt 10,000 years ago, and under the soil is Ordovician and Silurian shale and grits so it is makes a nice dry home for wildlife. The first draw was in Cargry on Tom Edgar’s farm and although there was a whimper foxes seemed to be out for the day. Veterinary surgeon Daisy Dillon joined us at that stage as she was on call on the weekend.

But when hounds got to the bog off the Ballydonty Road which is a huge covert we realised why the first two coverts were blank as there was at least a brace and a half congregating along the old railway line not far from Stephen McGinn’s flock of ewes. He had lost one ewe overnight and foxes had cleaned the carcass bare. There was some terrific local hunting. One beautifully marked fox slipped out within yards of me and never made as much as a sound. He headed briefly into the open but turned back into the wood instead. Hounds were brilliant in bad scenting conditions in the covert, but they struggled in the open and it appeared the foxes were aware of that. Just to confuse matters another really dark coloured fox ran in a diagonal away right-handed and the pack hunted that line briefly but cast themselves back again. Declan Feeney known as one of the top professional huntsmen in the country did not panic so he let hounds work it out never interfering with them as he did he want to break their concentration. A flock of crows gave us additional information as to the location of the foxes. Hounds hunted in a loop and down the railway bank, then crossed the bog near Huddleston’s herd of sheep. They then dropped down by Alister Moffett’s old house and crossed the road again left-handed in a loop and they marked him to ground by the side of the old railway line.

The huntsman took the pack along the Ballydonty Road again to the back of Hollymount Church into Andrew Galways, and Kenny and Ian Dixons but there are a number of new houses built around the old covert and foxes are probably not comfortable there any longer. The last draw was off the Drumcullen Road near Barbara and Robin Nichols and into Liam Russell’s Bog by Macralaggen Lake which was flooded. Not surprisingly foxes had gone to drier ground, so Feeney blew for home. Hunting is all about memories, and former master Craig Cavan recalled when looking at an enormous hedge in Russells the day both Feeney and himself taking on a similar hedge trying to keep with hounds only to discover there was a 10 foot drop on the landing side. Feeney shouted ‘Sit back’ as both were on the buckle of the reins, but horses fortunately managed to scramble and keep on all fours!

The day ended with a warm fire, refreshments and the friendly hospitality of Margaret and Geoffrey Ferguson at The Lakeside Inn.

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The Iveagh Foxhounds at Brague, County Down by Noel Mullins

Jack Harris huntsman of the Iveagh Foxhounds at the meet at Brague

The Iveagh Foxhounds were formed as a harrier pack in 1825. They disbanded in 1880 and reformed again in 1902. Their best country is around Loughbrickland, Dromore, Scarva and Banbridge in County Down.

Chairman - Gareth Black
Masters - Sarah Dawson and Alexander Mills
Huntsman - Jack Harris
Whipper In - Alan Watson and Dillion Ross
Honorary Secretary - Faith Cromie
Honorary Treasurer - Conor McDonnell

The Iveagh Foxhounds hunt some wonderful grass farmland. The meet was at Brague, which if you are driving towards Belfast on your right is Loughbrickland Lough and Brague to the rear of the lough and is distinctive by its drumlin hills and neatly trimmed blackthorn hedges. Its real horse country, and as so often happens on my way to meets in Northern Ireland I often meet a couple of point to pointers coming down the road after exercise. And this morning was no different, meeting a young horseman Neil McKnight who recently had a point to point winner at Loughanmore and has a couple more due to run. As I passed the old Orange Hall I was a bit lost but I caught sight of Mark Maguire’s lorry and I knew I was in the right area. Mark informed me that it was a lawn meet. Now I have been to many lawn meets over the years but I have seldom experienced such a range of home baking which was at hunt honorary secretary Faith Cromie’s kitchen which was lined to capacity by hunt followers. She could set up a successful artisan food business such is the range of delicacies all made with her own hands. Her father George was busy dressing, and later father and daughter looked immaculately turned out mounted on two smashing hunters. The Iveagh are a very friendly hunt, and had visitors from the North Down Foxhounds, the Newry Harriers and the South Tyrone.

