Robert McCarthy: Here’s to making new memories *H&H Plus*


  • As I sat at the meet at Alnwick Castle on New Year’s Day watching my almost two-year-old daughter at her first meet on her pony, it really made me think. I treasure the many memories I have, the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met over the past 35 seasons.

    A lot of my first hunting memories were with the Suffolk, where I grew up and started out. I was particularly lucky that the then-huntsman Tom Batterbee was one of the very best in the business. He also worked with one of the best whipper-ins I’ve seen in Sarah Turner. The sport was always of high class, regularly seeing more than 100 horses out each Saturday.


    I would spend my school holidays at the kennels helping Tom with jobs of all kinds. He would happily explain any part of the job from hound and horse management to hunting. He also taught me a little bit about training greyhounds and gambling, and all of his advice has served me very well ever since.In my early days, I never rode and instead used to run everywhere with the hounds. Inevitably while doing this on one particular day, the hounds were out and gone and I found myself a very long way behind. As I was doing my best to keep up, the hunt secretary Humphrey Cragg came along behind me on his lovely, big, grey mare. Mr Cragg was a real hunting gentleman and always made time for hunt staff.It seemed like a great idea at the time when he kindly offered me a lift on the back of the mare, so I jumped on. Unfortunately, however, as soon as I landed behind the saddle, she broncked repeatedly until we both hit the deck and she galloped off into the distance, leaving both of us to walk a bit further.

    Stand-out memories

    A good few years later when I worked as kennelman for Tom, a subscriber my sister worked for very kindly lent me a horse for the day. We had a cracking day, including a very good hunt into the neighbouring country of the Thurlow.

    At one point, Tom had to get on his feet to put the hounds right. We had some lovely old boys from Norfolk hunting with us at the time and as I came riding along the covert, one of them said to me, “Jump off your horse, boy, and give it to Tom.”

    However, one of the other old boys turned round and said, “Don’t be so silly, it’s the only decent horse the boy’s ever been put on!”

    At the Thurlow puppy show the following summer, the master and huntsman, Mr Edmund Vestey, gave the Suffolk a mention in his speech as having had a very good season in Thurlow country.

    The one memory that stands out the most for me was Tom’s last day. It was a massive meet with 20 hunt staff mounted and more than 150 horses out, with a lot of former masters present, too. We enjoyed a good day and I can still see Tom and his hounds flying away from Averly wood together.

    I vividly remember Tom blowing for home for the final time that day. He seemed to blow for an eternity, finishing off what was a fantastic career. It’s been 22 years since Tom retired and I left Suffolk, but we still speak every week.

    Here’s to looking forward to making lots more memories with new generations, some fantastic people, hounds and horses.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 January 2020