THE KILDARE HOUNDS – A Chapter from B.M. Fitzpatrick’s “Irish Sport and Sportsmen”

by niamh mccabe on August 3, 2006

IRISH SPORT AND SPORTSMEN
 
CHAPTER 1
THE KILDARE HOUNDS
 
          The “Killing” Kildare premier pack, &c., are phrases which hunting men are used to apply as naturally as young men and maidens, the slaves of Cupid, do “Duck,” “Dear,” or “Darling.” And well these hounds merit the flattering designation: assuredly, taking this sea-girth isle as the boundary, the pack is not inferior to any. It may well be compared with any in the kingdom; and the country over which they hunt is, in a fox-hunting sense, the “cream” of all Ireland.
The first master of the “Kildares” was Squire Connolly, of Castletown, a very eccentric, jolly soul; he was a thorough sportsman of the good old school, a notorious bon vivant. He kept open house, and on hunting days all who participated in the pleasures of the chase with him were expected to dine in Castletown; none were invited, all were welcome when they came; in truth, it may be said, that “though he feasted all the great he ne’er forgot the small.”
Some years before Squire Connolly’s death, the pack was kept at Bishopscourt, though he was the recognised master; when he died in 1804, Sir Fenton Aylmer succeeded him, and kept the hounds for a year or two; and then Mr. Arthur Henry took them, and kept them till 1810, when Sir Fenton Aylmer resumed the mastership.
He had a very famous huntsman, Jack Grennon, gifted with a grand voice; a first-rate rider, but like all of us, he had his faults, and one of them was being too hasty to please the hunting men of his time, though, I dare say, his manner would be considered not unbecoming in these more democratic days. The whips, Will Mathews and his son, were men who subsequently acquired a great reputation.
In 1813, an accident occurred which destroyed the best hounds in the kennel. The meet was at Tipper cross-roads, near Naas; a fox was found in Forenaughts, and a grand run ensued to Poulaphouca, beloved of pic-nicers. Just near the spot where the bridge now stands Reynard plunged into the rushing torrent, thirteen couple of the pack followed suits, there was a strong “freshet” in the Liffey at the time, and they were all drowned.
In 1814, Sir John Kenndy became master: he certainly may be called the “father of the hunt;” his popularity was as widespread as it was deserved; a more enthusiastic worshipper never paid homage at Diana’s shrine, nor a more genuine sportsman ever wore at his saddle now that emblem of mastership-the silver horn, I may say with truth,
 
“Tis’ now more than sixty years since he assumed the post
Of master to the Kildare hounds, when he was needed most;
And, although nigh single-handed, he proved himself a host,
In making them what they are now-in truth, the country’s boast.”
 
I have gained much information from a very interesting MS. from the Johnstown-Kennedy library; and this will be an appropriate places for me to offer my very sincere thanks to Sir Edward Kennedy for his kindness in allowing me to inspect them, and to assure my readers that, without that kind indulgence, they, and I, must have remained in ignorance of what I consider the most important epoch in the formation of the Kildare hounds. Sit John Kennedy kept a diary of not only every run, but what is an even more pleasant reminiscence, the names of those who shared the sport with him. It would be well if the gentlemen of the present day followed his example in this respect: the records would be read with interest by a “generation yet unborn.” One likes to see the names of parents, relatives, or friends recorded in such old archives-they recall scenes to memory dear. Indeed, it was thinking on this subject that first put the idea into my head of writing this volume. The history of the different packs must of necessity be a matter of dry and simple detail; but sporting readers are not inclined to be critical, so long as they perceive the vi vida vis, the fervidus, afflatus in works such as “Irish Sport and Sportsmen.” Such records, I opine, afford pleasure and recreation to many. If it be pleasant to peruse works which revive in our minds past enjoyments, shared in when “our lines were cast in pleasant places,” ‘tis especially so in the evening of our lives, when our sun has almost set, and when we by anticipation feel the chill touch of the “wooden surtout,” or hear the final inevitable summons. Though our fate during our struggle in this vale of tears may have been unpropitious, though the links that bound us to the “old house at home”, may have been shattered, and the well-knit bonds of friendship which allied us to those most dear may have been severed, memory paints the past with a consoling, though, perhaps, fictitious splendour, and any record which aids it is of use. In the manuscripts alluded to I found the names of the first supporters of the Kildare Hunt.
 
They were, in 1806, Mr. John Farrell; in 1837, Messrs. Robert Archbold, Arthur Henry, Joseph Connolly, and Val Maher; in 1809, Sir (then Mr.) John Kennedy; in 1811, Lord William Fitzgerald, Lord Henry Moore (Lord Drogheda’s fathyer), and the Duke of Leinster; in 1815, Lord Portarlington; in 1825, Mr. Richard More O’Ferrall, and Lord Howth; in 1836, the brothers John and Robert La Touche.
At a meeting held in Morrisson’s Hotel, then called Morrisson’s Tavern, on the 10th of October, 1814, it appears that Sir John Kennedy offered to take the hounds, provided that the members would guarantee him £500 per annum, to enable him to defray the expenses of keeping the coverts, paying for fowl, &c. The offer was gladly accepted.
The baronet was, facile princeps, in every branch of knowledge essential to good mastership, and he spared no expense. He used to hunt his hounds five days a fortnight and the country extended as far as Oakley Park, in Carlow, and Loughcrew, in the county Meath. Of course the custom at that time was to be out at dawn of day. Jigginstown, where the kennels now stand, was a very favourite tryst, and many an ardent sportsman, who now lies “mouldering in the grave,” spent hours there on a wild winter’s morning seeking shelter beneath the ruins of the unfortunate Earl of Strafford’s intended palace, awaiting the return of the “varmit” to these favourite earths.
 
