Hertbert Norman was undoubtedly one of the most popular hunt servants ever to have served the Cottesmore Hunt. He was at the time reputed to be the finest horseman to cross this country, and had served at the Belvoir under Ben Capell during the Mastership of Sir Gilbert Greenall during 1906.
To read more, click here to subscribe or if you are already a subscriber, please log in!
Herbert served as 2nd whipper-in during the 1930’s to Major C Hilton-Green at the Cottesmore becoming 1st whipper-in and Kennel Huntsman in 1938 continuing during the War. He was very popular amongst the farming community being a great ambassador for hunting in the Cottesmore country. He continued after the War whipping-in to Lt Col Cyril Herber-Percy and Sir Henry Tate. His son John started as 2nd horseman in 1932 and became 2nd whipper-in in 1937, returning after the War in which he served with great gallantry in bomb disposal. John took over as 1st whipper-in and K.H. from his father in 1953 when Herbert took his own life. There had been a very severe attack of hardpad and distemper in the kennel and Herbert became very depressed to the extent that he could no longer cope. It is these circumstances that lead to the extraordinary story that I now relate.
It was in 1956 that I came to the Cottesmore as 2nd whipper-in serving under Lt Col Heber-Percy and Sir Henry Tate. John Norman was then in his third season as 1st whipper-in and K.H. with Harvey Morris as Kennelman. Harvey had been at the Belvoir during the War serving under George Tongue as whipper-in and kennelman.
In my second season Sir Henry Tate retired from hunting the doghounds and John Norman replaced him as huntsman and I became 1st whipper-in on Thursdays. 1958 saw the retirement of both Col Heber-Percy and Sir Henry Tate from the Mastership of the Cottesmore and Major Bob Hoare came from the West Norfolk and hunted both packs. (Doghounds and bitches).
Now, to the strange event. Unfortunately I never kept a hunting diary in those days, so I am not certain of the exact date. It must have been Major Hoare’s second season, the meet was at Barleythorpe, near Oakham. We found almost at once in the rhododendrons close by the Hall and scent was fair. Hounds ran towards Langham then swung towards the railway line which they crossed leaving Springfield on their right and turned towards the kennels. By this time I had crossed the line at Langham crossing and found myself alone with hounds who ran alongside the line up to the huntsman’s house at the kennels, where they checked. I was anxious in case a train came along with hounds trying to pick up a line. Harvey Morris had heard the commotion as the rest of the hounds had started up on hearing the pack. Harvey climbed over the fence and crossed the line whilst I cheered hounds on to him. They duly picked the line up over the railway and away they went, just as the huntsman and field came along the Oakham-Ashwell road. Hounds ran on to Langham and to Ranksborough Gorse then to ground. The strange part of the story is this, Harvey Morris was a great friend of Herbert Norman and talking to him in the valeting room that evening he told me that where hounds checked by the huntsman’s house was the exact spot that Herbert took his own life with a 4.10 shotgun. Not only that, we heard it on good authority that hounds ran on from there through Langham Churchyard right over Herbert’s grave!
Another strange thing happened to my wife and I in the whipper-in’s cottage at the kennels. My wife is quite certain that she woke in the middle of one night and saw a man standing at the foot of the bed. She said that she told him to “Get out” and he promptly disappeared, this of course woke me up, she swears this happened, I didn’t see anything and it never occurred again. Harvey said no one who had lived there since he had been at the kennels had ever said they had heard or seen anything . However, there had been someone there years ago who had died of Anthrax.
There it is though, there are so many things that defy explanation. As St. Paul said “Now, we see through a glass darkly. But there will come a time when all will be revealed.”
Long serving Whipper-In to the Pytchley Hounds