I hunted this area particularly around Loughbrickland a number of times in the 1980s when I was hunting Peter Downes’ Russelstown Beagles. We had a regular joint meet with the West Down Beagles hunted at the time by Eamonn Morgan and latterly by Wesley Woods. I recall after a great days hunting and wonderful hospitality heavy snow showers made it a long journey home.

The joint masters Alexander Mills runs an extensive agricultural machinery business and Sarah Dawson is a well-known horse trainer associated with horses like Magic Sea who have been a consistent money earner as well as Pretty Boy Floyd, Slainte and Our Patron Saint. She recently had a very successful open day in her yard which has a mix of owners and syndicates, and she is always on the lookout for any potential owners that want to own a leg in a racehorse. Sarah was joined by her son Patrick. Mark English from the South Tyrones was out on his hunter that fortunately survived a tragic accident when a car travelling at speed crashed into the back of his three hunters out exercising on the road killing two of his hunters. Fortunately Mark and one of his hunters survived the tragic accident. Others out hunting were Linda Graham, former master Bob Wilson, Dom Rice, Conor McDonnell, Charlie McPoland who was sporting an Irish Field casual jacket with his wife Kate, Robbie Mulligan, Liz Mackie, Leanne Black and Gareth Black. Chairman John Porter a former master and huntsman farms nearby as well as Colin Boggs. Hunting also were Mark Mc Ilroy huntsman of the Newry Harriers, Garry Laurie from the North Down and Dillon Ross on a lively coloured hunter.

The number of car followers crammed the side roads, and it was like rush hour in a city. I asked one driver why so many were out in cars and his reply was, ‘We are here to see the new man’, meaning the new huntsman Jack Harris, and they were not disappointed. He has a wealth of experience having served his time with a number of packs in Britain, and made an impressive sight standing at the crossroads at the meet with his pack tucked in around him. It had all the hallmarks of a real professional, his tidy turnout, his horse plaited and shining, and the wonderful condition of his hounds. Megan Pugh the huntsman’s partner was working but managed to drive by to see Jack at his first opening meet in County Down. Also following was John Harvey a former field master, Eric McLennon, Willie Murphy and Robbie Gault.

The huntsman and hounds moved off from the crossroads to the hosts George and Faith Cromie’s farm and both were well to the fore. Hounds found immediately in the covert in the second field, and soon had a brace and a half running in the covert. One went to ground, and another headed for the high road in full view to the car followers. But hounds were still busy in the covert, and we were treated to wonderful hound music, with enthusiastic cheering on by the huntsman. Eventually the fox broke cover with the followers able to really ride on at the numerous hunt fences around the farm. Our pilot headed left-handed and crossed a side road and up a hill and crossed yet another narrow side road. But the combination of a strong wind and poor scenting conditions made it difficult for the pack to hold the line. But despite that it was really impressive the way they persevered. One could see the results of all the Autumn hunting as the huntsman and the pack were like a well-oiled unit in total concentration. But they lost him further on despite a wide cast in the hope of recovering the line by the huntsman. It was worth giving George and Faith Cromie’s covert another try in case the fox that went to ground decided to surface and view how his colleagues were getting on, but he had more sense and stayed underground!

Former master and huntsman John Porter’s farm was next on the list. John’s son Ian has played rugby union for both Ulster and Connaught. There are two smashing coverts, one near the road and one on the hill, but both were blank. The next draw was in Colin Boggs another hunting farmer, and he was out on horseback. The huntsman cast the pack along the thick hedgerows and found a fox that was lying out. After a quick spin he headed underground probably as a result of the reputation that was circulating of the drive of Harris’ pack! Moving on to another covert in Boggs hounds were on song again pushing the fox left-handed in the direction of Boggs’ farmyard. He then ran on in the direction of the Rathfriland Road swinging back again in the direction of John Porters where the huntsman had to stop the pack as they did not want to hunt across a farm that they had not sought permission. It was by now that time of eventing when darkness set in, so the huntsman blew for home.