The men of those days were men of “metal,” so to speak, far different, alas! from the not effeminate though more polished and as ardent sportsmen of to-day.
The habitués of the hunting field, of late years, may have often seen, when standing on the hill which overhangs that magnificent piece of gorse known as Elverstown Coevert, John Nolan, a man who has catered to the wants of the fox family-bless their brushes-for years past. Well, his father was earthwarmer during Sir John’s time, and he frequently received his instruction from him in Johnstown-Kennedy on a winter’s evening, walked to Loughcrew, stopped the earths there, and returned to Elverstown, doing the long journey and his business within the twenty-four hours. There were not giants in those days; but there were many men of slender mould made of sterner stuff than those of the present generation.
The Club was very much in debt in 1814, the sum total of the liabilities having amounted to no less than £2,400. The foxes were more numerous then than now. The runs were generally longer too; the gentry did all in their power to preserve foxes. They appear to have managed all the affairs relative to the hunting of the country in the most systematic manner, and the wording of many of the resolutions passed at their meetings would amuse had I space to quote them. For instance, at a meeting held in Naas, during Sir John Kennedy’s mastership, we find that the following resolution was passed and forwarded to Mr. Digby of Landenstown.
 
“We, the undersigned members of the Kildare Hunt Club, have heard with great regret that Mr. Digby’s butler has shot a fox, and we hop that Mr. Digby will take such steps as will prevent said butcher from again perpetrating a similar crime while in his employment.”
 
At the next meeting the following communication was received from Mr. Digby:
 
“Mr. Digby has heard with great regret of the offence committed by his butler, and begs to inform the members of the Kildare Hunt Club that he has discharged said butler.”
 
Sir John Kennedy always hunted the hounds himself, and there never was a man who knew better when to cheer or to chide them; he was a first-rate horseman, had a splendid voice; many a fox did his view-hallow “awake from his lair in morning.”
 
He seldom used a horn. The Rev. Robert Burrowes was secretary during his reign; he had a passion for hunting. I have heard a gentleman state that he never knew a more ardent fox-hunter; and, he added, “he spent his days either in the saddle, or on his knees at the earths, going throughout the country.” When asked to explain the answer my informant …was, that when the parson was not riding, he usually spent his time going from one likely fox-refuge to another; and when he came to an earth, or a hole where he suspected one of the “artful dodgers” might be, he used to throw himself on his hands and knees in his anxiety to track him. Many noted hard riders hunted in Kildare at this period, and it was a rare treat to see Sir John Kennedy on his notable white horse, Gamecock; Robin Aylmer, of Painstown, on his black stallion, Rununculus, a brilliant performer, but very savage brute; Sir Philip Crampton and “Parson” Burrowes, leading the pair over an intricate county. There was a curious character, Sugu by name, one of the Mickey Free type, who used to follow the hounds on foot in those days. One day he happened to be standing on the banks of the well-known Laragh river, when, near the end of a great run, the pack crossed the stream; at this time “the good and the true ones” were far in front, the field being scattered like the tail of a comet. The leading two jumped a very wide place, and the first over was Sir John. “More power, yer honour; yer a chip of the real good ould blcok; may ye live for ever,” exclaimed Sugu. The next over was Robin Aylmer. “Bravo Squire; sweet Painstown, and an Irish sky above it; musha the devil himself couldn’t “hould” you.” Then came Sir Philip Crampton. “Well done, Dr. Phil; may I never die till you cut a leg o’ me,” exclaimed the enthusiastic rustic.
 
The members of the Kildare Hunt Club used not to confine their hunting manoeuvres to the home circuit either. They frequently spent a week or so together at a hotel in a good hunting country, and during those festive gatherings the fun of the chase was only exceeded by the hilarity of the after dinner time, when the majority of the company were Bacchi plenus before being conveyed to bed. En passant, I may remark that they had a very beautiful service of plate, which was afterwards sold to discharge some of the debts, and this they always brought with them during these excursions. Such was then the custom, and right merry meeting these festive reunions were. About this time the Benson’s Club was in existence, and the members used to bring a pack of hounds with them to Castlepollard, county Westmeath, annually, and during a month’s sojourn there the fun and dissipation were something wonderful. Colonel Lennox, afterwards Duke of Richmond, a notorious bon vivant, having heard of the bibulous capacity of the members of “Benson’s” sent a challenge, which was accepted. The test of endurance between the contending parties was, that after drinking two bottles of brandy, and smoking an ounce of tobacco, with occasional relays of “devilled” kidneys, they, without ever going to bed, should hunt all day, the best “stayer” to win. The colonel distanced all his competitors with the exception of a Mr. O’Rielly. The performance commenced on a Monday; on the Sunday morning following, when he walked into the kitchen, the colonel was amazed to see his opponent dancing with the chambermaid; he at once “threw up the sponge,” and, no doubt, spoke truly when he said, “I never met a man before who could drink six nights, hunt six days, and then enjoy an Irish jig with Betty.” To connect us, perhaps, with the great past, a club, founded on the lines of the Benson’s, still exists and flourishes-The Down Hunt assembles yearly for convivial purposes; and as there are no hounds, and the membership of the very exclusive body entails no qualifications in horsemanship, the memories of old days, when many of the body followed The Lord Charlemont to Dungannon, and the pictures of long since dead members in the quaint uniform of the club, are the only connecting links with the time when sport was its raison d’etre. The election to the privilege of wearing the drab dress coat and gold button, is an honour very eagerly sought by Ulster gentlemen; and the man who emerges unscathed from the annual week’s long symposia, will have proved his claim to membership of any convivial body in dear Ireland or elsewhere.
 
