Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire Foxhounds

In this section we are hoping to encourage contributions from hunt supporters, sharing memories of their experiences of the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt - past and present.

The first contribution is from Derek Parker (aka Tantivy) who has kindly submitted unique perspective of a shared family history with the Hunt.

Memories of a Footfollower

by Derek Parker

My late grandfather, Ted, sometimes known as Ned, Parker, spent his entire working life in hunt service so it was inevitable that hunting would fulfill a major role in my own life. I never met Old Ted, because he died before I was born. But I still have his hunt waistcoat, cap, riding whips, hunt buttons and hunt newspaper cuttings and history books.

Born in rural Shropshire in 1856, he began his hunting career as second horseman then first whipper-in at the North Staffordshire where the 4th Duke of Sutherland was the Master of Foxhounds.

Ted then moved to a similar position at the Bedale Hunt in North Yorkshire before coming to Scotland to whip in to Will Webster at the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire in 1904. My uncle, Teddy, Aunt Jean, and father, Gilbert, were all born at the Hunt Kennels at Houston so my links with the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire go back 105 years.

The Lananrkshire and Renfrewshire has an illustrious history going back to 1771 when the precursor of the present Hunt was known as the Glasgow Hounds and Roberton Hunt. Early Masters included Lord Kelburn, the Earl of Glasgow, and James Merry and Alexander Cuninghame of Craigends, who both made their fortunes from coal- and ironstone mining during the 19th century.

During the next 100 years, the Hunt's proximity to prosperous Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock meant there was no shortage of cash as business people from these hives of industry and commerce were attracted by the activities of the pack and the chance to ride to hounds in idyllic rural surroundings.

Masters during the 20th century included Major Andrew Coats and George Barclay, whose families were involved in the Paisley cotton-thread industry, and Lord Inverclyde and Fred Donaldson, who owned world-famous shipping-lines. Meets were held at 11.30am to allow businessmen to work at their offices for a few hours before making their way to meets which have always been traditionally held on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Throughout the hunt's long history it has had several outstanding huntsmen, including John Squires, who was tragically killed in the field in 1874 after falling from his horse in Barcraig Wood during a fast hunt from Torr Wood. It was said for years afterwards the ghost of Old Squires frequently came to the aid of huntsmen who were having poor scenting days and mysteriously laid hounds on to the lines of fast-running foxes.

Harry Judd, who carried the horn from 1882 till 1901, was one of the most popular huntsmen of all time. Judd is remembered for jumping into the fast-flowing waters of the River Gryfe at Craigends to oust a fox which had gone to ground in the riverbank following a fast run from Elphinstone Wood in 1887.

Although hounds were rewarded, Judd lost his horn and whip. However, the Master, Sir David Carrick-Buchanan, who had ordered Judd into the water, soon replaced them. Judd was also huntsman in 1893 when hounds hunted a fox from Elphinstone Wood and killed him in the River Clyde between Langbank and Dumbarton.

History repeated itself in 1906 when my grandfather was 'volunteered' by huntsman Will Webster to row a boat out into the Clyde and retrieve a fox which had been killed in midstream following a hunt from Houston Wood via Barochan and West Ferry where the run was successfully concluded.

When my grandfather retired from hunt service in 1912 and went to work as groom to George Barclay, MFH, at Thornhill, Johnstone, he was presented with a cheque for £175 at the closing meet at Barochan.

Between 1922 and 1976, the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire had just two huntsmen and they both became legends in their own time. Will Dickinson - known in some hunting circles as The Old Man - carried the horn for the first 30 years of that period and showed some excellent sport with hounds frequently hunting till well into the night-time darkness and covering amazing distances on the lines of stout-hearted foxes.

Bert Stevens, who came to the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire in 1952 from the Middleton and Middleton East, was huntsman when I started to follow on foot around that time. Despite having to cope with increasing urbanisation and the loss of prime hunting country like Johnstone Castle, Craigends, Erskine and Foxbar, Bert produced some great sport with runs of 12 miles being regular occurrences.

Sadly, Bert Stevens - like Johnny Squires just over a century earlier - also died in the hunting field following an accident near High Craigenfeoch when he was thrown from his horse onto the road during a hunt form Bardrain Wood to Johnstone Castle.

More than three decades later, I always pause in silent reflection for a few moments when I pass the spot of Bert's untimely death which took place shortly before he was due to retire from hunt service.

Another top huntsman was Robin Jackson who came to the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire from the North Northumberland during the 1970s before being promoted. Robin then went on to carry the horn at the Grove and Rufford then the Belvoir during the 1980s.

During its long history, the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire has had the distinction of having its activities chronicled by several top-class hunt scribes including the anonymous Stringhalt during the 19th century, Harry Judd and Sir Stephen Bine Renshaw in the early years of the 20th century then Joint Master Mrs. Jean Donaldson around the time I started following.

It was a proud and unforgettable moment when the then Joint-Master, the late Billy Ross, invited me to become hunt correspondent to the Horse and Hound and Field magazines - a duty which I performed using the pseudonym 'Tantivy' right up until the sport as we know it was banned by the Scottish Parliament. It was also a privilege when hunt chairman, the late and much-lamented Jake Stewart, invited me to help compile the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire's pro-hunting case which was submitted to the Scottish Parliament prior to the fateful vote being cast.

Sadly an intransigent Scottish Parliament ignored the common sense case for the continuance of hunting in the traditional manner. A few years down the line since that dark day when we thought hunting was finished forever, things have changed beyond our wildest dreams at the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.

At least we are still hunting. We still meet at 11.30am at time-honored places of tryst and we see the same old friends. We listen soul-stirred to the age-old cry of the pack and the mellow notes of the horn still echoing on through the woods and across the fields just as they did in the days of Squires, Judd, Dickinson and Stevens. The proud story of the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt, which began 238 years ago in 1771, still continues. May it do so for many years to come.

Derek Parker (Tantivy)