As the influence of the Duke of Beaufort’s brood bitches Woeful and Worry and his Stallion Hounds, Beadle, Crowner and others grew on the breeding of the Puckeridge Hounds, so the importance of it all did on the mind of this, the youngest member of the family. With wonderful ponies to hunt and a most enthusiastic mother who was now a Joint Master with Dad, the excitement and pleasure of it all was really beginning to take hold, as it so obviously had done with the previous members of the family. Many an afternoon, when not hunting, was spent either in the Kennels with the legendary Ned Paxton who had been 1st Whipper In and Kennel Huntsman since the War and later with Ron Quarmby who came from the HH . Ron did a tremendous job in supporting Dad’s improvements to the Hounds. The school holidays were also spent earth stopping with the well known Terrier Men of their time Ken Hand, David Morse and latterly Vernon Taney. What all these chaps taught me about the fox has become invaluable later in life. I will always be indebted to all of them.
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It was late in the Summer of 1967, that the Family received an invitation to go and stay at Badminton for a few days cubhunting. His Grace had retired from hunting the hounds the season before and Brian Gupwell was at the sharp end having recently arrived from the Eridge. To be invited to Badminton was a young hunting persons dream and I still am very lucky to have the most vivid memories of the whole trip and those that came after. The Duke and Duchess treated us as if we were their own Grandchildren. We were given cracking ponies to ride and when we weren’t hunting, were pursuing things other than the vulpine species around the garden with the Dukes dogs, which caused great amusement not only too us youngsters, but the Duke as well!
After returning from the West Country would start hunting at home a few days later. Fifty plus couple of Hounds would stream out of the Puckeridge Kennels for the first morning and with the whole family out, it did rather demonstrate the eccentric enthusiasm the Barclays have for the sport. As was the case after hunting at Badminton, a huge breakfast would be there for us on our return thus giving you a further indication why some members of the family are or were, far larger than they should have been!
Academia was never my strongest point so you can imagine when the time came to go to Boarding School in the Autumn of 1968 there was quite a rebellion from this one, who at the time was only a nine year old! Especially as more than likely we would have just returned from Badminton and Cubhunting was just getting underway at home. Summer Fields, Oxford was the chosen place for my education. This was a place where many of the top MFH’s and MP’s were educated before going onto Eton, Harrow or another top notch school. Not for me, within two years I was out of there, to a place in the heart of the Grafton Country which was much more up my street!
This brings us up to the year of 1970, one which will be remembered for two important amalgamations, the Puckeridge and Newmarket and Thurlow came together to make a big four day a week Country, hunting in Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgehire and Suffolk. At the same time the Hertfordshire, Old Berkeley, and South Oxfordshire joined forces to make an even larger Country adjoining the newly formed Puckeridge and Thurlow. They became the Vale of Aylesbury and continued to wear the Mustard livery of the Old Berkeley with the charming Jim Bennett hunting the Hounds. Whilst all this was going on efforts were being made to give me some form of education. I was trying my hardest but at the same time I couldn’t resist asking Mr Perry the Headmaster if he would give a Meet at the School. The answer thankfully was yes, and it was not many months later that Col Foster, Captain Hawkins, Joe Miller and the Grafton Hounds were hacking up the school drive! This was Joe’s last season and what a delightful man he was. A man, who was one of the finest examples of the old school and a privilege to have known. I used to see him occasionally at Puppy shows after he retired but he rarely went hunting. He was fearful that people would say he was only there to criticise the new regime. That, I have to say, was not in the man’s nature. He was a fine example of the true Gentleman that Hunt Service produces.
Tommy Normington came to the Grafton the following season. He was another one from the highest league of professionals. Tommy had been brought up at the Fitzwilliam where his father was Stud Groom. It was here that he and Brian Pheasey both served under the great disciplinarian Jack Simister, who was described as somebody who was very firm but fair. Jack’s brother, Dick hunted the Cowdray and was renowned for having a tremendous rapport with his hounds, which was hugely important, as it was a country full of deer.
The Grafton met at the School again that year, but to me it was not quite the same. Somebody was missing who had been there the previous year. Mother had died just a few weeks before, leaving a gaping hole in all our lives. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, having just returned from our annual trip to Badminton. She was a Master of the Puckeridge for only ten seasons with Dad, but her achievements were quite outstanding. Our memory of her will always be of her encouraging us and numerous young to go out, crack on, and enjoy our hunting. Not long before she died she also helped me set up a pack called the Barclay Rabbit Hounds which gave us all tremendous fun during the school holidays and lasted right up until 1976. On a very recent visit back to the Puckeridge Country a very loyal and senior car follower came over and remarked , James what about the good old days of the Rabbit Hounds?! Well, more about their activities, in Ramblings 5.