With such a large turnout of both mounted and foot followers for the opening meet in such perfect conditions, I am sure this young huntsman will give the followers plenty of sport over the Winter. As for the verdict of the follower on the road that came to see the new man. They remarked that this huntsman knows his job, and his hounds are a credit to him. A nice accolade for your first day hunting in County Down, especially when it comes from knowledgeable hunt followers.

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The North Galway Foxhounds at TJ Gibbon’s Pub in Shrule, County Mayo, Ireland by Noel Mullins

David Masterson huntsman of the North Galway Foxhounds with the masters Tom McNamara Michael Lennon and Jackie Lee with whipper in Gabriel Slattery at Shrule Castle built in 1238

The North Galway Foxhounds hunt country was originally hunted by the Bermingham & North Galway Foxhounds founded in 1946 by Sir Dermott and Lady Molly Cusack-Smith. Lady Molly also hunted the Galway Blazers during WWII. When it was disbanded in 1985 the North Galway Foxhounds was formed. The chairman is Ger O’Brien and the joint masters are Tom McNamara, Michael Lennon and William Donnellan. David Masterson hunts the pack assisted by whippers in Gabriel Slattery and Pat Mellett. The field master is Jackie Lee, the honorary secretary is Aoileann Nic An Iomaire and the honorary treasurer is Noel Keane.

I have to thank Maura Morrin, Tanya Bourke (who retrieved my boot out of the muck when I got stuck) and Brian Murphy of the North Galway Foxhounds who got cameraman Ken O’Mahoney of Horsin’Around and I to all the right spots to make our hunting film that so far it has been viewed over 64,000 times on Facebook. Maura is a keen photographer keeping the hunt Facebook Page up to date and producing a colourful hunt calendar. Her son Michael unfortunately missed the day and her husband Scottie was on cap collection duties. Maura is a daughter of the late Jimmy Judge who hunted with the North Mayo Harriers who I remember hunting with myself in the 1970’s with masters David and Luke Dodd. In fact I took a friend of mine that day from London whose only experience of riding was in a riding school for his first hunt over the double stone walls. He fell at the first six walls but was ecstatic with sheer beauty of the countryside!

I often wondered why there are so many talented showjumping riders in North Galway, and from my recent visit to their meet in Shrule I now know why. The answer I maintain is simply, Jackie Lee. He has been the field master of the North Galways for 38 seasons. He was riding a smashing grey Traditional Irish Hunter named Simpson who was owned previously by former master Declan Brooks. When you are hunting with Jackie Lee you are jumping the most challenging line all day, just a pleasure to follow. To be on the safe side they have two medical practitioners hunting with them, Dr Alan Costello and Dr Brona Mooney, so everybody is in safe hands! Jackie is a quiet unassuming man, a superb breeder of showjumping horses like his mare Kashino that won the Connaught Grand Prix with Raphael Lee on board. The horse is being campaigned on the Sunshine Tour in Spain ridden by Jessica Burke another top class rider. She hunted alongside Jackie for many seasons. Jackie has also won the 3 year old loose jumping competition at the Dublin Horse Show for the last 3 years, and later in the day we saw 14 of his 2 and 3 year olds on his mother in law Nora Carroll’s farm.

The meet was at TJ Gibbons Pub in Shrule County Mayo which is in the family since 1925, managed by Ronan Gibbons. The Quiet Man starring John Wayne as Sean Thornton and Maureen O’Hara as Mary Kate was filmed in nearby Cong and The Neale. David Masterson is in his first season hunting the pack having whipped into the Ormond Foxhounds in South Offaly and North Tipperary, and the United Foxhounds in Cork. His hounds are in peak condition, beautiful coats, well-muscled backs and look really happy. He was riding a 7 year old Cob bought from Wesley Ryan, and has another from Brian Moran that hunted the Stonehall Harriers in Limerick, but he needs them as there are some strong riders following these hounds. He and his partner Paula Cosgrave are based at Skehana Stables in Eyrecourt where they provide livery, schooling and exercise facilities for all ages.

