Fox’s Tribute To the Old Grey Hunter
To commemorate the ten years since the death of Jim Hunter, the long serving and much loved Secretary of the Fitzwilliam, we have reproduced a fox’s tribute to him which was written specially for his Funeral Service. We hope you enjoy reading this piece and it would be nice to think that it could really be true.
It is a chilly December day and earlier the hounds met at Laurel Farm, Great Gidding. Until now I have been left undisturbed, but I have just been woken from my afternoon nap. I can see you all sitting on the corner of Brawn’s Gorse; I was born here, you know. My mother was local and my father travelled up from the black peat of the fens. Suddenly I hear a twig crack, a rustle of thorn and a hound speaks. I’d better hasten to the south western corner by Poor Man’s Close, a route I know well. I creep away up the ditch but am spied by a watchful lady from Lutton and within seconds her holloa leaves the assembled company in no doubt that I have gone. The huntsman blows his hounds away on the good scent that I have left behind.
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I head for Gidding Windmill and cross the Hamerton Road. Hounds are not far behind me so I must hurry, however, as I go through the hedge on to the road, I notice a familiar figure leaning on a gate. For a moment we eye each other up. It is the Old Grey Hunter, the man who farms where I was found and where the hounds met. A good friend of us vulpines, he looks after his woodlands with all wildlife very much in mind. Time to move. On through Chapel End I go, a favourite haunt of ours about which so many stories could be told. Travelling westwards over Gidding Grove, one of the few all grass farms around here, I encounter a flock of sheep which will hopefully bring hounds to their noses and give me a little space. This land has for many years been looked after by good old fashioned country people.
The hounds check as I hoped they would so I have a moment to catch my breath. Just then I hear a voice I recognise. It is Christie, a hound walked at Laurel Farm and always seems to find the line that I have taken. Up the lane I go past Grange Farm and Barnwell Wold, where many of my friends meet in the winter months. I set my brush for Clopton Church and the Manor House. Hounds are hunting hard now, the horses must be tiring. I certainly am but I will have to increase my speed, although at my age it isn’t easy. Luckily I have a trick or two up my sleeve so I can beat them. On I travel down the hill to the Titchmarsh Brook. Along the water’s edge, under the Brickyard Bridge to the Village Farm grasses where I am sure there is a decent place for me to rest. A large stack of bales is now in view and before I go to ground I stand and listen to the now struggling hounds and smile to myself. There is life in the old dog yet. By the time they mark I am nearly asleep and not too bothered by the disturbance, after all, the lady farmer here knows I am safe. She, like many whose land I have crossed today, is a good supporter of the Fitzwilliam Hounds and I am sure they would all like to see me another day.
A few hours later I hear the muffled sound of the church clock striking seven. Time to depart. With a stretch of my weary limbs I make my move back to Brawn’s Gorse to ensure my vixen is safe and sound. All is quiet on this beautiful moonlit night. I go as fast as my tiredness allows; back to Gidding, crossing the Winwick road and making my way to the back of the village, looking out for a snack or two. Sure enough my supper is there. One plump chicken which I carry home past Laurel Farm where I hear familiar voices. The Old Grey Hunter is entertaining again. Farmers and hunting folk from the surrounding area are gathered around a roaring fire, recalling the great hunt I have given them.
Well Old Boy, you will be remembered as a true countryman. You are the most generous of hosts, you have been a friend to many and kept us all amused. Goodnight Jim, it is time for me to go. Perhaps we will meet again someday in the happy hunting ground in the sky. Sleep well for now.
Charles James Fox 2004