From my visit to the Suffolk which I have to say had most impressed me, it was off later that Sunday morning to the Puppy Show of my family pack, the Puckeridge. These hounds have been in the hands of the Barclays since 1896 when my Great Grandfather, Edward Exton Barclay took them on after the Hunt had been embroiled in the most bloody row which had split the country, quite literally down the middle. The Goslingites and the Swindellites had come to blows and were not only at war which other, they both had formed their own packs of hounds. It was reputed that when the Goslingites went to draw certain coverts, the Swindellites would be waiting for them, disguised in the bushes and as they arrived would launch into attack with sticks and staves. This would seem to make hunt rows of the 21st Century relatively calm affairs! Eventually, after intervention from the Masters of Foxhounds Association, peace was restored. Great Grandfather had at one time worked in the Bank but had become totally disillusioned with that world and decided to keep his own private pack of Harriers at his home in Roydon, which is now very close to the northern proximity of London. At the same time he hunted with the Essex and the combined experience was just what was required to take on the Puckeridge in their hour of need.

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In 1910 Great Grandfather was joined by my Grandfather, Major Maurice Edward Barclay and in 1947 by my Father Charles Geoffery Edward, thus all three were Joint Masters together for one season. Throughout the twenty’s and thirty’s the country 029was in a severe depression but still, the hunting was good, with straight running foxes and a top rate pack of hounds, sport was at its best. Hounds however, were of a very different type to what you would see today, especially the Puckeridge. To best describe them, one could say they were much heavier without the length of back and sloping shoulders that you should see in 2014. However they were real fox catchers and knew the job like nobody’s business, the season before the second War they caught seventy five brace. Weatherguage was a stallion hound that my Grandfather thought a tremendous amount of and on one occasion he hunted him and seventeen couple of his children and grandchildren! When you look at a photograph of him in his rather old age, you wonder not only how he managed to cover the ground, but how he had sired such a level and effective lot. He himself was no bigger than a harrier and was extremely cobby in looks. My grandfather thought a huge amount of his hounds and it broke his heart when the majority of doghounds had to be put down at the outbreak of war. Their skins were preserved and made into fine rugs. One of these made a very useful bed cover when I was living alone in rather a cold house at the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Kennels in the mid seventies. My father at the time could still name every one of them! I know Duster, Ruler and Brigand were amongst them but now all those years later I am afraid I cannot recollect the others.

How the Puckeridge hounds have changed since then! Having been totally pure English until the early sixties, to having an 130introduction of more modern breeding from Badminton and now having a considerable amount more Welsh and some American influence in them, tells us just how much time has moved on. You will see from the photographs attached to this article where the American influence appears. They are the hounds with almost yellow Labrador colour coats. Quite what my father, let alone my grandfather and great grandfather would say, God is the only one who could answer that! However they are undoubtedly as effective as their predecessors and do the job really well in very difficult conditions, particularly when it is very dry. It is interesting to note that the Essex next door which were of modern type are now all but, a pure English pack again and are very proud of the fact!

Coming back to Brent Pelham for the Puckeridge Puppy Show is always a treat. Whilst sadly many of those who either farmed or subscribed in father’s day have now gone on to their final resting place, there are still a considerable number left and what is pleasing to see is the next generation seem to be taking an active interest in the Puckeridge hounds. Something of which all three generations of my family would be extremely proud. The kennels, although slightly smaller than they were in 1896 were as smart as ever and were a real credit to the young team looking after them. Life is very different to how it was all those years ago, but hunting in whatever form it has to take at the present time, keeps going and that is what is important. This was yet another example of what my Summer Visits have taught me and that is the hard working commitment by so many to our cause is still thankfully very much in place.

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James Barclay

 

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