There is a break with the normal foxhunting dress tradition, is so far as there are no red coats or pink coats worn by the masters or hunt staff of the North Galway Foxhounds. But instead they wear the Galway County Gaelic Football colours of maroon and white, with maroon jackets and white collars. This is a passionate Gaelic Football area with many great memories of football stars like John Donnellan, Enda Colleran, Sean Purcell and Frankie Stockwell. The neighbouring Corofin Gaelic Football Club won the All Ireland Club Championship in Croke Park on the day of my visit.

Joint master Tom McNamara of Horses in Ireland runs a hireling and show hunter business in Galway. He had a large party of German visitors led by Henric Schumacher who was sporting an Irish Field jacket. They all hunt with the Rheinlandmeute Hunt in the Cologne area which is the centre of equestrian activity in Germany. A German visitor paid the ultimate compliment to the Irish Hunting Horse saying, ‘They are really great animals, intelligent, we let them go, we don’t bother them, we just sit there, we are passengers really’! Charlie McPoland from County Down was also sporting an Irish Field jacket. He was with his wife Kate and Anthony McEvoy of the Iveagh Foxhounds. The Galway Blazers were represented by farrier Eric Connelly. Maria McNamara who was hunting side saddle is a very experienced show judge and show rider. She was hunting a 6 year old that had a side saddle on him for the first time that morning! Another master is Michael Lennon general manager of the Westport Woods Hotel. William Donnellan originally from Craughwell the home of the Galway Blazers is the new master. He lives most of the time in Vancouver in Canada where he has business interests.

Showjumper Gabriel Slattery is honorary whipper in and a joy to watch crossing country. He stands stallions like the Irish Draughts Echo King and Rebel Flagmount, as well as the Traditional Irish Sport Horse Captain Junior and the Irish Sport Horse Captain Cruise. He was hunting a real gem of a lightweight grey modern Irish Draught, that just crossed the country with ease. He is by the Irish Draught stallion Welcome Emperor.

Pat Dillon like his father before him provides top class hirelings. His wife Geraldine reminded me that the last time I photographed their son Oisin was in 2006 with herself and her father Andy Gallagher. Oisin was on lead rein riding a Shetland pony and now he is one of a number of talented showjumping riders in the area. He is sponsored by Tara Harriers master Lar Sheeran’s company MIPS. Sarah Kate Conway who was hunting for her first time was riding one of Pat’s quiet Cobs and she never put a foot wrong all day. Honorary treasurer Noel Keane and his son Ben were hunting as were showjumpers Shane Goggins, Ray Lee and his son Raphael Lee and daughter Jessica, Dr Alan Costello and Dr Brona Mooney. Mike Fahy is a young horseman very skilled in breaking and making young horses. He is a son of Johnny Fahy who I remember hiring hunters from myself. Mike breaks horses for Pat Dillon and other clients. He rode on the race track for trainers like Val O’Brien, and was apprenticed to Michael Grassick and Kevin Prendergast in the Curragh. Hunting also was Anthony and Pat Mellett, James Rochford, Tara Brandon, Ollie Gilligan, and Annemarie McLaughlin had a number of horses hunting. Jemima Stewart who hunts with the North Cotswold, has fallen for the stone walls of County Galway and spends most of the season in Ireland.

Following also were Billy Dalton, farrier Christopher Corcoran, James Joyce from Connemara, brothers Garry and Conor Dooley, Declan Dooley, Kevin Regan was following with his son Mac who plays under 15’s rugby union for Claremorris and Joe McEvoy a keen hunt follower was over from Laurenstown. Wall builders Damian Carr and young son Jason were busy as were Tom McDonagh and his son Bob who followed across country. I also met landowner Donal Carroll and his children Joey and Izzy, great supporters of Connaught Rugby Union.

The huntsman had 12 ½ couple of hounds out which included Meath Foxhounds drafts Harmony and Hasty courtesy of Meath huntsman John Henry that were the lead hounds all day. The first couple of draws in briars and spinneys were blank but the followers got plenty of jumping on and off the road. The land is owned by Nora Carroll who is the mother in law of field master Jackie Lee so they were on friendly ground!

