Michael Richard Farrin was born in to a farming family in the Atherstone Country on the 9th February 1943. He was the eldest of five children from Dick and Peggy Farrin. It was at the time that the legendary Captain Parry was Master and with a well bred pack of hounds on the doorstep it wasn’t going to be long before hunting was to become Michael’s passion. This was probably in no small part due to the experience he was fortunate enough to have when he was just eight years old. He was ploughing a field one day for his father when he saw what looked like a rather well hunted fox running down the hedge side in front of him. It wasn’t long before the Atherstone Hounds were there in full cry and going like the wind. Michael leapt from his tractor ran back to the yard, tacked up his pony and in no time was up with them and in hot pursuit. At the end of the Hunt he came home, put the pony away and returned to his plough. Only to find the tractor was still running! What a wonderful introduction to the chase, for somebody who later in life was to become one of the finest huntsmen in England! It probably also demonstrated that farm work was not necessarily going to be his forte in the future!
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At the age of sixteen Captain Parry offered Michael the position of second horseman which he gladly accepted. This was just the beginning of what was going to be a long and illustrious career in Hunt Service. When the Captain moved to the North Cotswold, Michael went with him and on this occasion he was promoted to second whipper in. He had obviously made a very solid start to his career and in 1963 at just twenty years old he found himself being offered the position as 1st whipper in to Jack Littleworth at the Quorn. A job that no man could possibly refuse! Only five years later Jack Littleworth sadly was forced to retire due to failing health so the Masters were faced with the dilemma of who was going to hunt the Quorn Hounds the following season. Were they going to go for someone of a more senior nature or take a risk of promoting Michael who was only twenty-five at the time? Well, the decision they made was without doubt the right one. For the next thirty years he dedicated himself whole heartedly to the Quorn Hounds and the Quorn Country, not only as the true professional that he was, but in a way which was totally selfless and very much a hallmark of this great man.
The standard of sport shown during this time was described by many as some of the highest to be found anywhere. His ability to cross Leicestershire in front of very large and notable fields with such ease was proof enough of what a first class and confident horseman he was. He was one of those rare breed of men who possessed the golden thread with his hounds which is such a joy to watch.
In 1990 after many years at Pawdy Cross Roads, it was decided that new kennels were to be built at Gaddesby Lane, Kirkby Bellars. On arriving for a site meeting one day Michael was more than surprised to see a rather large fox sitting on the very spot where his house was to be built. Throughout the whole time that construction work was taking place and well on after the hounds moved in, this particular fox was resident. There was no budging him. You could build new kennels, move the Quorn hounds in but he was going precisely nowhere. It was his territory and that was that! He stayed there for several years and to this day nobody knows quite what became of him!
Michael retired in 1998 after thirty seasons at the very top of his profession. He was going as well at the end of his last day as he was his first, but sadly as is the way with a considerable number of hunts, there are those who become restless and feel that change is necessary, whether it for the good of the Hunt or not! So a new career beckoned and this time it was racing that was to benefit from his expertise. He became a dope testing technician and whilst having many friends in the industry, this was a life far away from what Michael had been used. However the great understanding he was lucky enough to have of horses made sure that his new role was a success. I was indeed privileged to know Michael really quite well and I was very much aware how much he missed his hounds which he had so carefully bred and cared for. I was lucky enough to have heard firsthand about the wonderful hunts he had experienced over the years and it was a real pleasure to listen him recount them. It was when I joined the Cottesmore Mastership in 1999 it seemed entirely natural that I should invite Michael to hunt my horses for me in his spare time. He always seemed to be in the right place to see a fox and crossed the country with the same considerable ease that he had done only the season before quite literally just over the border. This time however it was on horses that were designed for a heavyweight!
Michael stayed in touch over the years and did much to support our family after my wife’s accident, however tragically his own life was to be cut short having been diagnosed with cancer. I called to see him one day but sadly by that time it was in the advanced stages and he died a fortnight later on the 18th May 2008. He had put up a tremendous fight for some considerable time but sadly it had beaten him. Whether we hunted on the plough or on the grass hunting had lost a true professional and a great friend. His funeral service took place at St Peters Roman Catholic Church in Melton Mowbray and what a true Huntsmen’s send off he was given.
The day after Michael’s funeral I needed to go to Leicester and had just driven through Melton Mowbray. I was only a quarter of a mile from Kirkby Gate where the Quorn had held their Opening Meet for years and not a mile from the kennels when, there standing in the middle of the main road was a very large fox. He had come down from the fields below the kennels and was heading in a general direction of Frisby on the Wreake, the very village where Michael and Di had retired to, nine years previously. As if this was not strange enough to see at 2.30pm in the afternoon, a day later Joanna, Michaels step daughter was walking her dog up at Cream Gorse which is very close by and one of the Quorn’s most famous coverts. It was at approximately the same time of day when she too was confronted by a very large fox, which stood just outside the wood and stared straight at her. He seemed transfixed on Joanna and her dog for some few minutes before he trotted away back to the covert and was gone. I had never seen a fox before or since on that particular stretch of road and for those two incidents to have taken place within forty eight hours of Michael being buried sent a shiver down the spine like you would never believe.
Was this a descendant of the old boy who decided to live his life in such close proximity to Michael and his hounds? We shall never know, but there is one thing we can say and that it is, it was more than likely so!
Here are a few lines of a poem which was read at Michaels funeral. I think you will agree it is not only an appropriate tribute to the abilities of this most modest of men but also is one from him to those wonderful Quorn bitches of which he was justly proud.
An Extract from Forty Fine Ladies
By Patrick R Chalmers
Out to a party go forty fine ladies –
Forty fine ladies when noon tide is grey,
Light on their feet where the glade is,
Sweet are their tounges on the wet winter’s day
Forty fine ladies, the queens of the revel,
Forty fine ladies, so lashing and level,
Forty fine ladies, who’ll dance like the devil
Race, like a smoke wreath away
Forty fine ladies, they found in their ballroom,
Such a shy gallant, eight miles he had come,
Chased him and raced him and gave him but small room,
Showed him, the rascal, new reason to roam;
Wicked old dog fox o’er night came a wooing,
Forty fine ladies, they gave him a doing,
Forty fine furries, pursuing, pursuing,
Running him running him home!
2nd April 2013