Robert McCarthy: Some of hunting’s great characters


  • Robert McCarthy, professional huntsman of the Percy since 2005, on the people one comes across through hunting...

    ACROSS the country, hunting plays a massive part in the rural community. A lot of hunt followers’ winter social lives revolve around meeting and catching up with people on hunting days. Having seen the impact that the Covid pandemic has had on this first-hand, I have had a chance to think about some of the many characters I’ve been lucky to meet.

    Dick Colson, or RD Colson, or Dick “Keep off the wheat” Colson, as he was often known, was a massive part of the Suffolk Hunt for many years. Dick’s amusing nickname showed the respect he had for his fellow farmers and their land. He was on both hunt and supporters’ committees for years and always greeted people at the door at all “hunt dos”. If you didn’t pay on the way in, he would certainly get you on the way out!

    Dick loved his hunting and hounds. He would visit kennels 365 days a year and voluntarily did nearly all the fallen stock collecting. As well as this, he was a tenant of a very successful farm. When the shoot came up for let, he took it on himself to safeguard the interests of the hunt and ran a very successful shoot, employing a full-time keeper alongside the hunt still regularly visiting the farm.

    Mr Colson always hunted a very good horse called Crackers and wore his scarlet coat proudly. He bred a lot of very good show horses, produced and shown to a very high standard by his great friends Brian and Wendy King. I arrived at Mr Colson’s farm one day to find him driving his truck with his arm out the window with his wife’s cob on a leading-rein. He informed me it was “the best way to exercise it”.

    Hughie Tulip, or the “Bold Tulip” as some call him in Percy country, is still to this day a big supporter of hunting and the Percy Hunt. He was a great friend of the 10th Duke of Northumberland and his long-serving huntsman Don Claxton.

    In his day, Hughie knew every hound in the kennel and still knows who farms just about every field in Percy country. Sometimes on a hunting day, it’s possible to hear him before you see him, but he’ll never be far away from the hounds.

    Hughie always bred horses, sheep and cattle, and walked hound pups for many years. When he packed in riding, he took to hunting on a quad bike, which was fine except for when he still thought it should go where his horse would have done!

    Anyone who has met Hughie will know of his famous “ferret box”. This is basically just a wooden box that is rammed full of drink. To say it’s got the better of a few people is a considerable understatement. The one thing it doesn’t have a lot of is water!

    Hughie has now left the quad bike at home and hunts in a Land Rover and now thinks his Land Rover should get everywhere his quad bike went… There are many stories about Hughie, but for various reasons very few can be put into print.

    I’m really looking forward to getting back out and seeing people again this season, and hopefully putting the events of the past 20 months behind us.

    • This exclusive column can also be read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 16 September

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