Hounds suddenly found a fox in a hedge row that broke right-handed through PJ Langans over some really big double stone walls, many with briars on top that increased the height by another two feet. They crossed a few drains and wire as they reached the back of John Hoads before twisting right-handed by Mary Morgans and back in a circle to Carrolls where they lost him. The huntsman remarked that the fox had never run that way before, obviously a travelling fox.

They drew John Carrolls and John Hoads and a farm that Jackie Lee had rented where he was grazing fourteen young unbroken horses some of which we will probably see at the Dublin Horse Show. Hounds found in thick brambles in an ancient ring fort in Mary Morgans that headed straight for Kinlough Castle to Tony O’Connor’s Rocks where they marked him also. They tried Tony O’Connors again and found in the Rocks and hunted on straight and then left-handed along the tops of the Banks which were reclaimed from the Black River, where they lost him.

After a smashing days hunting Gibbons Pub was heaving with followers after the meet, where Ronan Gibbons laid on refreshments for followers and visitors alike.

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The South Tyrone Foxhounds at the Four Corners Pub in Brackaville by Noel Mullins

South Tyrone Foxhounds joint masters Stephen Hutchinson Andy Oliver and Tony Weir huntsman Ryan Carvill and whippers in Paddy Considine and Paul Kinane at the meet at Brackerville

The South Tyrone Foxhounds in Northern Ireland were reformed in 1960 after a lapse of 30 years. They hunt a wide area bounded by the Blackwater, Lough Neagh, Magherafelt, Omagh, Fivemiletown, Emyvale, Tydavnet, and Glaslough in Counties Monaghan and Tyrone.

The chairman is Creighton Boyd, and the masters are Stephen Hutchinson, Andy Oliver and Tony Weir. Ryan Carvill hunts the hounds assisted by whippers in Paddy Considine (Professional) and Paul Kinane ( Honorary). The hunt secretary is Tony Weir and Sean ‘Duckie’ Farrell is the countryman.

‘Don’t open the back door of the horse box’, shouted Paul Kinane as I met him on the M1 Motorway heading north to Belfast. ‘There is a hound of Lord Waterford’s in there, and if he gets out we will be chasing him all over North County Dublin and miss the South Tyrone Foxhounds meet at Brackaville’. As it transpired it was not a meet to miss as they had the best hunt of the season, so far! Paul an honorary whipper-in was bringing the hound up to Ryan Carvill the huntsman of the South Tyrone. The hound never made a sound knowing that he was in good company with two tacked up hunters sharing the accommodation.

The last time I was in Brackaville at The Four Corners Inn joint master Andy Oliver proposed to his wife Saffron Hutchinson. It was also the annual Christmas tour of the hunting pubs by the hunt followers with their traditional band on the night, The Rambling Pitchforks.

The joint masters are Stephen Hutchinson who has been in office since the early 1980’s, and hunted the pack for many seasons. Stephen is the chief executive of Tayto NI and UK who have a large portfolio of companies in the group. He also is President of the Hurlingham Polo Association the governing body worldwide and he owns his own polo team in Cirencester, UK. The others are horse trainer Andy Oliver and the newly appointed master Tony Weir whose business is in heavy engineering. Travelling with Paul Kinane was farrier Ciaran Sweeney who hunts with the Westmeath Foxhounds as Shane Crabbe was in Spain for Conor Hogan’s stag party. Kinane and his wife Amy a lecturer in equine science in University of Limerick now concentrate on breeding racehorses. Their homebred progeny are coming through with Lady Stormborn by the Coolmore classic winning stallion Camelot breaking her maiden by over 20 lengths at Leopardstown recently trained by Andrew Slattery and ridden by his son Andy the new champion apprentice. She will go for a listed race next. Amy was not hunting on the day but long reining a filly by another classic winner Australia, and she has put the other youngsters through their paces under a dressage routine. They have colts by Gleneagles and Power going into training this coming season.

