1923 -1999

It is now the turn of the wild Red Deer of Exmoor to play their part in a very moving and unusual experience which took place shortly after the death of the well respected harbourer to the Devon and Somerset Staghounds – Frank Dallyn.

Firstly and most importantly I think it will be wise to furnish you, the reader, with some information about Frank Dallyn. This will hopefully help give you an insight into this fascinating character and I have to thank Anne Chown, Frank’s partner for supplying me with the relevant details about what happened on this most special day.
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Frank Smyth Dallyn was born on the 26th April 1923 at Challacombe Mill during the last few days of the spring staghunting season. He was born into a life which was steeped in farming and hunting. What more could a man wish for?! The skills he learnt from his father both in agriculture and horsemanship was immense. Moving from Challacombe to Bratton Fleming when he was ten, it was here their days were spent milking cows and breaking in young horses. He and his father would go out to a farm on the moor and drive a colt back to Hunnacott without a halter, just loose, something that you would not see today, that is for certain.DSCF9972

Frank then moved to Simonsbath where he continued to break in young horses.  The next year he was asked to be stud groom at the Devon and Somerset Kennels for the season and the following to whip in. It was during the Mastership of Norah Harding that Frank was offered the role of harbourer in the northern part of the country.  He was delighted to accept this challenge and felt very privileged to be given the opportunity. As you can imagine, being a man with his upbringing, he was to carry out this task to perfection.

Harbouring the deer for a day’s hunting is a real craft. The detail of which would make a fascinating book in its own right. However to go out at dusk and watch or track them (or slotting as it is so often called) and then to be out at first light to locate the animal which is to be hunted, is a skill only known to very few. The most important ingredient must be to have a high level of patience and to develop a deep understanding of the countryside and what is happening around you day to day. Learning the habits of the wild red deer only comes to you after many years of quiet and careful observation. This was something that came naturally to Frank Dallyn.DSCF0026

For the next nine years he would have been out in all types of weather until sadly ill health forced him to retire from this most valuable post. On his last day he harboured seven stags on the Deer Park above Simonsbath. He went to the meet like all good harbourers and reported to the huntsman, the late Dennis Boyles what he had seen and gave him the recent whereabouts of the deer, then went home. Sadly Anne knew he was very ill, however after a series of operations he managed to go hunting in the car and was kept up to date with what was going on at regular intervals. He was keen to know about his beloved deer and where they had run to. Woe betide the messenger if they got it wrong.

During the last few months Frank was in and out of hospital and nursing homes until the time he came home to Exmoor, the place he loved best. The tragic death of his son Dennis, seemed too hard a blow for Frank to cope with and he died peacefully at home on October the 8th 1999.

At the end of Autumn Staghunting Anne decided to quietly go on her own to take Frank’s ashes down to Buscombe Beeches. This is a place which takes its name from where years before a bank of beech trees was carefully planted into which the sheep could to be herded. This would have been long before the advent of wire netting. It was also where Frank spent many happy times over the years schooling various different horses. That day the Devon and Somerset met at Brendon Two Gates but no one had a clue that Anne was going to be anywhere in the vicinity. She lived in hope that something might materialise but what was to happen was to exceed every expectation she could ever have dreamt. This is one of the wildest parts of Exmoor and as Anne walked in from the road with her head bowed against a very strong wind she had no idea what was occurring behind her. Suddenly she realised she was being followed by the whole field, who had appeared as if from nowhere. She carried on down into Buscombe where Frank’s ashes were to be scattered. The hounds were by now a considerable distance away and she had every reason to believe the field had were long gone out across the forest. What was to happen next was not only to astound Anne but also all of those who have been honoured to hear her experiences.

Having just finished laying Frank’s ashes in amongst the trees at Buscombe Beeches, all of a sudden Anne noticed no more than thirty yards away from her were two stags, one with five hinds coming down each side of the combe. They slowly crossed the water and it was at that point the most peculiar thing happened. The deer stopped right opposite Anne and looked straight in her direction. They were totally at ease and in no hurry whatsoever. After a little while they trotted on making their way down towards Hoccombe Water. A little later she thought she could hear hounds running and it wasn’t long before the cry of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds became evident. Then suddenly, with five and a half couple of tufters on his heels, there was the hunted stag right in front of her. This time however he was going at a somewhat swifter speed than his colleagues were a little earlier. Anne climbed back to the top of the hill and there was the entire Devon & Somerset field waiting in the same place as she had left them earlier that morning.

On this day it really seemed that the Red deer of Exmoor, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds as well as their Masters, Subscribers, Supporters and Staff all came together in a totally uncanny way to say “ Good Bye to their great friend and colleague – Frank Dallyn. If anybody had tried to plan this, it would have never have worked, it was just meant to be.

To my mind The Staghunting Song of Exmoor would appear to be one of the finest tributes to Frank, so here it is below;
James Barclay

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The Staghunting Song of Exmoor

 1)

The Forest above and the combe below

On a bright September morn

He’s the Soul of Clod who thanks not God

That ever his body was born

So hurry along the Stag’s afoot

The Master’s up and away!

Halloo! Halloo!!

We’ll follow it through

From Bratton to Porlock Bay

Chorus

So hurry along the Stag’s afoot

The Master’s up and away!

Halloo! Halloo! We’ll follow it through

From Bratton to Porlock Bay!

 

2)

Hark to the Tufters challenge true

T’is a note the Red Deer knows,

His courage awakes; his covert he breaks,

And up for the Moor he goes!

H’s all his rights and seven on top,

His eyes o’a King

And he’ll beggar the pride of some that ride

Before he leaves the ling!

Chorus

 

3)

Here comes the Huntsman bringing the pack,

Steady! He’s laying them on!

By the sound of their chime you may tell its time

To harden your hearts and be gone

Nightacott, Narracott and Hunnacott’s * passed

Right for the North they face

He’s leading them straight for Blackmoor Gate,

And he’s setting a pounding pace

Chorus

 

4)

We’re running him now on a breast high scent

But he leaves us standing still,

When we swing round by Wistland Pound

He’s far up Challacombe Hill.

The pack are a string of struggling hounds

The quarry is a dancing midge,

They’re trying their reins on the edge of the chains

Whilst he’s on Cheriton Ridge

Chorus

 

5)

He’s gone by Kittuck and Lucott Moor,

He’s gone by Woodcock’s Ley,

By the little white town he’s turned him down

And he’s running by open sea

So hurry along we’ll both be in,

The crowd’s a parish away!

We’re a field or two and we’ve followed it through From Bratton to Porlock Bay

Chorus

So hurry along we’ll both be in,

The crowd are a parish away!

We’re a field a two and we’ve followed it through

From Bratton to Porlock Bay

 

(*Hunnacott is where Frank Dallyn farmed)

 

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One Response to Frank Dallyn, Harbourer to the Devon and Somerset Staghounds

  1. Tony Wright says:

    Frank Dallyn was a true man of Exmoor, sadly missed.

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