By Stephen Lambert
MR BARCLAY, who has died aged 62, was steeped in hunting and its promotion. From the fourth generation of this famous hunting family and son of Captain Charlie Barclay, joint-master of the Puckeridge for 55 years, it was inevitable that Mr Barclay would go hunting. As a boy he kept a bobbery pack, the Brent Pelham and Rickling Rabbit Hounds, and spent many happy hours reducing the rabbit population.
Following his education, Mr Barclay went to the North Tipperary in Ireland as countryman, and then, in the mid-1970s, he assisted Stephen Lambert, then joint-master of the Warwickshire, with administration of the country with special emphasis on relations with the farming community. When Stephen went to the Heythrop in the early 1980s, James stayed with him in a similar role.
In those days, many of the train drivers who covered the Moreton-Oxford rail service came to the earthstoppers’ supper. James knew them all personally and was one day seen by a prominent Heythrop subscriber in the driver’s seat as the train drew into Charlbury station. Such was the shock that the subscriber fainted and had to be restored by the rail staff.
James moved to be joint-master and huntsman of the Essex and Suffolk in 1983, where he stayed for four seasons, moving on to join Lady Hastings in the mastership of the Fitzwilliam for 12 happy years, based in the Stable Flat at Milton.
He had an enormous affection and respect for the farming community wherever he worked, which became mutual, often initiated in farmhouse kitchens, where his appetite became legendary. The strong relationships he garnered allowed him to open new country, and handle any hunting mishaps with skill.
He continued this work with masterships of the Cottesmore (1999–2002), South Wold (2002–2003) and Grove and Rufford (2010–2012).
Through the friendships he acquired over many years, James realised the need to demonstrate countrywide the message that the hunting world was inclusive, not exclusive.
In 2017 he established This is Hunting UK, a web-based forum that shared news of hunting communities across the country, as well as posting reports of charitable events.
One of his last articles for Hounds magazine had the headline “If we don’t wake up we will lose everything”; a cry for leadership and action from those in charge of the future of hounds and hunting.
Mr Barclay was never afraid of the establishment and he had an uneasy relationship at times with both the Masters of Foxhounds Association and the Countryside Alliance. He felt that neither was getting across the message to the public successfully that hunting was morally defensible, open to all comers, and enhanced the lives of those who wished to get involved. His passion and determination did not always convert so easily into action for administrative reasons.
Mr Barclay knew about hardship. His mother, whom he adored, died when he was 13. His wife Lucy suffered a series of bad accidents, leaving her severely incapacitated, and he himself suffered from poor health for much of the last decade. He was an emotional man, and the increasing challenges that hunting faces often left him distressed.
He had a number of close friends and upon these he relied heavily when life was difficult. Very shortly before he died, he was thrilled to welcome his first grandchild and know that his line would continue.
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