Ciaran Sweeney recalled breaking his collar bone hunting, and the hospital staff not being accustomed to the value of hunt followers precious well-fitting hunting coats wanted to cut off his jacket, but he managed to save it. Apparently just like wrist bands for diabetics or other conditions, there are wrist bands now for hunt followers who may have a leg injury and don’t want hospital staff cutting off their costly boots that state, ‘My boots have zips!’.

The hunt have recently made a significant investment in their kennels by adding new hound runs and lodges, with quality materials such as shuttered concrete walls, Belfast Tack sand blasted railings and Bangor Blue Slates. Former master Dr Cathal Cassidy returned from New Zealand where he is on an overseas posting to cut the tape. This was followed by the Puppy Show judged by huntsmen John Henry of the Meaths and Peter Cahill of the Kildares. The clubhouse was heaving to capacity for the Hunt Black Tie Gala Dinner with over 100 dinner guests and a musical evening with a talented soprano Helene Hutchinson, When she had completed her performance at the dinner she went out with Dr Cassidy to the kennels and sang to the hounds. They responded by joining her in the chorus and it made wonderful harmony. And yes they were singing in key! Ryan Carvill who is one of the foremost breeders of hounds in Ireland has over 50 couple in kennels and has three hounds in pup to three Peterborough champions, Grove & Rufford Laxton, Saxton and Broker. Tommy Considine from Spancil Hill in County Clare hunted the East Clare Harriers and whipped into the County Clares before taking up the role as professional whipper in to the South Tyrone, and he remarked, ‘This is real hunting’. His parents Joe who hunted with the County Clares for over 30 seasons and his mother Eva were there to support him as was his girlfriend Aoidhinn Bannon who was hunting.

Farrier Evan McKillian was busy at the meet replacing a shoe on Kinane’s new hunter from the Golden Vale. His well-known hunter Dexter has gone to the VWH with Melanie Duff. Also out were Austin Weir, John Keys, Denis Canavan, Neil Currie and Naomi Buchannan.

Following by road was Olivia and Toby Clowes who are based in London. Olivia had baby only 7 weeks previously but can’t wait to get back in the saddle. Also out was Colm Coney a keen wildlife follower, Cathal Farrell and Matthew Carvill. Countryman Sean ‘Duckie’ Farrell was away at a wedding in Cavan.

Huntsman Ryan Carvell had a decent pack out with 19 ½ couple all carefully bred for fox sense, drive and voice. Clarkes off the Tullabeg Road across from Paddy McEvoys the former hunt honorary treasurer was blank. It was an epic moment for me in all my years reporting on the South Tyrone Foxhounds, I actually witnessed a gate being opened! Toby Clowes the son in law of senior master Stephen Hutchinson opened it for his father in law. In Stephen’s defence I have to say he did not ask for the gate to be opened and anyway hounds were not hunting at the time. But still it is a rare occurrence in these parts.

The shucks in Alister Turtles were blank, so the huntsman crossed the road opposite Raughans to Raymond and Angus McAteers where hounds spoke briefly in a big blackthorn hedge but it looked as if a fox had left earlier. It was like an engine starting and then gaining momentum as hounds feathered away on a line, and as time went on their voices got stronger. By now their voices were booming. The list of farms that they crossed was like reading all the folios of every field in the townland around Brackaville and Mousetown. With the going deep and the pace fast it was the survival of the fittest as hedges, drains, gates, and wire loomed up field after field. But the casualties started to mount also. Hounds were flying left-handed over O’Neills by Patsy Dowey’s yard and left again to Fred Lowes and back right-handed for Rafferty’s Hill. Then right again in direction of O’Neills of Coalisland where the fox was headed on the road by traffic and turned back in the direction of Raffertys Hill and onto McAdams and right by Stewartstown Gaelic Football Grounds. He crossed the road again by Sheila O’Neills and right for James Lowes then crossed the main Ardboe to Coalisland Road to Patsy Dowey’s farm where they marked him in the farmyard at the back of the town of Coalisland. With nothing left in the tank the huntsman wisely blew for home after a run of an hour and half.

