The lure of overseas
Horse & Hound|November 05, 2020
There are ample opportunities for huntsmen all over the world, where the trappings of success prove tempting, says Frank Houghton Brown. But is the grass always greener?
Catherine Austen

HUNTING is a worldwide sport and huntsmen often cross international borders to practise their craft in pastures new. England exported organised hunting around the globe and has exported some of the best huntsmen as well, but the traffic has not been one-way only.

Henry Vaughan, secretary own hounds, the Middlesex in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA. In 1930, he became master and huntsman of the Cattistock in Dorset. Henry states that “a number of Americans have been masters of English packs, but none have carried the horn too, as Mr Higginson does”, so this was a ground-breaking endeavour.

Alex was not from a hunting background, yet starting with beagles and then harriers and finally foxhounds, he built up of the American Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) for 17 years in the 1920s and ’30s, refers to England as “the Motherland” of hunting in the foreword for Try Back, the hunting reminiscences of Alex Henry Higginson MFH (pictured, below). Alex was chairman of the American MFHA for 17 years, and for 30 years hunted his his pack to be recognised as the premier pack of his country.

The famous huntsman and hound breeder Ikey Bell, who was also an American, even if he only hunted hounds in the UK, also wrote a foreword in Try Back. Ikey gave Alex immense credit for his accomplishments, saying that conditions for hunting hounds in America were “more difficult, fortunately for many of us, than those which are generally met with in England”.

With such a long and distinguished track record in his home country, it is clear that Alex considered his eight seasons at the Cattistock as the pinnacle of his achievements.

ACROSS THE POND

THE list of professional huntsmen in the USA is peppered with the names of people who started in the UK. Marc Dradge was one of the many who was lured across the Atlantic to experience a new type of hunting. He was huntsman of the Fife in Scotland when he met the master of the Midland at the Lauderdale puppy show.

“I was lucky enough to sit next to Ben Hardaway at lunch,” Marc’s wife Jill remembers, “and he persuaded us to come out to work for him at the Midland in Georgia.”

A stint of five years as huntsman of the Fife was followed by seven seasons as kennel huntsman to Ben Hardaway and Mason Lampton, where a pack of fast, racy, cross-bred foxhounds hunt four days a week, with both grey and red foxes, coyotes and bobcats as their quarry. Jill looked after Ben’s cat hounds, which he kept exclusively for hunting bobcats, and his lurchers.

Marc and Jill spent seven seasons in the Deep South before making a move north, as huntsman to the Windy Hollow hunt near New York, a much more restricted country where the slower and heavy-voiced PennMarydel hounds were more the norm. Jill was field master of the non-jumping “hill toppers” while Marc hunted the hounds.

Three seasons at the Windy Hollow brought to an end a successful sojourn for the Dradge family in the USA, and Marc came back to Scotland to hunt the Lanark and Renfrewshire for nine seasons until he retired in 2019.

What an experience Marc, Jill and their children had in the USA, and there is no doubt that some of the hunting they encountered was both unique and second to none. There was never a full commitment from the Dradges to move abroad permanently, as they always intended to come back, but Jill sums up their wonderful adventure quite simply: “I’m really glad we went, but I’m also really glad we’re home.”

EMERALD ISLE APPEAL

HUNTING in Ireland holds a special allure to many, and huntsmen have frequently made a name for themselves across both sides of the Irish Sea. Ikey Bell was perhaps the most famous of these, producing brilliant sport and a revolution in foxhound breeding at the Kilkenny in the early 20th century, before moving to the South and West Wilts where he continued in exactly the same vein.

Thirty-eight-year old Mark Ollard was brought up with hunting in his genes, both his father and mother being masters of the South Wold in Lincolnshire. Mark hunted the school beagles at Stowe and took his first step into hunt service when he whipped-in at the Cattistock for two seasons under the tutelage of huntsman Charlie Watts.

Mark ended up in Ireland more by default than design.

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