This amateur huntsman has enjoyed “wonderful sport” with an impressive variety of packs across the country, explains Frank Houghton-Brown
In nearly five decades as a master, Charles Stirling hunted six packs of hounds – including simultaneously in Dorset and Northumberland for
“My grandfather Sir Charles Mander, the kindest of men, was chairman of the Albrighton and had a stinking row with the master Hilda Vaughan, who was his cousin,” Charles Stirling explains. “He was so upset that he had a stroke and died. It rather put my mother off hunting.”
This didn’t bode well for a life spent hunting hounds, but when Charles and his friend Philip Harford were allowed to walk out the hounds at Badminton with kennel-huntsman Bert Pateman, the scene was set.
Charles hunted the beagles at Eton and remembers cramming in with the hounds in a Bedford TK while kennel-huntsman Archie Jones drove to the meet.
In 1966 Charles was offered the opportunity to hunt the Taw Vale Beagles after school while working for Captain Wallace on Exmoor, and this continued throughout his time at the 16th/5th Lancers and while studying to be an accountant.
“Anthony Hart was the sharpest huntsman I ever saw,” says Charles, who hunted with him at the South and West Wilts while based at Warminster. “He was so dedicated and focused.”
Charles’s first foxhound pack was the Braes of Derwent with Ian Waters and Josephine Aldridge as joint-masters and Denis Chapman as kennel-huntsman, but after three seasons he gave it up to hunt the Cattistock in Dorset. Josephine rang after two seasons as the Braes were in difficulty, so for one season Charles hunted both the Cattistock and the Braes.
“I spent a lot of time on the train,” says Charles, “and you could get free tickets if you produced enough Persil washing powder vouchers.”
Charles spent a further seven seasons at the Braes – “a lovely country, well organised by the Cowen family”. He then moved to the South Notts, which was christened the “poor man’s Leicestershire” by Lord MacAndrew of Zetland fame.
“There were such sporting farmers and real foxhunters,” Charles says.
Three years with the South Notts was followed by two seasons at the Haydon, which was his home, having bought a house there when he married Emma Barlow at the end of his first season at the Braes.
Charles then took on the Tanatside with Jean Jones and Ted Bonnor-Maurice as joint-masters and Fred Hart as kennel-huntsman. He commuted from Northumberland for all except the first season of his 10-year mastership and remembers it as “a beautiful country” and Fred Hart as “a brilliant chap who just wanted to go hunting”.
Even when Charles finished hunting hounds and returned to hunt with the Tynedale in Northumberland, he still kept the North Pennine hounds at his home, a pack he set up during his time at the South Notts.
Rarely will anyone have hunted such a range of diverse countries across the UK nor travelled so many train miles to do it, especially someone who was holding down an accountancy job at the same time.
“It’s all about the fun you can have and the wonderful sport.” says Charles.
Of course, like all the best amateur huntsmen who have really worked at the coal face, he heaps praise upon the kennel-huntsmen who have been so loyal and the joint-masters he has had.
“Good manners and loyalty are the two most important ingredients,” 73-year-old Charles says with absolute sincerity.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 December 2020
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