Mark English informed me that they have had 55 fallers in 9 meets at £10 each for the Tumblers Club, the proceeds go to charity and the hunt supporters projects. The roll call on the day of fallers were huntsman Ryan Carvill, master Tony Weir, whip Paddy Considine twice, Denis Canavan and John Keys twice filmed struggling out of a river, visitor Ciaran Sweeney fell twice and was feeling proud of himself jumping a gate with a ditch on the landing side, but he proceeded to fall at a simple drain in the middle of a field! There was a sighting of honorary whipper in Paul Kinane on the ground. He apparently had a quick look around to see if anyone saw him, still holding onto the reins he vaulted back into the saddle and away. But it looks as if he owes the kitty €10! The man that keeps the tally Mark English has a very simple philosophy, ‘If you are not jumping big fences, you are not falling’.

The survivors on the day posed for a group photo, and then it was back to the Four Corners Inn for refreshments and more ‘tall stories’!

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Feature Articles by Roddy Bailey

'HuntsMan's Hints' by Roddy Bailey

The following is an edited extract from ‘Hunting Hints & Breeding Thoughts’ by Roddy Bailey published in 2017. [Read full article (PDF)]

The following are just hints for a huntsman based on my own experiences. These are my views not necessarily those of the IMFHA and they may not be shared by all. There is no blue print for handling a pack of hounds but perhaps my greatest mentor was Kilkenny born Tom Cody who hunted the Bramham Moor Hounds for more years than I care to count. It is important to remember hunting in Ireland is similar but not the same as Britain which is where I learnt my trade. Some aspects I mention may not apply to somebody hunting hounds where access for the huntsman is not as ‘manicured’ as it is in many (but not all) English countries. For example, in Ireland coverts rarely have ‘rides’ so the hunt staff cannot get about readily. Often, to get out of covert onto a fox’s line is a major undertaking perhaps involving the negotiation of several thick banks which takes time. Hardly ever is the Irish huntsman faced with the ease of two hunt jumps and a wicket gate and he is away.

A terrierman is essential. Properly conducted terrier work is vital to competent foxhunting. As regards the huntsman or kennel huntsman the saying that ‘if you want to breed a pack of hounds first breed your huntsman’ is true of both breeding and hound handling. I will leave the complexities of terrier work, earth stopping and country organisation to others. You can’t go foxhunting without foxes so love and respect the fox as a worthy and honoured quarry and not as a sorry pest. The welfare aspects of kennels are well covered by the Hunting Association of Ireland’s Guidelines for Hunt Kennels in Ireland published in 2007. Martin Letts’s Notes From a Hound Man is invaluable to the huntsman be he/she honorary or professional, and the ‘honorary’ should aspire to be as professional as his or her skills allow. I have incorporated some of Martin’s advice in this article. No huntsman should take to the field without consuming the short but essential Goodall’s Practice - advice such as that booklet contains doesn’t come better. Since the performance of a pack of hounds is firstly handling and secondly breeding I have tried to remember some pointers that helped me provide some fun for those who love hunting.

Handling. I learnt hounds should be on a loose rein as much as possible; any fool can hold a pack behind but it takes an artist to have them in front on a ‘thread’. This is achieved by skill at hound exercise and in the kennel using its layout to advantage. One famous huntsman believed hounds should be treated like ladies i.e. kennel gates opened for them and then hounds invited through. Young hounds coming in from walk must receive attention from that moment onwards. This is part of their formative period. They must not be neglected until hunting has finished. Hounds are intelligent individuals and should be treated as such. They should spend the maximum amount of time outside kennels and be exercised at least twice daily and it should be fun for them. The timing of exercise and walking out should be the same each day - hounds thrive on routine. .... Read full article (PDF)

Exercise and walking out ‘should be fun for them’. Walking Out 1994.