In 1808, field-money was first paid in Kildare, the sum charged being 1s. 8d. On the 6th of April, 1808, a resolution was passed that the full dress uniform should be, blue coat, buff waistcoat.
It may interest some to know who were the most liberal subscribers to the fund in those days. In 1825 these were-The Duke of Leinster, £50; Lord W. Fitzgerald, £28 8s. 9d; Robert La Touche, £50; H. Carroll, £50; Lord Mayo £20; W. H. Carter, £22 15s.; Colonel Loftus, £11 7s. 6d.; John H. Mayle, and Robert Saunders, £22 15s.
In 1841, Sir John Kennedy resigned, after a reign of much longer duration than any of his successors have enjoyed. He was succeeded by Mr. John La Touche, of Harristown. His term of office extends over five seasons, during which time his great efforts to show sport, and turn out everything in the best style were eminently successful. He was a very general favourite, and he, and his brothers, Robert and William, were brilliant horsemen. Mr. La Touche, who is an exceptionally good judge of horses, kept a splendid stud of hunters. He usually drove a drag, perfect in its appointments, to the different meets; few more expert “whips” ever sat on a coach-box. He was well versed in stud lore too, and no man living took greater interest in the canine alliances than his brother William. “Jem” Byrne, afterwards “master of the horse” to Captain Sheddon, who has these many years been a consistent and liberal supporter of the Kildares, who had been for many seasons whip to Sir John Kennedy, hunted the hounds for some time after Mr. La Touche took them; subsequently Mr. La Touche carried the horn himself. The next master was the late Mr. David O’Connor Henchy, of Stonebrook, Ballymore-Eustace; he took office in 1846. He, too, was a great man in the saddle, and an ardent supporter of the turf and of hunting. His own colours, blue and pink, were sometimes worn; but old “Dame Fortune,” like other dames, is fickle, and she was not generous in her recognitions of his high claims to favourable treatment at her hands. He shared the racing fortunes for a short time of his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Burke, who was one of the “pillars” of the Irish turf. He discharged the onerous duties appertaining to the post of master of foxhounds to the entire satisfaction of all interested in the welfare of the “Kildares.” Although he had them during that awful period when gaunt famine desolated our country, and escorted death through the lonely plains of our land,-I need scarcely say that he had much difficulty in hunting the country during such a time-“the sinews of war,” the coin of the realm, were sadly wanting, and the exchequer of the Club was in a lamentable state of deficiency. During the year 1847 he was the uncomplaining loser of £475. He resigned at the close of the season 1847-8. Strange to say, the members of the members of the Hunt do not appear to have appreciated his strenuous exertions in a good cause. One would think that they would have presented him with a testimonial, for no man more fully deserved a substantial recognition from the lovers of the “noble science” than he did. Soon after his retirement, however, the people of the county testified their kindly regard for him, and confidence in his worth by returning him as their representative in the House of Commons, although he was opposed in the election by one of the most esteemed men of Kildare. He sat for the county from 1852 till 1859, and died on the 1st of December, 1876. I should have stated that Sir Edward Kennedy was appointed Hon. Secretary to the Hunt Club in 1844. Mr. La Touche received £300 per annum for keeping the horses, hounds, &c., and about double the sum was given to Sir Edward to defray the expenses of keeping the coverts, paying for reynard’s depredation on fowls-in a word, for keeping the country. Mr. J. Kilbee was secretary before Sir Edward took the post. He and all his predecessors were paid officials.
The successor of Mr. O’Connor Henchy, was Mr. William Kennedy, Sir John’s second son; he was at that time, a “crack” Corinthian rider; and in the hunting-field, then, as now, his motto would seem to be that of the old maid relative to her female domestics, “no followers allowed.” When the scent and run are good, he may often be seen amongst the leading lot.
During the “forties” and “fifties” there were many great men to hounds to be met with in this Irish shire. Besides those whose names I have mentioned as being such, I may add Mr. Carroll, of Ballinure; many wonderful tales are told of his marvellous feats on his great black stallion; he was, indeed, a veritable “bruiser,” and so were Major “Dick” Magennis, and Mr. Carter, of Castlemartin, both one armed men. The major lost his arm at the battle of Albuera: a writer of verses to the distinguished members of the Oakley Hunt, A.D. 1843, which appeared in “Bailey’s” Magazine, wrote of him:
 
            “Bounding o’er brook with gallant air,
            Magennis comes in view,
            Who rides with single arm to hounds
            Better than most with two.”
 
