The Annual Meeting of the MFHA was held Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Union Club in New York. A foot of snow had fallen on the city Wednesday night, yet when I arrived at Pennsylvania Station on Thursday, the north-south avenues were completely cleared. To be sure, the east-west streets were plowed only one lane wide with cars totally buried under snow on both sides, but the taxicabs were out doing "business as usual" and commerce carried on!
Edward Kelly, MFH of the Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY), was elected president of the Association and commences a three-year term. Kelly succeeds outgoing president G. Marvin Beeman, MFH of the Arapahoe Hunt (CO). Jack van Nagell, MFH of the Iroquois Hunt (KY), was elected First Vice President and thus stands in line to become president after Kelly completes his term of office. Tony Leahy, MFH and huntsman of the Fox River Valley Hunt (IL) and the Cornwall Hounds (IL), was elected second vice-president thereby stepping into the line of succession to the presidency in six more years.
A Grand Entrance
From around the U.S. and Canada, MFHA members—Masters of registered and recognized hunts—were in attendance as well as Subscribing Members of the MFHA. The meeting was proceeding decorously, according to time-worn formula, when a flutter of activity at the entrance attracted the attention of the attendees.
The meeting came temporarily to a halt as the entire assemblage stood and applauded the entrance of Ben Hardaway, ninety-one, MFH for sixty years of the Midland Fox Hounds (GA), and probably the most influential American breeder of foxhounds alive today. Such is the respect and admiration accorded this giant of North American foxhunting.
The 2011 Hunting Habitat Conservation Award was presented to the Farmington Hunt (VA) and Mr. John H. Birdsall. This important accomplishment will be the subject of a separate article on FHL.
Peter Lambert, visiting Master from the UK, gave a charming talk that was warmly received. He explained the ways that hunting is allowed in England under the terms of the Hunting Act: following a drag or two hounds flushing game to a gun and/or to a bird of prey. Proponents of hunting maintain that the Act is so bizarrely constructed that it makes for bad law and must be repealed. They have formed an independent panel of responsible and reputable individuals of unimpeachable character to assure that hunting will be carried on in a sportsmanlike way after the Act is repealed, thereby acknowledging that the sport will not revert to old practices. (FHL keeps readers informed with periodic News reports as to the progress of those efforts to repeal.)
Lambert explained that grounds for conviction under the Act hangs on intent. If hounds following the line of a drag jump a live fox and hunt it, the burden of proof for the prosecution hangs on the intent of the huntsman. The huntsman, of course, maintains that his intent was to have his hounds follow the drag. It is practically impossible for the prosecution to prove otherwise. Therefore very few prosecutions have been successful. And where there have been convictions, many of those cases are under appeal.
Peter Lambert humorously finds at least one good outcome of the Hunting Act. It has, he says, done much to make huntsmen more quiet, since they cannot appear to be cheering hounds onto a fox!
Coincidentally, Peter Lambert’s mother was from Colorado and was related to the founder and first Master of the Arapahoe Hunt. There is, therefore, a long-time common bond between him and outgoing President Beeman, and he spoke of childhood visits to Colorado and hunting with his mother behind Marvin Beeman’s father.
Mr. Lambert followed Alistair Jackson, current Executive Director of the English MFHA, as Master of Beagles while in Public School, and at one time during his career was simultaneously Master and huntsman of both the Heythrop and the Warwickshire—two among the most renowned packs in England.
The Masters’ Ball returned to the Pierre Hotel this year after a one-year absence. FHL would like to put together a photo gallery, and readers are invited to send in any photos you may have taken during the Ball. Email photos to [email protected] and be sure to identify the people in the photos and give us the name of the photographer for the credits.
February 2, 2011