On the road. ‘It is often appropriate for the whipper-in to be in front of the huntsman’. Morpeth First Whipper In and Kennel Huntsman Sandy Wilson in front and the Huntsman behind. (2003). Photo: Trevor Meeks.

'Some Breeding Thoughts on the Foxhound' by Roddy Bailey

I hope these pointers help huntsmen throughout Ireland. Many of these ideas were learnt from foxhunters far and wide but special place must be given to Kilkenny born Tom Cody of the Bramham Moor. Rarely was a professional huntsman ‘of the old school’ more forgiving of a boy on a bicycle. It is often interesting to read of other people’s experiences and maybe these thoughts might be informative as well. Some may disagree with parts. Healthy debate helps the sport we all love and there is no blue print for breeding hounds.

Many hunting friends helped me with these suggestions although the content is my fault entirely.
Roddy Bailey. [View full article (PDF)]

Essential Elements

In order to breed any pack of hounds the following elements are essential:
• To breed a pack of hounds first secure the support of the person looking after them.
• Have an accurate hound list showing all hounds in the kennel by age, sex, sire and dam. A summary by year and sex is usually necessary. See sample.
• Have a list of all the bitches showing their date of previous ‘seasons’ and the date when each bitch is forecast next to come into season.
• Maintain all the pedigrees of each hound to at least six generations. See the ‘line bred’ example illustrated.
• Have access to the British MFHA Hound Breeding web site and learn to use the ‘trial mating’ option (Username and password needed). All foxhounds bred in Ireland are in the British maintained Foxhound Kennel Stud Book which is the source for the MFHA web site.
• Know the type of hound the huntsman/handler prefers ie Modern or ‘Old English’ foxhound.
• Know the foxhound tradition of the kennel ie Modern or ‘Old English’ foxhound.
• Have a secure kennel with continuity in hunt management.

Without the above the hound breeder cannot begin.

Note: These thoughts are mostly confined to the Stud Book Foxhound (Modern or ‘Old English’) although the principles apply to other working hounds.

Chance Breeding v Line Breeding

Many hunts select a good doghound and a good bitch and use them. This method can produce an odd good foxhound but it is ‘chance breeding’. You end up with a pack of individuals and their conformation faults mean more hounds have to be kept to cover frequent lameness and the pack tends to be less effective in the field. The aim of the hound breeder is to produce a ‘level’ (ie uniform make and shape) pack of hounds that are athletic and work as a team. Hound colour should play no part unless the kennel wishes to maintain a ‘colour’ tradition. The better their conformation the less the hound takes out of itself. Therefore it is able to continue effectively when other hounds are tired often producing successful hunts at the end of a four hour hunting day. The breeder should use hounds with qualities of nose, cry, stamina, fox sense, temperament and drive and this requires breeding from known hounds with these requisite characteristics. Such ‘known’ hounds need not be current performers; the breeder may wish to breed back to hounds of the past whose families were renowned foxhounds. Moreover such athletic hounds have the ability to turn out two or three times a week and their soundness means they rarely go lame. An economic advantage of a pack of well put together hounds is the hunt need not keep so many hounds since soundness results in fewer hounds being lame. There is no point in keeping a hound that can only go out once a week. The way to produce this all round athletic team of hounds with good qualities hunting two or three days a week is by line breeding not chance breeding. Line breed for work and voice, breed more than you want to allow some selection and get them as good looking as possible.

What is meant by Line Breeding?

Line breeding is a form of close breeding and therefore great care must be taken by the breeder. How do we go about doing this? The most important part when selecting a hound to breed from is that he/she and all the family must be good workers. It follows that kennels should not breed from a hound that is too young (nor too old).

[View full article (PDF)]

Example of a Line Bred Old English type foxhound. Waterford Panther ’09. Photo: R Markham.

Example of a Line Bred ‘Modernised’ Old English type foxhound. Sir Watkin Williams - Wynn’s Parker ’08. Photo: Richard Tyacke MFH

Example of a Line Bred Modern foxhound. VWH Smiler ’09 (Peterborough Bitch Champion 2010). Photo: Martin Scott & Jim Meads.