Willie Porter MFH Jack Porter MFH
1879 -1952 1912 -1991
It is family links with various packs of hounds that go back over a century that make hunting history so fascinating. The Porters from the Eskdale and Ennerdale have more than demonstrated their commitment in keeping hunting going, in what is still one of the wildest parts of England today.
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In 1857 a Thomas Dobson became Master and remained in charge until 1910 when he handed over to William Porter who had been hunting the hounds for him for some considerable years. William’s son Jack then took the hounds on in 1953 and it was whilst out hunting at Wasdale that William collapsed and died. A memorial stone still stands at the exact spot where this great fell huntsman sadly passed away. Edmund then joined his father, Jack, in 1978 and hunted hounds until 2008. He was rated by the legendary Captain Wallace as one of the best Huntsmen that he had ever seen. In fact it was the Eskdale and Ennerdale that the Captain turned to for the first fell outcross on his Heythrop bitches. That is something for Edmund and all who hunted with him to be extremely proud of. So it certainly bodes well for the future of the Eskdale and Ennerdale Hunt that the youngest Porters, Andrew and David, Edmund’s sons, are as keen as their forebears.
When Thursday 17th February, 2005 arrived, every single one of us with hunting in our veins came close to tears, as the iniquitous legislation that we had tried so hard to fight off, finally became reality. In every part of England there was a deep sense of sadness that hung over the countryside like a dark cloud. Nobody knew what the future was to hold. However, it was not long before we regained our strength, pulled ourselves together and started to make those who had initiated such bad law look like the fools they were. Come what may and in whatever form it was to take, the fight back soon began. So when the Eskdale and Ennerdale Hounds met at their Kennels at Sword House for what it appeared was to be the last time, it was most understandably a very emotional day for everybody concerned.
The strange incidents that have been recorded in this book all have their own individual charm. This one though will always stand out for two reasons, firstly because of the date it took place and the desperate situation hunting found itself in. Secondly, why should a hunted fox do what it decided to do on that day and not on one of the many other occasions over the years that the hounds had hunted in that area of the Southern Lakes?
After a most hospitable meet, Edmund moved off with sixteen couple of pure Fell Hounds and loosed them off into the bracken bed behind the Kennels where they found quickly. Hounds hunted round the Rigg before crossing the road onto Field Head Fell. Luckily the fox was turned away from the most dangerous spot of Dry Ghyll and was also kept out of the Borran before he ran up the valley past Stanley Ghyll Waterfalls. Here, they dropped in to cross the River Esk and ran out onto Hodge Howe. Coming back in they were flying by now and went on past St Catherine’s Church in Boot, where they narrowly missed Tommy Dobsons grave. This incidentally, is also where Willie Porter, Jack Porter and Arthur Irving are all laid to rest and up to 2005 they were the only men other than Edmund to have hunted the Eskdale and Ennerdale Hounds. Re-crossing the Esk they made their way back to the Rigg in quick time before attempting to go back to Dry Ghill. Turning away again, the fox went down the valley to Field Head Farm where they caught him in the field next to the yard. This had been a first class hunt of just on two hours with the fox not only running past the graves of four out of the five great fellmen, but they caught the fox beside the farmyard where both Willie and Jack Porter had farmed for many years!
In the history of the Eskdale and Ennerdale Hunt nothing like this had ever occurred before.
Photos by David Mason