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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

A Rum One to Follow, A Bad One to Beat

whyte-melville.vanity_fairGeorge Whyte-Melville as caricatured in Vanity Fair, 1871You may have noticed that White-Melville and Ogilvie are my favorite poets. These two establish a cadence in their meter that transports me to the field atop a horse, rhythmically pumping his hindquarters and stretching his neck beneath me.

I was pleased to learn from the Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Sirs Stephen and Lee, that Whyte-Melville, being a gentleman of means, “devoted all the earnings of his pen...to philanthropic and charitable objects, especially to the provision of reading rooms and other recreation for grooms and stable boys in hunting quarters.”

This poem has long been a favorite of mine. Whyte-Melville, having been a major in the cavalry and having devoted his life to foxhunting, was an able horseman, I'm certain. Yet though he was thrown out this day, he expresses his admiration for the rider who left him in the dust.

The Mardale Hunt: Chapter 4

windmere_harriersThe Windermere Harriers at the Mardale Shepherds Meet, 1899

 Here’s Chapter 4 of The Mardale Hunt by Ron Black. Through the courtesy of the author, Foxhunting Life is bringing you the entire book in installments every two weeks. You are free to download the book to your computer. We hope you have enjoyed the previous installments.

Excerpt from Chapter 4
This chapter recalls many of the hunts at Mardale. German Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Lakeland on holiday on a number of occasions from 1895 onward, staying with The Earl of Lowther, then Master of the Quorn in Leicestershire. The Kaiser met Ullswater huntsman Joe Bowman and may have hunted with him, for Bowman family lore has the Kaiser slipping Bowman a five-pound note.

Author Beatrix Potter was in Lakeland on one occasion when the Kaiser was due to arrive and wrote the following entry in her diary:

 “Tuesday August 15th 1895. We consumed three whole hours waiting to see the Emperor, not very well worth it. I had seen him in London. I think he is stouter. I was not particularly excited. I think it is disgraceful to drive fine horses like that. First came a messenger riding a good roan belonging to Bowness, which we could hear snorting before they came in sight, man and horse both dead-beat. He reported the Emperor would be up in ten minutes, but it was twenty.

The procession consisted of a mounted policeman with a drawn sword in a state approaching apoplexy, the red coats of the Quorn Hunt, four or five of Lord Lonsdale’s carriages, several hires and spare horses straggling after them. There were two horses with an outside rider to each carriage, splendid chestnuts thoroughbreds floundering along and clinking their shoes.

They were not going fast when we saw them, having come all the way from Patterdale without even stopping at Kirkstone to water the horses, to the indignation of mine host, and an assembly of three or four hundred who had reckoned on this act of mercy. I think his majesty deserved an accident and rather wonder he didn’t have one considering the smallness of the little Tiger sitting on the box to work the break.”

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The Mardale Hunt: Chapters 5 and 6

mardale_damThe Mardale Dam under constructionHere are Chapters 5 and 6 of The Mardale Hunt by Ron Black. Through the courtesy of the author, Foxhunting Life is bringing you the entire book in installments every two weeks. You are free to download the book to your computer. We hope you have enjoyed the previous installments.

Chapter 5 deals with the construction of the dam that holds back the reservoir which submerged Mardale forever. Chapter 6 returns to the memorable days of Joe Bowman and the Ullswater Foxhounds and the songs that were such a huge part of the after-hunt entertainment at the Dun Bull.

Excerpt from Chapter 6
After a good days sport, huntsmen, shepherds, visitors, sheep dogs and terriers (hounds were not admitted) all turn towards the Dun Bull for a meal.

In the evening, a smoking contest took place. Skelton records, “The main portion of the pack, cast off in the large dining room and every room in the house filled with overflow meetings, or rather concerts”

The big room was the focal point, a tray was sent round and money subscribed for the evening’s refreshment. Each individual orders his choice of drink and the chairman pays out of the general pool. Toasts and song follow in quick succession. The chairman selects the singer and everyone is supposed to sing at least one song and there was an element of pride in singing one that had not already been sung that evening. If the song had a good swing or chorus the men got particularly enthusiastic, the shepherds beating the tables with their sticks in time to the tune and the sheep-dogs and terriers howling either in enthusiasm or execration, no man knows which.

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Posted January 16, 2012

The Mardale Hunt: Chapter 7

mardale7Here is Chapter 7 of The Mardale Hunt by Ron Black. Through the courtesy of the author, Foxhunting Life brings you the entire book in installments every two weeks. You are free to download the book to your computer. We hope you have enjoyed the previous installments.

Excerpt from Chapter 7
Visitors to Mardale Shepherd’s Meet—and they came from all parts of England, from Kent to Newcastle—are not likely to forget this year’s experience as the weather was of the vilest and stormiest character. Nevertheless this did not deter a large gathering from assembling for this time-honoured institution, and the visitors included many who have attended the gathering for very many years.

The Mardale Shepherd’s Meet may be classified in three epochs. There was the ancient period of Mardale, when tradition says its prestige began with the outlaw Hugh Holme who took refuge from a persecuting monarch in a cave, which today bears his name, though the tenant nowadays is generally a fox. The next period may be termed the “Joe Bowman Chapter”, and this is how Mardale has won its popularity. Its giant hills and peculiar mountain solitude have ever had an attraction for lovers of all that is best in nature, but it remained to Joe Bowman and the Ullswater Foxhounds to introduce these charms to the world outside. The writer remembers Mardale Shepherds Meet when, at the height of the proceedings on the Saturday afternoon, the roll would not have exceeded thirty or forty. Nowadays, the motorcars themselves number about a hundred.

The next period may be classified as the Manchester Waterworks regime, for the Corporation has secured Mardale’s romantic lake for its supplementary water supply, and the work is to commence next year. When completed it is stated, Mardale Church and the “Dun Bull” will be twenty feet below the surface of the water.

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Posted January 26, 2012