Denny Green was born at The Woods , Napton on the 9th March 1933. He had three sisters and a brother. His father, Lewes Green, was a coal and corn merchant who held the tenancy of Calcutt Farm on The Shuckburgh estate, three miles distant from The Woods. His mother was a Warner from Watergall whose sister Joan had coincidentally married Lewes’ brother Arthur and as Denny’s Aunty Joan it was she who first encouraged Denny in his love of horses. Through marriage the Warner and Green families were closely interlinked and much later the very first horse that Denny ever broke was for his uncle, Tom Warner.
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Denny went to Napton School when he was four and a half years old. I do not think that he could have been an easy boy to teach as he spent as little time at school as possible, but in fairness to his teachers, the war broke out only two years later and there were a number of children evacuated to Napton who had to be lodged and taught in addition to the village children. Denny’s mother was a kind hearted woman who more than played her part in taking care of them and arranging for some of them to live at Calcutt Farm. By the age of nine Denny was spending most of his time helping his father at Calcutt, ploughing with an old Fordson Tractor, looking after the stock and earning the odd half crown as pocket money. This was not the first money that Denny had earned. As a small boy a year or two earlier, he, his elder brother and a friend, George French, had gone stone picking for Percy Duckett’, a neighbouring Napton farmer. When they had finished, Mr Duckett gave Denny’s brother sixpence and divided the other sixpence between Denny and George French. Thinking this to be unfair, Denny stomped off and threw his stones back onto Mr Duckett’s field.
Calcutt Farm comprised 230 acres on which were reared 100 head of cattle and about 200 sheep. In Denny’s mid teens his father bought him his first horse called Bess, which I have heard described as a half-legged one with a lot of feather. On it he rode to work from Napton to Calcutt each day, bare back and never wearing a shirt until he absolutely had to in midwinter. He often stopped off to swim in the canal, and it was probably at about this time that he first went hunting having taught himself to ride and much encouraged by his Aunty Joan. No doubt too he had by then made himself known to Mr Len Sheasby whose yard was at West View Stables close by in Napton. Len Sheasby broke in and made many.horses that he bought at Leicester Horse Depository Sales and in this he was helped by members of his own family, Frankie, Bower and Ronnie Sheasby as well as by Don Meredith and Denny. Mr Sheasby was a hard taskmaster but there was little he did not know about breaking and making horses. It is hard to discover just when and how Denny first started helping Len Sheasby, but he was soon to play his part helping to break and ride some very difficult horses. He was a brilliant natural horseman brave and tough, who thanks to his experience of riding without a saddle could sit a bucking horse as well as any of them. Riding longer than the others he soon earned the nickname of John Wayne. Mr Sheasby sold some of his horses as point to pointers and on Wednesdays and Sundays the horses were galloped on Bush Field, a big open field at the back of Calcutts. Although he left Napton for two years to do his National Service with The Royal Signals, a time that he described as being the making of him, when he came home he continued to divide his time between farming, contract work and the horses in Mr Sheasby’s Yard. This was when Denny’s real education took place. He was doing what he loved best, and simultaneously learning how to earn a living doing it. In between farming he went hunting in and around Napton riding Len Sheasby’s horses, and had the occasional ride in a point-to point, winning his first race on a horse called Blue Lance, one of the first rides he ever had. This was the time when George Gillson was still hunting the Warwickshire Hounds and Beryl Buckmaster was Master. She would call Denny and the young Sheasbys “ the check boys” as they came out hunting in check coats and cloth caps schooling and showing off the young horses in the hope of getting a sale.
In 1955 Denny married his first wife June whom he had known from childhood and together they moved to Pike Hall Farm Stockton, where they lived for the next four years. He continued to break in horses and with Bower Sheasby used to shear up to 10,000 sheep each year. As I said, the first horse he broke in himself was for his uncle Tom Warner. He rode it back, newly broken 7 miles down the main Banbury road to Watergall causing three drivers to go off the road. On arrival he reported all this to the police. The inspector reassured him by telling him not to worry as horses always had the right of way.
Two years later Denny and June took on the tenancy of Dadglow Farm at Bishops Itchington. A lot of work needed doing to the house, the fences and the approach road. Denny did all the work himself using borrowed machinery and travelling over from Stockton on his motorbike accompanied by his Alsatian, Barney, who would sit on the fuel tank. In June1960 Denny and June moved in and shortly afterwards their children Caroline and Steven were born. From then Denny had his independence and set up in business as a horsebreaker and farmer in his own right.
After the name and initial, Green D, in the Coventry telephone book he listed his address, and occupation as Horsebreaker. True, but the only such listing that I know of. He had already made a name for himself breaking horses and they were sent to him from far and wide… They tended to be from the “awkward squad” including some which had defied all previous efforts to break them and were thought to be unridable. Denny would have them for a month, riding them after a fortnight and then take them over to Peter Mann’s Quarries at Harbury. He and his lionhearted friend Geoff Snow would put them through their paces taking full advantage of the unpredictable terrain and variations in the going. The horses thought more about where their feet were going to end up than they did about being ridden. There must have been some hair raising moments. In the early days at Dadglow, Denny charged £20 per horse and claimed over the years to have broken a thousand horses and never to have been beaten by one. He schooled young horses round his farm before going hunting, he clipped difficult horses whenever asked in addition to the day to day running of the farm which had grown from 50 acres to a 130 acres as well as doing contract shearing and ploughing. There really were not sufficient hours in the day—as was witnessed by Denny colliding with a telegraph pole at 3am one morning when ploughing for his uncle Arthur at Chapel Ascot, in the dark.
It was then, in the mid sixties, that I personally became aware that there was in Warwickshire, somebody who was quite out of the ordinary. Following one of those customary hunting upheavals Brian Fanshawe had arrived and there followed an all too brief period which I still remember as being as much fun out hunting here as I have ever had. Sam Butler will be speaking of Denny’s love of foxhunting and unfailing work on behalf of The Warwickshire Hounds and hunting in general, and I know will be quoting from letters of appreciation sent by Brian and Stephen Lambert. My own memories of him remain undimmed. Out hunting he never showed off, he was quiet and calm, always in the right place in any emergency, disarmingly polite when the need arose, and utterly determined.
Denny became a legend in his own lifetime and many stories circulate about him. He is said to have climbed into a boxing ring with one of the Turpin brothers. There is no doubt that for a time Charmian and he shared the farmhouse with a fox which would jump through the window and find its way onto her pillow. As single minded a man as I ever met, like all such he was at times hard on his family. Sadly his and June’s marriage ended in 1976. A hard worker himself he expected much from others. He was very proud of the work that Steven put in at Dadglow but did not often say so. Without that Denny could never have been able to spend so much time away from the farm. He was proud too of Caroline and of her successes point to pointing on Poseidon Prince. Both of them meant a great deal to him. I hope that the numbers of people who have come here today to celebrate Denny’s life and to show their respect for him will be of some consolation to his family and also to Charmian who as we all know has been such a wonderful wife and companion to him since they married.
I will finish by saying with Whyte Melville,”I freely admit that the best of my fun,I owe it to horse and hound” but it was always that much more fun if Denny had had some part in it.