Before I ramble on any further, which can be a failing of mine, I have been thinking about where to pitch this article without boring you all to tears! Having had an incredibly lucky life I thought maybe it might be of interest to share some of it with you and if you didn’t mind I will turn the clock back to the beginning and see if we can find where this obsession with hunting came from! If it is too much to cope with please inform the editor and we will think again before the next issue to see how this can be resolved.
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So really from where has it all materialised? If you are breeding hounds, the expert Charles Fielding will wisely
advise to look at the many different characteristics of the forebears before deciding the plan ahead, ie, nose, drive, cry, stamina, colour, looks etc. Look back at the tail male and tail female lines and there will lie many, but not all, the answers you are looking for, which of course makes it all so interesting. They say the female line is the more important. So for an example if you were to investigate the breeding of this individual and his family, some of the characteristics you would expect have come out on both lines, noticeably being too big and of course an enthusiasm for the chase, are evident. Although colour is not a crucial factor in many cases, again it is most interesting, be it in canines, equines, homo sapiens or any other species how it comes out down the line. It is fascinating to me then, to look at our own tail female line. It is here that we find our four greats grandmother, to be a Jamaican Lady, called Mary Finney. We always wondered why certain members of the Barclay and Slingsby families came out a little darker in colour to others, and I am only proud to say it came from her and it is still very much in evidence today.
I was born in the late 50’s at a time when Great Grandfather had already died after achieving 51 seasons. Grandfather was fast approaching his fiftieth, and Dad had already completed twelve of his fifty five, so as you can imagine, there was little chance to really do anything else with one’s life however hard one tried!! My very first memories are of hunting on the fabulous Judy, a donkey that had been in the family for ever and served all four of us and others besides. On our first day it was tradition for us to wear a smaller version of the family scarlet coat which each family member for at least three generations had worn before us on their first day!
What an amazing place I had in which to grow up! Brent Pelham was and still is to this day, a place where farming and foxhunting is inextricably linked. It was somewhere which taught me from a very early age the important values of what the rural community really stood for. A place where the very core of goodwill not only thrived, it flourished. It was also where the words of Lord Willoughby de Broke in 1927, came to life. “Hunting, for it to survive must be totally and utterly inclusive. If not it loses its very reason for being there.” Of course there are many others estates throughout the Country, such as Badminton and Brocklesby which are very similar, but Brent Pelham has a particular charm of its own, probably because it is somewhat smaller and farming rather than estate management, is at its very root.
Brent Pelham came into the family after Great Grandfather had decided to leave the Bank. Some would say that would have probably been an unwise move today, however working in the City certainly was not his forte and one has remember that hunting was extremely important to him. From being a very young man he kept his own private pack of harriers kennelled at Roydon, on the edge of what is now North London, and hunted in places that you would never even in your wildest nightmares consider going to today. Imagine hacking your Hounds through Tottenham to the station where they would be put on the train to Suffolk or Norfolk for their annual hunting holiday. When he was not hunting his harriers he was hunting with the Essex Foxhounds. He became Master of the Puckeridge in 1896. So there you are, that in a nutshell is how the family’s involvement in hunting was born!
It was in 1962 that changes were made to the breeding of the Puckeridge Hounds. Grandfather and Dad sat down one day for lunch and decided that to improve their size they would start to integrate some Beaufort blood into them, and initial contact should be made with the 10th Duke who was, until his death in 1985, a close family friend. Until this time they had been totally pure English and always went to Brocklesby or Belvoir for Stallion Hounds and it saddened them to have to go elsewhere but change it had to be. There was nothing in any way whatsoever wrong with the working capabilities, they were just beginning to get smaller and an outcross had to be found. It must have had a devastating effect on my Grandfather, because later that afternoon he dropped dead in the garden at Brent Pelham, coming back believe it or not, from his regular afternoon walk to the Kennels. The sadness of his passing was told to me by a neighbouring farmer who happened to be called Ernie Fox. He recounted, “Your Grandfather, James, was nearly blind, and that afternoon when I met him he told me that, your Father and he had decided to change the breeding of his beloved Hounds. Whilst in mid conversation he hit a pebble 50 yards up the road with his walking stick. Twenty minutes later he was dead.” And, so it was left to the third generation to implement the changes that they had discussed just a few hours earlier.