The late Lord Cloncurry (then Hon. E. Lawless) was a “first flight” man too. Mr. Edward J. Beauman, who resides at Furness, Naas, may be put down in the same class, as well as Mr. P. Lattin Mansfield, of Morristown Lattin, who now comes out very seldom; and the late Mr. T. De Burgh, of Oldtown, Naas, deserves mention.
A very good huntsman served under Mr. O’Connor Henchy,-Blackhouse, an Englishman, and a great rider. Mr. Kennedy hunted the hounds himself, with Stephen Goodall as first whip: Mr. Kennedy was replaced in 1852 by a very worthy sportsman, John Henry Scott, third Earl of Clonmel, who was distinguished for his bon hommie and sportsman-like qualities. He never was a very good horseman though a most ardent huntsman was beloved by his tenantry, and possessed a character of such patent amiability that persons pf all creeds and classes united to make his reign as M.F.H. one of the most eventful ever enjoyed.
He was succeeded, in 1857, by the late Lord Mayo (then Lord Naas), who was assisted by one of the best huntsmen that ever carried a horn-Stephen Goodall. Stephen had been in office under the Bishopscourt dynasty, and he enjoyed and deserved a fame in Irish annals such as was only paralleled by his brother Will, then of the Belvoir. He showed grand sport, was a keen sportsman, and by procuring drafts from the Belvoir, Foljambe, and Brocklesly blood, improved the pack a good deal. During his time, too, the country was benefited by the addition of several coverts-they were mostly natural pieces of gorse-and the members of the Hunt Club subscribed to have them enclosed, &c. His lordship rode fully seventeen stone, yet he often held a good place amongst the leading brigade throughout a good run-of course he was always well mounted, and was a first-rate judge in equine matters; indeed, I may say of stock of every description. When Lord Mayo accepted the mastership the funds were very deficient. At a meeting held on the 4th of May, 1857, it was found the estimated expenditure for the coming season, £1,659, would far exceed the money in hand, as there was only a sum of £900 from subscriptions, and £259 of field-money. Before the end of Lord Mayo’s first season the funds had risen to £1,450, and the field-money was nearly doubled, and the subscriptions increased so considerable as to warrant the expenditure being fixed at £1,900 a year. The “Kildares” had two extraordinary runs during Lord Mayo’s reign-one was from Laragh, in November, 1859. the fox was killed, after a run of over two hours’ duration, near Swainstown, I the county Meath: the distance from point to point was nineteen miles by the ordnance map. Goodall was the only man who rode over he last fence; he stated that he never rode over such a grand country, and that for the last hour he never crossed over a ploughed field. The second memorable run was from Baltiboys, near Ballymore-Eustace, to Mr. Walshe’s, of Belgard, six miles from Dublin, where the hounds were left hunting their fox in the dark. They must have gone over twenty miles. Lord Mayo took a great interest in the Irish turf, and did more than a little for its welfare. He raced a few horses, but I think his yellow and crimson jacket was borne but once successfully, that was when, in 1862, he won the Kildare Hunt Cup with Hornpipe. The last time it was seen on a racecourse was at the Curragh October meeting 1868, when he raced a filly called Purity for a Selling Stakes, which was won by Kate Kearney. Purity fell, and gave her pilot a bad fall. Jam Doucie rode her, and I think I am correct in stating that this was his maiden race.
Lord Mayo was the founder of the Palmerstown Association, and had he been spared, it would, probably, be in a flourishing condition now; and during its existence, it tended to improve the breed of thoroughbred houses in Ireland very materially, and many good ones first saw the light within the Palmesrtown paddocks. His lordship’s character as a statesman is so well known that I need not dwell on his wonderful ability. He sat for Kildare from 1847 till 1852; for Coleraine, from ’52-’57; and subsequently for Cockermouth, a borough in the patronage of Lord Leconfield, whose daughter he married in 1848. He was Chief Secretary for Ireland for several years, and was, in 1868, appointed Governor-General of India, and there, in 1872, he was basely assassinated in his 30th year. Although his politics were not those shared by the great majority of his countrymen, Lord Mayo had won and deserved the respect of all classes. His manly, straightforward conduct even to his opponents, won the regard of the bitterest of them; and a certain strong-handed policy, very intelligible, even if directed in unpopular channels, never alienated the affections of the many admirers who, knowing Lord Mayo, were forced to be proud of him as an Irishman and sportsman.
His funeral was one of the most splendid pageants of its kind ever witnessed in this country. The Irish people bore willingly their testimony as to the high opinion they entertained of him; and while I am penning those lines artificers are engaged in Palmerstown building a magnificent mansion, raised by the subscriptions of his countrymen. It will be a fitting monument erected to the memory of a great man. He might have been interred in Westminster Abbey, but his Lordship often expressed a wish “that his remains should be laid at home.”
Those who have passed along the high road from Dublin to Naas, must have noticed Johnstown, a charming neat little hamlet, which seems to nestle under the protecting woods of Palmerstown. It seems but yesterday since his lordship, on the beau-ideal of a weight-carrier, dressed in his ample pink, with the master’s hunting horn at his saddle-tree, surrounded by those canine pets whose music he loved so well, stood in the village at the entrance gate to his demesne, and received-on November’s first Tuesday-the cordial greeting of brave men and fair ladies, come to participate in the pleasures of the chase with him; and now a few yards further down, “The Mayo Arms” stands, and opposite to it a little grave-yard; in its centre a ruin, clad with clinging ivy; and within its walls a plain Wicklow granite cross marks the grave of the late Lord Mayo.
