John Holliday: Your sins will find you out [H&H VIP]

  • I recently acquired a silver hunting horn inscribed “Presented by Rev Cecil Legard to the winner of the unentered dog hound class, Peterborough foxhound show, 1900”.

    I recognised the name because the good Reverend judged the Belvoir puppy show for 16 years.

    Being the second son of a baronet then usually meant a career in the Armed Services or the church.

    Our man plumped for the second. He was one of a large group of hunting parsons who would eventually be lucky enough to wangle a parish in the Shires.

    Originally, he hailed from Yorkshire and obviously possessed the “confidence” manifest in that northern breed.

    He rode in steeplechases as a young man, before taking his first curate-ship in Derbyshire. After a spell back in God’s county, he spent 10 years at the Brocklesby, hunting and presumably squeezing in the odd service.

    In 1887 Sir Herbert Langham — at that time master of the Pytchley — presented Parson Legard the living of Cottesbrooke in the heart of the Pytchley hunt country.

    There he remained until 1914, enjoying life and health, holding his own in the saddle against all comers, young or old.

    Our cleric said that: “It was a charming little parish, and did not boast of a single public house.” No boast at all in my book!

    By now Legard had a reputation as a hound breeder. He was called upon to assist with the pedigrees of several packs and judged at puppy and hound shows. He was to some extent the Captain Ronnie Wallace of his time.

    At the request of the Master of Foxhounds Association, Mr Legard then undertook the task of compiling the Foxhound Kennel Stud Book, a Herculean effort in any era, especially pre-computer and even typewriter.

    However, nobody is perfect and the good parson, heir to his elder brother the 12th baronet, was something of a snob. He “liked a lord” and was referred to by some wags as “His Oiliness”.

    On boarding a train once, he entered a carriage filled with local farmers and insisted they extinguish their pipes and cigars.

    Then he spied two of the nobility enter a different carriage and lost no time in joining them. Further on, the farmers alighted to witness our hero chatting away in a haze of smoke.

    One of the more valiant “sons of the soil” thrust his head in and proclaimed: “I see the smoke of the Lord proves more savoury to the priest’s nostrils!”

    Yes, your sins will find you out…

    It was my pleasure recently to attend Warwickshire huntsman William Deakin’s testimonial meet at Toddington.

    A fine huntsman, he retires at the top of his profession. It will be the first time for generations that the annual list of hunt servants will be devoid of the name Deakin.

    Another stepping down is Belvoir field master Joey Newton. A consummate horseman, he has provided a challenging lead for the Belvoir field for many years and is one of the best field masters of our generation.

    He has never been fond of “larking”, but when hounds run, sit tight! I hope he looks forward to enjoying many more years hunting, without the heavy yoke of responsibility on his shoulders.

    The kennels have seen many visiting bitches again this year, several from modern English packs looking for an outcross, for which the Old English foxhound can prove very successful.

    The Dukes of Rutland do not show their hounds, preferring that they demonstrate their prowess in the field.

    In the 1900s, Belvoir blood was all pervading. We may have to wait a while, though, for a silver horn to be presented to the next Old English bred Peterborough champion.