Richard Gurney: A warm welcome north of the border *H&H VIP*

  • I was certain that I would never write about puppy shows and the traditional pre-puppy show lunch serving of coronation chicken in this column. Well, that didn’t last long.

    A real honour for me was when I was recently asked to judge the young hounds at the Berwickshire Hunt. Sitting at their kennels enjoying my lunch, I overheard my fellow judge ask for “some flan, please”. I don’t know why this tickled me as much as it did, but I hadn’t heard it called that since my mother would refer to flan when I was at prep school.

    The same mother, incidentally, telephoned me to say: “I’ve been thinking about it Richard, and it’s probably best if you don’t go to Scotland to judge that show.”

    “I am on the train, Mum,” was my instant reply, to which she returned with: “In that case, have a lovely time, dear.”

    The thought did cross my mind that, after the latest political mess the hunting world has had to endure, those in Scotland may not welcome an inexperienced judge from the south-east of England.

    I could not have been more wrong. From the moment I was picked up from Berwick station by Mary Anne Hume, I started to relax and enjoy it.

    It is difficult not to enjoy the company of Rory and Delly Innes. Rory hunts the hounds and is a joint-master, and his wonderful wife Delly supports him through it while working and looking after their two small children.

    One could see that Rory had made a real effort and kennels were spick and span, and the atmosphere was relaxed and good-humoured. The young hounds were a credit to Rory — level and possessing real class.

    The only time I heard the word “sturgeon” all day was in relation to some chap talking of a recent fishing trip, with no mention of politics.

    It was an absolute privilege to judge with Martin Letts MFH. A joint-master of the College Valley and North Northumberland since 1964, he is a man that will know more about hounds than I ever will.

    In what other area of life could you discuss the fact that Stella is a “proper bitch” and that Stalker has bundles of talent but a tendency to follow you everywhere — without upsetting anyone?

    I was so impressed that almost all of those attending were kind enough to thank me for coming such a long way.

    Martin made an excellent speech and anyone who knows him will not be surprised to hear that he said what he thought and announced that while he was “shot these days” he wanted to make an important point. “We live in the 21st century and it is little use harping back to the past, we should make the best of what we have now and appreciate today not yesterday.”

    I couldn’t agree more Martin, but I am very happy to respect yesterday as well as embrace today — and if we are living in the 21st century then it must be quiche not flan, and never a tart, I would say.

    As I sat at Berwick station waiting for my train home I promised myself that I would return to this beautiful country and hunt here once in the coming season, and I will.

    I then found an empty envelope in my pocket which had one line written on it. It said “the best hounds in the shires”. Who am I to argue with that?

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 27 August 2015