He was succeeded as master in 1862, by Baron de Robeck, of Gowran-Grange, Naas. It is no exaggeration to say that few better men to hounds ever rode over the plains of Kildare. Hogg was promoted to be huntsman by Lord Mayo, and a great mistake it was on his lordship’s part, for a worse huntsman never handled hounds in the country; and I believe the only hounds he hunted after he left Kildare were the hounds at Rome, so his services were not appreciated in England or Ireland; he was huntsman for a short time to the Baron, and then Richard Lyons, who had been first whip, was promoted to be huntsman.
The sport shown by Baron de Robeck during his regime will bear comparison with any of his predecessors; and on his retiring after six years’ service, hunting men of all classes in the county subscribed a slight token of their gratefulness to him for the satisfaction he gave during his term of office. The next master was Sir Edward Kennedy, Bart. the family is one of the oldest in Leinster, and Sir Edward’s ancestors were all noted for their devotion to the sports of the field. As I stated before, his father may be called the founder of the Kildare Hunt Club; and that his father and grandfather kept hounds, is proved by the fact that both bequeathed a legacy to their huntsmen in their last will and testament. There are now some old silver buttons in Johnstown-Kennedy which adorned the costume of those huntsmen; and it is evident that they used to hunt foxes, as the figure of a fox and the words “Johnstown-Kennedy Hunt” are engraved on them.
Sir Edward Kennedy, or to be more exact, Charles Edward Bayly Kennedy (Unit. Kigd., 1838), eldest son of Sir John, first Bart., and his wife, Maria, daughter of Edward Beauman, of Rutland-square, Dublin, born on the 13th of Febraury, 1820, succeeded his father, 13th of October 1848, and was educated at Eton. That he had inherited the ardent love for the “noble science,” which appears to have been transmitted from sire to son through many generations of Kennedys, soon became apparent. Indeed it was only natural instinct that led him to embrace the sport so keenly, and study venery in its minutest details. He was only 23 years of age, when he became Honorary Secretary to the Kildare Hunt Club. He discharged the duties which devolved upon him as such in the most satisfactory manner; and to do so required a great deal of tact, a knowledge of the country, and, above all, popularity amongst all classes. The latter enviable distinction appears to be a sort of heir-loom to the family; and it has become a kind of proverb in Kildare that “there never was a bad Kennedy.” Sir Edward is a most indulgent landlord, and that he understands agriculture, and takes an interest in it is proved by the fact that Johnstown-Kennedy presents all the appearances of a “model farm.” Being a sportsman “to the manner born,” and residing in a country where the chimes of the paddock-hill are heard almost as frequently as the melody of hound music, it is not surprising that he entertained a penchant for the sport happily styled national; and we find his colours, “green, pink sleeves, and black cap,” registered in Mr. Justice Hunter’s “Calender” of 1853, for the first time; but they had been “sported” a few times previous to that year. In ’53 the first Corinthian Cup was run for in Punchestown, and Sir Edward rode a mare of his own for it, named Concetta. She was a small hunter, and the Baronet was “chaffed” a good deal as to his chances of success, and he consequently backed the mare for a good deal of money, to beat more than would beat her; and she did, for she finished fourth out of eighteen runners.
At the Curragh June meeting that same year he rode his own horse, Collier, for the Corinthians. There was a long price to be had about him, as Mr. Wm. Kennedy’s Brother to Russborough, afterwards called Cruisk, ridden by Major Bell, were backed for a great deal of money. The first heat terminated in a half-length victory for April Fool, after a great finish with Collier, but Brother to Russborough won the second and final heat easily.
The last time Sir Edward rode was for a Corinthians at the Curragh September meeting following. It was a great race, and came off on the same afternoon that Tom, ridden by J. Osborne, defeated Ariadne, Bacchus, Gamekeeper, Junanita, Purez, and other good horses for the Angleseys. Sir Edward Kennedy rode May-day, a filly by Harkaway, the property of Mr. Orford, of Suncroft; his opponents were Lord Waterford’s Lambay (Major Bell), Mr. Wm. Kennedy’s Nee-shay-wooshin (I wish there was a nag of that name now, what a jawbreaker it would be to the book-makers) (owner), Mr. J. Balfe’s Royalty (Major St. John), and Mr. Courtenay’s Gay Lad (Capt. Pretyman). Odds were laid on Lambay for the first heat, but Nee-Shay-wooshin won easily. In the next heat he was better off, and a tremendous “set-to” between Lambay and May-day ended in Sir Edward’s favour by a head; in the next day the result was exactly the same.
I think it was that same year he rode in two races at Howth, which, from their novelty caused quite a sensation. One was a race ridden from their novelty caused quite a sensation. One was a race ridden by gentlemen in bonnets: it was very amusing, especially so to the ladies, I am sure; but the riders were quizzed so unmercifully that they did not enjoy it at all. Some of the bonnets were beauties. One gentleman, Major Paynter, of the Guards, who was one of the handsomest men in the service, went to Russell’s and ordered a very expensive bonnet; when he tried it on, however, he said it did not become him at all, and gave orders to have another made; it did not please him either, and he had five made before he was satisfied, or rather he took the fifth, having at length come to the conclusion that no bonnet would become him. Lord Howth sported his own colours, black and white, as he wore a widow’s cap; and Sir Edward Kennedy had a fox’s brush sewn on to the front of the bonnet. The conditions of the other race were that each rider should light a cigar at the post, and if it was out when he came to weigh in he was disqualified.
