23rd July 1919 – 7th Feb 2002
Ronald Eden Wallace (Ronnie) was born on the 23rd July, 1919 in the Weald of Kent, his Father being Secretary to the Eridge at the time.. This was where he grew up and his first skills of becoming a huntsman, for which he was to become famous, were developed. He started with a bobbery pack which included a golden retriever and various other assortments that he collected up to hunt the local rabbit population. At the age of eleven he had already got the taste for hunting a fox with his motley crew and made it clear in the Wallace way that this was going to be where his future lay. Learning a lot from Will Freeman (Brother to the legendary Frank at the Pytchley), who was hunting the Eridge he soon made substantial progress towards achieving his final goal!
Educated at Eton, he was soon Master of the school’s pack of beagles and with my Father and others whipping into him, he soon set about putting them on the map. It is believed that in his last season he accounted for 75 brace of hares and a few foxes as well!
On moving to Gloucestershire, the family hunted with the Cotswold, but it was not going to be long before the Wallace enthusiasm for the chase was to be further unleashed. There will be many who have followed his chartered course over the many years, so it would not be right for me to bore you with this and the other facts about his life that you already know. However a resume of the packs he hunted and a little more about this most talented individual may be of some interest.
In 1938 he went to Christchurch College Oxford. It was whilst studying here that he took on the Mastership of their beagles for a while before volunteering for the Army and being commissioned into the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars. Next he went to Sandhurst where he formed a private pack of beagles which kept him and other potential Officers occupied when not on military duty. In 1941 it was recorded that he managed sixty two days hunting from Shropshire to Norfolk where he had formed another private pack of beagles to hunt the Marshes around Kings Lynn. This was the part of the world that he thought held a better scent than in anywhere else in the country and where he undoubtedly showed good sport. Following a posting as Paymaster to a Prisoner of War Camp at Ludlow, it again did not take him very long to secure the Mastership of the Ludlow Hounds. Whilst hunting them he also somehow managed to secure the time and finance to hunt the adjoining Teme Valley and during the Summer months, the Hawkstone Otter Hounds which he took over from his father in 1946. So as we can see, absolutely no time was wasted in engaging his passion for the chase!
It was in 1948 that a move to the Cotswold was made and it was there that he was soon into his stride and showing excellent sport. However it was not very long before the prying eyes of the Heythrop began to observe his successes. His organisational skills were another aspect for which he was becoming noted and much more. The natural affiliation that Ronnie Wallace was fortunate to have with his hounds and the affection they had for him was quite remarkable. His ability to bring the best out in them without any shouting or cracking of whips, had to be seen to be believed. Combining all this with a sixth sense about any of the quarry he hunted, all made a day hunting a fox, hare or otter run like clockwork. After four seasons here it seemed inevitable that the Heythrop were to get their way and it was they who were to benefit from his ever growing experience for the next twenty five years.
In fact hunting overall benefited from his abilities and those did not only lie in the catching of the fox. He had an incredible knack of being able to walk the corridors of power and knowing just who the right person was to have a word with, to ensure that whatever needed doing was achieved. This reminds me of how he managed to organise briefings for drivers on the South West rail network, so that if they should happen to see a pack of hounds on or approaching the line, either the train should slow up or briefly stop until hounds could be safely extricated with no risk to passengers or train crew. This was to result in a considerable amount of goodwill between the hunt and railway staff, which I was lucky enough to inherit whilst helping Stephen Lambert in his time as Master of the Heythrop. All this of course would be impossible to achieve nowadays. The management of politicians was made somewhat easier from 1979 for a considerable time but he would never have missed a beat in reminding them in just how important hunting was to the countryside. This unfortunately became more difficult as time progressed and resentment built up from some after many years of Conservative Government. Much as the Wallace way had been greatly valued we were fast heading into a different era and one as we know that has been doubly difficult with which to deal.
