John Holliday: finishing the season on a high [H&H VIP]

  • The hunt horses are all out and away to enjoy their summer holidays and, after a couple of false starts, spring is finally here. It has been another long season with scarcely a break.

    A few untimely injuries mid-season put some horses out of action, adding to pressure on the remainder. But the expertise of the stud groom kept the show on the road.

    After difficult and varied scenting conditions pre-Christmas, things improved. We chalked up some noteworthy days and finished the season on a high. I think that was the case for most areas, not just the Shires.

    The Belvoir point-to-point took place at Garthorpe recently where, despite the leaden skies and heavy showers, a good crowd enjoyed some excellent racing. The occasion provided the opportunity to present our first whipper-in, “Little” George Pierce, with a hunting horn in gratitude for his five years’ service — how time has flown.

    As of 1 May, he will join the throng of lorries moving up and down the arteries of Britain, as hunt servants take up their new positions. George leaves to become kennel-huntsman to the Cattistock in Dorset. More than a few local maidens will no doubt be left dewy-eyed…

    Two of my colleagues are retiring from hunt service at the end of the month. Both have been, in the words of the immortal Tom Firr: “An ornament to our profession”.

    Joe Townsend leaves the Hurworth after a long and distinguished career — he was obviously gifted with a stockman’s eye. The Hurworth are Old English foxhounds and Joe leaves them with a high-quality and level pack. He has bred some superb stallion hounds that have helped improve the Belvoir enormously.

    Patrick Martin also places his horn upon the mantel after 23 years’ service at the Bicester with Whaddon Chase. Not only has he been at the top of the premiership as a huntsman, he, like many others, has endured — with much fortitude — unwarranted scrutiny from those self-appointed “hunt monitors” these past 10 years.

    Patrick was at the forefront of the campaign to stop the Hunting Act, and remains an eloquent spokesman for our cause. I wish them both an easy transition into civilian life and good fortune along whichever paths they choose.

    Make your vote count

    Speaking of the Hunting Act, 1 May is not the only date to concern the hunting world. On the 7th we have possibly our last chance to elect a majority Conservative government, which will give us the opportunity to rid ourselves of this loathsome hunting law.

    The coalition has given the Tories a reason for failing to fulfil their election pledge for a free vote on repeal. They have since reiterated their intention to do so, which in our urban-centric country is a bold statement that demonstrates a genuine commitment to repeal.

    In any marginal constituencies your vote is important. If you are a hunting person then your vote will count. Just one or two blue seats lost may well be the difference between repeal and the current position, which remains intolerable for many hunt staff.

    Do the right thing on this occasion, then full steam ahead for repeal.

    Ref: H&H 30 April, 2015