When Sir Edward Kennedy took the hounds the pack consisted of fifty-two couple, mostly bred from the Belvoir and Brocklesly kennels. Sir Edward, finding them mute, and also, as he said, that “they would race a fox, but not hunt him,” he, with great success, introduced new blood, chiefly from the Holderness and York and Ainsty kennels; and the present pack, although quite as fast as ever, hunt to perfection.
Richard Lyons came from Gowran-Grange (Baron de Robeck’s) with the hounds to Johnstown-Kennedy, and was Sir Edward’s first huntsman; William Brice was first-whip, and Charley Brindley, who came from the Quorn, and who died a few years ago, was second. When Brice left, Brindley was promoted to his place, and Will Freeman, who came from the Pytchley, was second. Brindley having left with Lyons the huntsman, Freeman got first-whip place, and Tom Mc Alister second. Sir Edward’s first move was to expend a large sum of money on the coverts; no doubt he had a wide field for his labours, and Kildare sportsmen owe him a debt for his arduous and most successful exertions to improve the fox haunts. He was obliged to resow Arthurstown, Hortlands, and Cappagh, and three-fourths of Castle-Bagot, Downshire, Eadestown, Stonebrook, and Rathcoffey; and the following coverts were quite gone-Moorhill, Killashee, Three-Castles, the Curragh, and I believe, one or two others. He expended a great deal of his own money on them, and made many of them perfect.
At the end of the season 1869-70, Richard Lyons went to England, and he was replaced by Richard Scarth, who hunted them for three years, and, like his predecessor, gave every satisfaction. Rees succeeded Scarth, and hunted the pack for part of Sir Edward’s last season. An accident in the hunting-field prevented him from carrying the horn for a long period.
Sir Edward’s very nature was imbued with a love for fox-hunting, but he has not hunted since he ceased to be an M.F.H. When he was obliged to hunt the pack himself, as was the case a few times owing to the illness of his servants, he got on well. As a judge of hounds he was quite first-rate, and he knew the schoolmasters and mistresses of his pack-in fact, the character of every hound he had.
Mr. Edmund A. Mansfield was next M.K.F.H. When I state that he is one of the Morristown-Lattin family, I need scarcely add that he is a very general favourite; his many good qualities won golden opinions for him. He possesses an amiable and quiet manner, but by the way he always controlled the impetuous and heterogenous assemblage which makes up the Kildare “field,” he proved that the suaviter in modo is often preferable to the fortiter in re. During the time he held the reins of manager he gave a very great satisfaction, and the sport was very good indeed.
Will Freeman was made huntsman when the hounds came into Mr. Mansfield’s possession. He has now been seven years in the county as hunt-servant. He had the great advantage of serving under the best gentleman huntsman of the day as whip, Capt. Thompson, when he carried the Pytchley Horn. He knows every inch of the Kildare territory, rides well, has a splendid voice; and as the hounds always look well, it is apparent that he knows his business in the kennel as well as in the field.
Two years ago public kennels were erected at Jigginstown, one mile from Naas. They may be described as being “neat but not gaudy,” and they are very commodious. Builders are at present at work there erecting stables and other accommodation, and when complete it will be a very excellent establishment on a very central position.
Mr. William Forbes, the present master, is a native of Scotland; his home in the Highlands is near a village known to tourists who have travelled to the Trossachs via Callendar. But he is well known in Kildare, where he has resided during the hunting season for several years past. That he loved the “mimic warfare” is proved by the fact that he hunts six days a week, although he often has a very long journey to the trysts. He is a supporter of steeplechasing too; though he seldom races his horses anywhere except in Punchestown, where he won the Prince of Wales’ Plate in 1871, with Huntsman, and was second with Delight. In the year following, the French bred, Heraut d’Armes, made a grand debut as a chaser, by winning the Conyngman Cup, ridden by Capt. Smith, beating Curragh Ranger, Bashful, and several other good horses; Gaskill and Kingswood also carried the dark-blue jacket successfully over this course. Mr. Forbes never bets, but races for honour and glory. He is very wealthy, and will, I am sure, turn out the hunt servants in A-1 style. The county will be managed by a committee of three, who will be allowed £1,200 per annum. They are Major the Hon. E. Lawless, Baron de Robeck, and Mr. Fortescue Y. Tynte, three popular sportsmen, who will do everything in their power to please all parties. I may add that they are first-rate men to ride a hunt. Mr. Forbes will be allowed £1,000 a year.
Formerly the hounds used to meet three days a week; during Sir. Edward’s time they met seven days a fortnight, and the custom has continued up to the present. Next year they will hunt four days a week. The hounds were Sir John Kennedy’s own property, and he made them a present to Mr. La Touche, since which time they became the property of the hunt.
When Sir John Kennedy took the hounds there were only eighteen coverts, or rather eighteen places known in Kildare, namely,
 
