Highly respected professional huntsman switches careers to work in racing

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  • BELVOIR huntsman John Holliday is retiring from hunt service and will become trainee clerk of the course at Hereford racecourse at the end of the season.

    John, who hunted with the Cumberland Farmers as a child, became whipper-in at the Braes of Derwent in 1983. He whipped-in both to Robin Jackson at the Belvoir and Michael Farrin at the Quorn before going to the Ledbury as huntsman in 1995.

    After 14 successful seasons, he moved to Belvoir in 2010 with his partner Sophie Oliver alongside him as stud groom. He has been an H&H columnist for a decade.

    John said: “When former chairman John Martin asked me if I would come back to Belvoir to hunt hounds, it was a great compliment, and to have been able to fulfill my lifetime’s ambition has been an honour.

    “Belvoir is a very special place; all my friends are here and I’ve had the time of my life. The masters, past and present, have all been my friends and made my time here the best of fun. I’d like to think the great sport we have enjoyed is a direct reflection of that relationship.

    “I have always intended to stop while ‘the tambourine was [still] a rollin’’ and while I was young enough for another career. I have always had a great enthusiasm for racing and look forward to the challenge of a new career.”

    On behalf of the Belvoir joint-masters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale said: “John Holliday has shown great sport in both Leicestershire and Lincolnshire for the past 12 seasons. Together, John and his partner Sophie have managed the kennels and stables at Belvoir exceptionally well and to the highest standards.

    “John’s dedication to our old English hounds and skill at hunting with them is a source of pride for all of us at the Belvoir.”

    In a more personal tribute, Lady Sarah added: “John’s arrival at the Belvoir was not a normal one – he was appointed huntsman with not a joint-master in sight… Ever since, his complaint has been that there are far too many of us!

    “John and I started together in 2010. On one of our first early mornings it was raining hard and I had opted for my daughter’s hunting boots, made of rubber; when John saw me he asked if it was OK to wear waders with the Belvoir. I have never worn them again.

    “Another moment worthy of mention was when John and I were giving a group of primary school children a guided tour of the kennels; we were in the Duke’s Room [a ‘museum’ of Belvoir history] where a mask from 1884 was on display. One of the children turned to me and asked whether I had been present. The huntsman had to sit down, incapable of standing or continuing, in complete hysterics.

    “We will miss him very much and hope to see both him and Sophie hunting with us.”

    James Finney, huntsman of the Zetland, will carry the horn at the Belvoir next season, while first whipper-in Sam Jones becomes huntsman of the Cottesmore.

    The Belvoir has two testimonial days planned – Saturday, 5 February in Leicestershire and Tuesday,  8 February in Lincolnshire. To book in or to make a donation, please contact the Belvoir hunt secretary via email.

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