His time at the Heythrop came to an end in 1978 when a move was made to live at Mounsey on Exmoor with his wife Rosie and David, their son. Exmoor was a place they knew well from their many visits with the Heythrop hounds in the Spring of the year and it was here that he was to spend the rest of his life, firstly sharing the hunting of the hounds with his Joint Master Jack Hosegood and latterly with his First Whipper in and Kennel Huntsman Tony Wright before finally taking to the car.
Ronnie was served by many great Hunt Staff over the years and the standards that every single one of them set is something of which they should have all been extremely proud. It would be the height of rudeness for me to mention them by name and then miss out someone of great importance, but those who are still with us today know exactly who they are. What a difference their contribution made to the success of this extraordinary character, who at the time of his death had knocked up fifty eight consecutive seasons as a Master. As a result the Wallace name continues to live on.
I therefore think it is fitting now hand over to Tony Wright who was hunting the hounds exactly a year after the Captain’s death when a very strange but true incident occurred. It is he and only he that can tell the story as it happened.
“On Wednesday 6th February, 2002 the Exmoor Foxhounds met at Wellshead, Exford by kind invitation of Mr and Mrs Mike Lantz. The weather during the night had been wet and rough, but the day dawned dry with a stiff, westerly wind blowing. I brought 19 couple of Captain Ronnie Wallace’s bitch pack to the meet and the Captain was out in his car. He’d been retired from hunting his hounds for five seasons, but if he wasn’t following hounds on a horse he would almost certainly be out in a vehicle. Despite the typical Exmoor weather foxes were found nearby and the bitches enjoyed a good scenting day, covering a large area, finishing at 4.40pm near to Simonsbath having caught a brace.
The following morning Captain Wallace rang the kennels to speak to me. He was pleased we’d had a good day, and he questioned me about a successful cast he’d spotted me make to get hounds beyond a large number of sheep late in the afternoon. I wasn’t to realise that this would be the last conversation I would have with him. Later that day Captain Wallace was killed in a car crash on his way to see his wife, Rosie, who was poorly in a Taunton Hospital.
The next season the Exmoor Foxhounds met on Friday 7th February 2003 to commemorate Captain Wallace’s death. The meet was kindly hosted by Miss Pauline Copp, who’s home is a short distance from St Luke’s Church, Simonsbath where the Captain had been laid to rest. Conditions at dawn were wet and very misty but the drab weather cheered up in time for the meet at 11 am. Once the formalities had taken place the bitch pack was quickly in action opposite the Council Houses and, although the fox wasn’t viewed, hounds ran swiftly straight back to the road at the meet. None of the remaining people there had seen a fox but hounds picked up the line just beyond and hunted away through Cloven Rocks, over the road and into the Exe Valley at Warren Gate. For nearly an hour the bitches hunted on a useful scent, slowly at times through sheep but swiftly on clean ground all about the Pinfords, Warren and Prayway. Finally they brought the line up Three Combes Hill Cleave opposite Warren farm, hunted steadily through sheep foil past the starting point near the meet, and over the wall into the corner of St. Luke’s Church yard at the location of Captain Wallace’s grave. They hunted slowly on into the bottom of Ashcombe but here the line was lost. I am not aware that the hunted fox was viewed at any stage of the hunt.
Hounds were taken to Limecombe Cottage where they found and went away down to Simonsbath Barton. The bitches continued at pace close to Westgate Cottages, on over the Duredon lane, across through the kennels field at Balewater, climbed out and caught a fox just above Duredon farm. With little delay hounds were running again, went up Long Run, through Tangs Bottom, over Top Hill, through Short Chains and Long Chains Combes and straight over the edge of the Chains past the Hoar Oak Buildings. They continued all down the water to Old Scoresdown, up beside the lane rutted to Cheriton farm and out onto Cheriton Ridge. From here they crossed the water to South Furzehill and the Folly, climbed up Ruckham and Thorn Hill to race along the northern edge of the Chains to a proper conclusion below Gammons Corner. A slick performance from Captain Wallace’s bitch pack to end the day with a hunt that included a four and a half mile point”.