Killashee,         Narraghmore,     “Elverstown,
Konckrig,         Lyons,                Ballysax,
Ballina,            Ballindoolin,      Arthurstown,
Westown,        Grangebeg,         Wolfstown,
Kerdiffstown, Knockbruck,       Turnings.”
Castletown,     Bella Villa,
Harristown.
 
The last five being rented coverts.
When Sir John Kennedy resigned, he left forty-nine coverts.
 
There are now in the Kildare hunting district sixty-one gorse coverts and twenty-five woods or demesnes which are drawn and in which foxes are found.
Some say hounds are much faster now than formerly.
It may be so. But one thing is certain, so far as the hunting in Kildare proves, that more foxes were killed formerly than at present, considering the number of days hounds were out. No doubt, as draining was little known, there were fewer foxes run to ground.
The following table will prove this. Taking two years during Sir John Kennedy’s time, from November to April, and two in Sir John Kennedy’s, the following may be interesting.
 
 

“Season.”Days out.     Finds.     Killed.     To ground.

1818-19    52                  88            41                17

1831-32    43                  92            32                11

1868-69    72                 180           32                72

1873-74    69                 173           25                55

 

 
Sir John Kennedy attributes the cause of so few foxes being killed in the six years he was master to the fact, that only seven cubs were killed during the six years, the rest being old foxes. Few cubs having been found, as traps were set for rabbits all over the county, and cubs were caught, they not being as clever as the old foxes to escape the mischief.
 
It may interest some to know how the subscription has increased, and also the field money; it would be useless to mention every time that a change occurred, so I have selected three years.
 

                                                                                    £       s.     d.

In 1827, the Subscription was                                    545     0     0

                    Field money,                                          200     0     0

” 1844,         Subscription,                                         610     0     0

                    Field money,                                          160     0     0

” 1864,         Subscription,                                         1,420  0     0

                    Field money,                                           397    0     0

 

