IT was a beautiful hunting morning at the home of the County Louth Foxhounds at Lisrenny but the setting was extra special as the Angel family, George and Jane, rolled out the red carpet for the followers and their friends at the meet on the family estate.
The usual marquee was on site beside the Mistresses’ Garden with an abundance of home cooking and refreshments, hot ports, and tea and coffee for the more abstemious or for those driving. And their wonderful pack of hounds, who are owned by former master Sarah Angel, are kennelled beside the stable yard.
Joe Callan was the only master on hand to take the field as his fellow masters Gerry Boylan, Kieran Ryan, Eamonn McGinn and Edmond Mahony were unavoidably away on other duties. The new hunt chairwoman Sandra Commisky was also at the meet.
The Louths’ huntsman, Lloyd Parr, has developed quite a reputation hunting his beautiful Old English pack full of history and tradition, and they have been regular winners showing on the flags particularly at the National Hound Show in Stradbally. He has very high standards, a warm personality, an incredible work ethic and is extremely popular with the followers.
Lloyd knows the Louth country well as he spent some years as countryman before he whipped-in to Ryan Carvill in the South Tyrone Foxhounds. This proved an ideal education in kennel management and riding to hounds before being appointed Louth huntsman. Ryan was also mentor to Tommy Considine of the County Clare Hounds, and was hunting with former South Tyrone master Dr Cathal Cassidy on the day.
Lloyd’s son, Lloyd Jnr, is also adept at handling hounds and is great support to him in the kennels and following on a quad all day, as is his brother Tommy who whips-in to him.
There were lots of familiar faces at the meet such as former chairman John Callen, his wife Jane and former master Dr Ralph Hoey. Cara Konig Brock, who owns the impressive Beaulieu House where she hosts a lawn meet, was there as well as Hughie McKeever, brother of former huntsman Michael whose son Michael Jr was on hand, as was John Clarke and Dympna Kiernan who runs Dymphna’s Equestrian near Swords. She specialises in livery, lessons and events, with grassland, country roads and all weather ménage facilities.
Former chairman Stephen Gunne was with his wife Una who is joint honorary secretary of the hunt as well as Robbie Malone from Kingscourt who hunted with the Louths for years. Others prominent were Robbie Byrnes, Denni McKeever, Harry Grant, Thomas Matthews and Joan McKenna whose father Sean puts on regular meets on his farm in Mooretown but was missed as he was in hospital, but he was well represented by his granddaughter Nadine McConnell.
Linzi Sullivan was fresh from her impressive win recently at the Curragh aboard Khezaan, together with Meryem Walsh who also rode in the race. Linzi rides for Donal Kinsella and Meryem for Harry Rogers. Marnie Crerar was on another of her many youngsters as she produces so many for sale. This time she was mounted on a beautiful modern Irish Draught with a turn of foot, and so sensible jumping wire.
On horseback also were Paula Finnegan, Paula Egan, Elaine Little, Cillian Dunne, a son of Andy, was on foot, Stephen Doyle, Lesley De Laclaw, very distinctive in his bowler hat, and Annie McGinn, daughter of master Eamonn. Also mounted were Tommy McKenna, Elaine Little, Toni Black, Bella McIvor and racehorse trainer John Larkin. Host Jane Angel was on her trusty hunter that got his early education in Duhallow country.
Lloyd had 23½ couple of his Old English hounds out as he moved off to draw the first covert. Lisrenny Estate, sitting on nearly 600 acres, is intensively farmed with a mixture of tillage, livestock and forestry as well as a pheasant shoot. Many of the coverts that have been there for years are stone faced and well protected. The draws differ from year to year depending on sown ground, so the huntsman drew the periphery of the estate first and McConnell’s Laurel Wood which was blank so he continued right-handed through the woods along by the roadside.
A clay pigeon shoot across the road did not encourage foxes to settle nearby. Along the Spinney by the Glyde River, hounds spoke briefly but it was probably a stale line. Pheasants are well fed with grain feeders in abundance, and they were plenty in flight as hounds entered nearby.
Drawing the Long Wood, hounds were on song as we viewed a fox crossing a ride in the woods. Marnie Crerar gave a great display over wire on her Irish Draught while the huntsman jumped in over a stiff post and rail fence and there was a nasty take-off coming back, but he is a brave rider and forgets what he is crossing when he locks onto his hounds hunting a fox.
Running back through the wood, the huntsman waited until they checked and he picked them up and drew the covert along the Kennel Lane but the hounds left in kennels probably disturbed any likely fox, but it has sometimes held in previous years. Then they hacked down through Tallanstown Village by the life-size statue of Vere Foster, the educationist (1819-1900) who is remembered as improving conditions of emigrant ships crossing the Atlantic during the Famine, and he also founded national schools in villages in Ireland and became the first president of the Irish National Teachers Organisation.
No sooner had hounds entered the small spinney in Rathnesken, they found immediately, and our pilot ran on across the avenue where Vincent McMahon was spreading manure. They then ran up by John Filgate’s house, the son of the late master Richard Filgate, where they were stopped temporarily by electric fencing before they ran on over the old point-to-point course in the direction of Knockabbey Castle where they marked.
Drawing on by the castle, there was nobody at home as foxes seem to be congregating in different areas and when you find one there could be a brace more in the same covert. Drawing Rathnesken again hounds found and this fox ran back across the lane towards the Tallanstown Road and on by the cemetery right-handed down by the banks of the Glyde River towards the village and back again to where he came from in Rathnesken.
It was a great start to the season and the followers I am sure felt privileged to cross such wonderful estates, and follow one of the top packs in the country hunted by such a talented huntsman.