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.
Two world-class judges of foxhounds turned a good day, June 17, 2017 at the Canadian Foxhound Show, into an exceptional and informative day for spectators. MFHs Captain Ian Farquhar and C. Martin Wood III shared their insights as to the choices they made after the results of classes were announced. The experience was an invaluable master class for both those showing hounds and those watching. Each man has judged every major hound show in the foxhunting world, including Peterborough, and each is esteemed among the very best in the breeding of foxhounds.
Grand Champion Foxhound of Show was Toronto and North York’s Blue Ridge Wentworth 2015, an English dog hound. Judge Farquhar especially demonstrated consistency in his choice, since he chose Wentworth as Grand Champion of the Bryn Mawr Hound Show last year!
The Toronto and North York Hunt is proud of the long history of its pack of English foxhounds. Early in the nineteenth century, British military men, fond of sport, shipped hounds across the Atlantic to Fort York, which guarded Toronto Harbour on Lake Ontario. Not long after the City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834, we find mention of the Toronto Hunt. Between 1843 and 1869, eight of the hunt's nine Masters were army officers.
Toronto and North York Farquhar 2014 was judged Grand Champion of Show at the Canadian Foxhound Show on Saturday, June 18, 2016. This was the third Grand Championship for the hunt in the last three years.
It has to be exceptionally gratifying to John Harrison, who returned as huntsman just two years ago, as all three grand champions go back to bloodlines he introduced to the pack during his earlier term as huntsman twenty years ago. Common to the pedigrees of all three, going back three generations, is Toronto and North York Crafty 1995 by their Freedom 1992.
In 1995, while Harrison was hunting the Toronto and North York pack in his first stint (1991 to 1996), he received a draft from the Berkeley (UK). One was Ballad 1987, who arrived in whelp to Berkeley Freshman 1984. Freshman was by Captain Ronnie Wallace’s Exmoor Freestone 1981. “Freestone is the key,” Harrison said.
Two Toronto and North York littermates have dominated the Grand Champion and Reserve awards at the Canadian Foxhound Show for two years running. The only difference this year was that the dog hound graciously swapped places with his litter sister. On June 6, 2015, in a reversal of fortune, Toronto and North York Cleopatra 2012, last year’s Reserve Grand Champion, was crowned Grand Champion of Show, while her litter brother Clarence, last year’s Grand Champion, settled for Reserve.
The show judges were Major Tim Easby, Director, Masters of Foxhounds Association (UK) and ex-MFH and huntsman of the Middleton and West Yore Foxhounds and Lt. Col. Robert Ferrer, USMC-Retired and MFH, Caroline Hunt (VA).
Cleopatra's sire is Blue Ridge Barnfield 2010 by Duke of Beaufort's Bailey 2003. If Bailey sounds familiar, have a look at the article about this year’s Bryn Mawr Grand Champion, New Market-Middleton Valley Widget, crowned just one week earlier. Widget’s sire was Green Spring Valley Bailey by Duke of Beaufort’s Bailey. That makes two Grand Champions in two weeks whose grand sire is Duke of Beaufort’s Bailey!