In the mid nineties, the late Maurice Askew,  a Joint Master of the Badsworth at the time, John Haigh a former British Field Sports Regional Public Relations Director and I got together to discuss something that we all passionately believed in – encouraging new people to learn about and actively partaking in hunting.
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After some unnecessary resistance from a small number of people within the Campaign for Hunting’s leadership, we persisted in our aims and the Newcomers to Hunting Scheme was born.

Initially a press day was arranged at the Badsworth Kennels, followed the next weekend by the first ever Newcomers to Hunting Day. What was to happen that day literally overwhelmed us all. Over seventy Newcomers turned up that day, ranging from those on smart thoroughbreds to shaggy ponies of all sorts. The idea was to charge each individual £5 for the day which would include their insurance and for a significant number of knowledgeable foxhunters to be on hand to guide and assist where necessary and to explain exactly what was going on throughout the day.

Hunting for a very long time has had to put up with the stigma that it is there just for the privileged few. The Badsworth day and the very many others that were organised, I am delighted to say, proved otherwise and our memory of Lawyers and Bus Drivers, riding alongside Miners and Accountants will last long into the shadows. That is what hunting is all about and in this context it is well worth remembering Lord Willoughby de Broke’s quote of 1927, when he said, “ For hunting to survive it must learn to be totally inclusive, if it isn’t it loses its reason for being here”. Well we received a bloody nose, we did not go down as many would have hoped, or expected, and we certainly have not lost our reason for being here.

The greatest pleasure that the Newcomers to Hunting scheme has given is to see many of those who were out right at the beginning, still hunting today with several reaching positions within their Hunts that they would have probably never have thought.

So very many congratulations must go to all those who have run Newcomers Days since 1995 and it is therefore extremely fitting for Pippa Grob MFH, the Royal Artillery, to give us an example of a tremendous weekend that was put on specifically for Newcomers and only took place a few weeks ago.

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James Barclay

30th October 2013

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