By Norman Fine
Author/historian Ron Black, a fourth-generation foot hunter who strove to preserve the foxhunting history of his beloved Cumbria.I never met Ron Black in person, but I knew him so well. We’d been carrying on an email friendship for years. Ron died of cancer on September 5, 2017.
Over the years our correspondence covered all sorts of subjects—foxhunting, politics, world affairs. (He was for Hillary, all the way.) He scoffed at us mounted foxhunters for our preoccupation with horses and fancy clothing, and he would start most notes with, “How are things in the Colonies?” His sense of history was a huge part of who he was. And it was to preserve the history of foxhunting in his beloved Cumbria, after the despised Hunting Act became law, that possessed him to start a website and begin collecting that history.
That’s how John Harrison became friends with Ron Black. Harrison is currently hunting the Deep Run Hunt (VA) foxhounds, but twenty years ago Harrison was huntsman for one of the storied foot packs in the Lake District, the Ullswater Foxhounds. Ron was writing a book about the Ullswater. It was the hunt of Harrison’s boyhood, and he had returned to England from Toronto and North York (ON) to take up the horn there. It is a hard and dangerous place: climbing borrans (stone piles), crags (cliffs), and crossing the scree beds (fallen stone from the crags). It’s country that would ruin a horse the first time out. Harrison hunted the Ullswater hounds on foot there for eighteen seasons before returning to North America three years ago.