During Mr. Mansfield’s mastership, Freeman’s lieutenants were W. Rawle and Charles Peck; at the end of the season,76-7, the former was replaced by Tom Mc Alister, who was second whip for a time during Sir. Edward Kennedy’s reign, and who then went as first whip to the Queen’s County hounds, where he remained until his return to this county.
The annual subscription paid to the master for some years past has been £2,100, out of which he had to pay the expenses of the country. This amount was made up by subscriptions, donations (given by the military quartered in the district and civilians not members of the hunt), and field money. Last season, 76-7, there was a considerable surplus, the subscriptions being larger than usual, and the field money having been larger than was ever received before. Hitherto the master has had exclusive charge of the country, directing everything, and paying all charges in reference to it. From 1st May, 1877, as already mentioned this has been changed. The hunt numbered in 1876-7, one hundred and thirty-eight members paying subscriptions of from £100 to £5 a year. The expenditure on the kennels, stables, and house for the hunt servants amounted to between £3,000 and £3,500. previous to the building of the present kennels the hunt establishment was kept at the private residence of the master, who was always a gentleman of the country, living and having extensive premises in a central position; and to that class the selections of masters had necessarily been restricted. For the future the hunt will not be subject to any such restrictions, and will be free from the embarrassment to which, on several occasions upon the occurrence of vacancies of mastership, it has led. The admission of members to the hunt is by ballot. The first meet is held annually on the first Tuesday in November at Johnstown Inn, and on that evening the members dine together at the Royal Hotel, Naas, which is considered the head-quarters of the hunt; and they give a ball each year, generally in the month of January. Mr. David Mahony, of Grange-Con, Athy, has for some years past acted as honorary secretary, and this esteemed sportsman is a very able Chancellor of the Exchequer. Several gentlemen subscribe very liberally to the fund. His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught, is an honorary member of the hunt, and a very liberal subscriber. The popular soldier prince frequently honoured the meets with his presence last season. He rides remarkably well, and is, undoubtedly, a first-rate all-round sportsman; his many estimable qualities have earned for him a deserved and widespread popularity.
Kildare is, undoubtedly, a fine hunting country. The “territory” is at least forty miles long and twenty miles wide, including within the bounds a considerable portion of Wicklow and Dublin, many favourite fox haunts are situated in close proximity to the “land of brown heath and shaggy wood,” the Wicklow mountains-but the highlands over which we often follow the “pied beauties” are quite rideable though nags who have “joined the band,” no matter how slightly endowed with musical propensities, find it often impossible to live with them in these hilly hunting grounds. Over the hills in the neighbourhood of Tinode, Coolemine, and Groucher’s Gorse, all favourite resorts of the fox family, hounds generally carry a good head. If your horse is clear in the pipes, and clever enough to negotiate safely the high, rotten banks frequently met with in these parts, there is no reason why one shouldn’t be with hounds, as the going is good. The “cream” of these truly happy hunting grounds is the neighbourhood of Punchestown, Kilteel, Dunlavin, Ballytore, Maynooth and Kilcock. There is nothing to stop a good man, well mounted, in this fine grass country, where the fences are safe and sound, albeit “stiffish.” There is just enough woodland to be pleasant in Kildare, the many coverts are nicely situated, and foxes sufficiently numerous. Feathered game preservers are almost unknown. A few years ago rabbit trapping was carried on to such an extent that fears were entertained that foxes would be entirely exterminated out of certain districts. But the then master, Sir Edward Kennedy, drew attention to the fact, that the foxes were so often destroyed by the trappers, that something should be done to prevent the obnoxious custom. A meeting of supporters of fox-hunting was held, and several gentlemen who were in the habit of having traps set for the destruction of poor “bunny,” when they were assured of the amount of injury done towards the fox-hunting portion of the community, in the most sportsmanlike way promised not to allow trapping to be carried on; and, I think that but little injury is inflicted in this way now. There are more resident gentry in this country than in any other in Ireland, and a vast majority of them are fox-hunters.
For some years past a growing evil has caused serious apprehension amongst hunting men; I allude to the erection of wire. In some districts it is quite impossible to ride to hounds, owing to this objectionable pride. The landed proprietors (for I am sorry to say they set the bad example) and farmers do not use wire for the purpose of interfering in any way with the hunting. The great majority of them are delighted to see the hounds in their neighbourhood, and many of them are hunting men. Economy is their motive; I certainly think their notions on that score are very mistaken ones. No doubt wire is easily out up, but I opine that the posts become quite rotten after about four years, and, on account of the frequent repairs required, I am convinced that making wire fences is, generally speaking, a penny wise, pound foolish proceeding. Horses, sheep, and cattle are frequently severely injured by being caught in wire. It would be labour in vain on my part were I to write at length, pointing out the manifold advantages derived by all classes, the tenant farmers particularly, by hunting. Any injury done to their lands is truly insignificant in comparison to the advantages they derive, notably from the increased value of horses, oats, hay, and straw. And the fact must be so perfectly apparent to all that I need not, though I could very readily, point out the benefit derived from this pastime of princes-the most glorious of all amusements. Absenteeism is the cause of many evils, to it may be attributed a great deal of the poverty of our countrymen; and were it not for hunting, those who spend the most money amongst us would migrate to foreign lands.
Hunting affords pleasure, is a healthful recreation which keeps at home in our country the flower of the Irish aristocracy, yields wealth to willing hands, cements good fellowship, puts money into the pockets of the landed proprietors (by increasing the value of their property), tillers of the soil, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, in a word, the entire population.
I happen to know three very wealthy sportsmen, who intended coming to reside in this country last season for the winter months, but seeing so much of the country wired, they changed their mind. These were men with plenty of means and large studs, who would have spent a great deal of money here. I sincerely hope that the landed proprietors who have wire fences on their land will remove them, and I am sure many farmers will follow the example of a wake so stimulative, and “go and do likewise” before they cause further injury to their own interests. I believe that love of sport of all kinds, as well as of foxhunting, is inherent to the nature of every Patlander; and I hope that those Kildare men, whose occupation is the patriotic one of making “two blades of grass grow where one grew before” will support foxhunting. If they “ ‘ware wire” the day will never come-not even on the arrival of the long-expected New Zealander on London Bridge-when the gorse is uprooted, and the cry of the foxhound no longer heard within the bounds of “fair Kildare.” Fences of all sorts and sizes are to be met with in this country. In places where wire is not used you can go sailing away if your heart is in the right place, and you are well mounted. Walls or timber you seldom meet; but to be a safe conveyance, your horse must be a “tip-top” bank jumper, and a bold fencer.
The number who comprise the “field” average about 150, including many who would be regarded as first-flight men in any age or in any country. I have given in my reminiscences of other hunts the names of those who comprised the leading brigade in the days of “auld lang syne,” as well as those of the present. But in this instance I will not presume to make selections, there are so many worthy of honourable mention, that I could scarcely make up my mind as to who are deserving of being included in the schedule. Although I have had very many good days hunting with these grand hounds, and ample opportunity of seeing, and, I may add, did see them often race, “head up and sterns down,” when in the front rank were gathered the “good and the true ones.” The field, too, invariably includes visitors from Meath, Dublin, Queen’s County, and an occasional pleasure seeker from the Shires, and other “birds of passage,” such as officers of the Dublin and Newbridge Garrison. The thought may strike some that I might mention a few of the flyers who have ere now gone to ground without fear of giving offence. I thought of doing so, but I have not yet lived to comb a grey hair, my “tatch” is unstained by those silvery indications of the flight of youthful days, so my recollection does not extend very far back, and I will not add to the few I have already particularised.
Several of the best men of the present day are named the “Men of Kildare,” which I may add was composed by me after a good run with the Kildares in 1876.
 
 
 
 
THE MEN OF KILDARE 
When autumn to gold turns the leaves on the trees,
And the swallows depart for the flight o’er the seas,
While the river goes swollen, the ocean to meet,
With whisper as soft as a lullaby sweet,
We look to our “scarlets,” our “nags,” and our “cords,”
For a run with the “Meaths,” or a day with the “Wards.”
Both are good in their way, but they cannot surpass
A burst with our foxhounds across the “short grass.”
 
Chorus
Bravest of men are the men of Kildare,
Tho’ fortune prove fickle they never despair.
Would you still wear laurels, I’d have you beware
How you ride to our hounds when you come to Kildare.
 
Arthurstown’s tried, he’s at hom

An extract from "Irish Sport and Sportmen" by B.M. Fitzpatrick, published in 1878 describing the history and customs of the "Killing Kildares."

[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed and edited by Niamh Mc Cabe]

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