The father of all four younger Barclays, Charles Geoffrey Edward, was born at Brent Pelham in the heart of the Puckeridge Country on August 13th 1919. Known fondly by his many friends as Charlie and of later years as the Captain, his childhood was spent with his younger brother Billy and sister Pamela hunting with the Puckeridge where his father and grandfather had been Joint Masters for some considerable time. His education took him to Eton, where he whipped into Ronnie Wallace, before going on to study agriculture at Cambridge where he took on the Mastership of the Trinity Foot Beagles. Ronnie then progressed to Oxford where he became Master of the Christchurch College Beagles.
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Father’s brother Billy joined the Navy and was tragically lost at sea during the Russian Convoys, whilst father served in with the North Somerset Yeomanry from 1939 before becoming demobbed in 1946. It was during active service he met many people who stayed as long lasting friends but also played an important part of the rest of his life.
His wartime career saw him serving in various different parts of the world, which included Palestine, Syria, the Western Dessert, Greece, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. It was whilst guarding the Athens telephone exchange with the late Captain John Foster, a former Master of the Wheatland that he was shot in the legs by the Greeks. Years later, much to his amusement, the shrapnel often set of airport security systems but once he explained the situation was allowed to pass through unhindered! His war years ended with him being mentioned in dispatches.
On returning home, after what had been an eventful war, he took over the family farm at Brent Pelham, developing a large flock of Suffolk sheep and latterly a herd of 200 Friesan milking cows. The Puckeridge Hounds which hunt a very heavy cold scenting plough country also became an institution under his Mastership and that of our forebears. They were originally a pure English pack but after his father’s death in 1962, he skilfully managed to include more Beaufort and Heythrop blood into them, thus improving their size. His ability to hunt a fox on the most difficult day was remarkable and he possessed a wonderful knack of keeping the ‘tambourine a rolling’. He could almost read what his quarry was going to do next, probably before it knew itself! There were many times you would wonder why he would be casting in that particular direction, when suddenly his hounds would hit off the line and away they would go. In his last few years he was not always able to be with them during a flying hunt, but you could bet that as soon as the hounds had either caught their fox, marked it to ground or somehow they needed help, he would be there, appearing from nowhere.
In his latter days, Father followed in his Discovery, normally driven by one of the ever loyal Australian or New Zealand carers, who would have been taught to have as sharp an eye for a fox as he did. On one occasion he was sitting waiting as his hounds drew a thick covert towards him. His favourite old dog hound, Dragon, sat there accompanying him. This was allowed as he too was becoming an old man! Suddenly a fox appeared right in front of the pair of them. Encouraged in no uncertain terms by the boss, Dragon duly took off, forgetting his age and swiftly despatched the fox. He then proceeded to try and bring it back for Father to inspect.
As the end drew near Father was sadly confined to bed downstairs. One morning he asked for his hounds to be brought to him as he had not seen them for a while. Luke Neil his Joint Master, duly brought them down from the kennels to the front garden and then straight into his room. Where did Dragon go? Straight to his bed, front feet up, and after making a fuss of Father, tried to devour the toy fox which was immediately above his head!
Sadly a few months later Father died peacefully at home, on the 5th July 2002. Both his Funeral and Memorial Service were attended by a large number of family and friends alike. Later that evening we all gathered to say our last goodbyes, with Dragon and my terrier Murphy very much in attendance. As we blew gone away and then home, there was Dragon curled up in front of the grave with his head held high and Murphy singing his heart out.
Normally the Puckeridge hounds would start hunting from the kennels at Brent Pelham towards the end of August. This particular year was different as they were needed to go and sort out some troublesome foxes on the flatlands out towards Cambridge. They got there at 6.30 am only to find it was not possible to hunt due to thick fog which never cleared all morning. After waiting for a while it was decided to return home and go hound exercise. Trotting down the road from the kennels for half a mile they turned off on to a farm track and standing there in the mist and within two hundred and fifty yards of the road, sat a very large old fox. The old hounds soon winded him and they were gone! My sister soon realised where he was going. Straight through the Hall Wood he went, across the Park and into Father’s vegetable garden, over the road and into the church yard, just at the exact spot where all the Barclay graves are situated, and where we had all gathered not many weeks before. Luke picked them up and cast them right the way round the church yard and then the village all to no avail. As in virtually every case such as this, not a hound spoke. Not even a whimper. I can see a smile on my Father’s face and a twinkle in his eye saying, why didn’t you cast down there?!
Whilst living at Brent Pelham Hall, the foxes for as long as I could remember travelled through and around the garden at night, waking up not only the family but the hounds as well! We all knew their visits to the church yard took place, as very often they had left their mark on the graves of Great Grandfather and Grandfather. However, nobody can ever remember the hounds running straight to them, as they did on this occasion.
13th August 1919 – 5th July 2002