Keir To Fife Kennels
( Originally Published 1912 )
"A filthy beast, Sir! Why, a cow is one of the most agreeable of all animals. Everything about her is wholesome and useful : we get odour from her breath : she supplies our table with meat and butter and cream and cheese ; and I assure you, Sir, I would rather eat a cow than a Christian."
Alloa—Mr. Mitchell's Herd—To Keavil—The Keavil Herd—A word with Mr. Easton—The Old Fife Breed of Cows—Fifeshire Feeders--Old Days of the Fife Hunt—A Visit to the Kennels.
THE road from Stirling to Alloa lies through the strong wheat lands at the foot of the Ochil hills, which then bend sharply away to the left towards Perthshire. Some of the sheep-ranges are 2,300 feet above the sea-level, and were once held solely by the blackfaces, but the Cheviot usurper is fast gaining on them. The grass is peculiarly healthy for sheep, but the farmers do not care to feed, and there-fore sell off their Cheviot wedder lambs. A few keep blackfaces to stock their "wedder ground," but all such distinctions are fast fading before the high price which lambs command.
Alloa is deeply devoted to ale, whisky, and wool. The water rises from a freestone stratum, and has strong functions to perform. Nearly three million gallons of whisky are made annually in Clackmannanshire, and so are ninety thousand barrels of ale, which go direct to Liverpool, London, Glasgow, and New-castle. About 150,000 quarters of barley and other grain, principally from the Mediterranean and Black Sea, are used for whisky alone, and 22,000 of barley for ale. Australian, German, and Scottish wools are all used in the manufactories, and are chiefly worked into tartans, stocking-yarn, and tweeds.
Very few pure sheep are bred in the low parts of the county ; but the Leicester tup is crossed with Cheviots or blackfaced, as the pasture suits and the lambs are sold to Fifeshire or the Lothians, either off the farms or at the Glendevon market at the east end of the Ochils. Many of the farmers buy half bred lambs at St. Boswells, and sell them, generally out of the wool, between April and July; and those who get cast Cheviot ewes, keep a small flock of Leicesters, and breed enough tups for their own use and to exchange with their neighbours. The land, which grows better wheat than barley, requires much labour to prepare for the turnip crop, and is very trying to the Clydesdales. All along the Carse of Clackmannan it is a great bean country, and the lassies in their white crazies, one drawing and the other handling the drill, make a brave show as they follow the plough in March. Scarcely a hunter or roadster is bred in the county, although the farmers have had the choice both of Physician or Liverpool blood, with AEsculapius and Moss Trooper. There are a few West Highlanders and Ayrshires, and the " Falkirks " are handy for yearling Irish stirks. Cross-bred country cows are put to Shorthorn bulls ; but no one in the county, with the exception of the Messrs. Mitchell, keeps a Shorthorn herd.
The brothers began about the time of the Chester Royal, and have had Prince Arthur, Sir Colin, First Fruits, and Sir Samuel on hire in succession from Warlaby ; while the herds of Messrs. Gulland, Troutbeck, Crawley, Steward, Jolly, Wood, Milne, Spencer, and Towneley have furnished ,most of the females. Except at the Highland Society, the United Counties of Perth, Fife, Kinross,, and Clackmannan, Stirling and Dunbarton, they show very seldom, but invariably with success. Their farms, which lie partly round Alloa, and partly on the Carse of Clackmannan and the higher land, comprise 1,200 acres ; and what with his malting, farming, shipping, milling, and coal mine evidence, we-remember Andrew, the elder of the two, puzzling a House of Commons committee not a little as to the exact nature of his profession.
Mistletoe is his herd matron. She cost 74 gs. at the Crawley sale, and as a yearling and two-year-old she won seven prizes. One of them was gained by lapse at Perth, when Soldier's Bride was disqualified, and when the "unco' wise" prophesied in print of Mistletoe that she would never breed. At York she was third to Queen of the Ocean, and Pride of Southwicke, the first-prize Royal cows of 1862-63, but she slipped her calf on reaching home. Her Conqueror by Sir Colin was first in the yearling bull class the next summer at Kelso ; and then the old cow not only beat a very strong class at Stirling, but claimed the prize on the birth of her fourth calf. So much for the seers !
We watched part of the herd—which is some thirty strong, without the calves, and all but three or four by Booth bulls filing in from Mars Hill past the new Alloa Hall of justice to the steading which lies on one side of the town. The ten-year-old Sir Samuel, whom Richard Booth loved so dearly, not only for his fine handling, but for Charity's sake, that he never let him but once, stood in the first box, next to Lady Laura, who has something of Queen of the Vale about her, and always played second as a two-year-old to Mistletoe. White Eagle, a lengthy cow by' Knight of Wallaby, and whose dam, Lady Eagle, was bought for 105 gs. at the late Captain Spencer's sale, the nice-haired Comely 3rd by First Fruits from one of Mr. 'Nicol Milne's tribes, Luna, another First Fruits with a very neat leg and going back like the big red Lady of the Lake to Jobson's sort, were in one byre, along with Barbelle, a neatish cow with a curious horn, and a 74-guinea prima-donna at Mr. Wood's sale.
The substantial Nervosa Booth, by. Prince Arthur; and her half-sister Cameron Lass with her fourth calf at five years -old stood in another which had four Prince Arthurs in its six stalls. There, have been three sets of twins -(of which five lived) in the herd within twelve months, and two sets came out of this byre. Mistletoe, a very deep-fleshed, robust-looking cow by Welcome Guest from a Grand Turk clam, has not followed this example, and unfortunately she always breeds, bulls. Her Stonehenge, who has since been sold to Sir George Dunbar, was on parade in front of her box along with Thane of Fife, both of them- with first honours from the United Counties and her youngest hope, Red Friar, and Lord Eagle; out of White Eagle, were surveying them. Pacing the-white Cherry by M`Turk, a compact, good-looking cow, and side-by-side with the fine-boned Pauline by Highthorn, was the neat, wide-spread ,form of Blue Belle, - safe in calf to Sir Samuel. She and Eagle's Plume were -the first that the Messrs. -Mitchell ever sent to the Royal, and they returned with a second and a commended ticket, and drew up into the first and second places at Stirling. Breeders have had their doubts as-to which is the better, but generally agree that, if the white has more length, she has not quite the width and sweetness of the roan; Let us trust that it will be long before they share the fate of old Nervosa Gynne, whose Arthur Gynne was used, both here and at Keir, as she was busy in the darkest and farthest corner of the yard, laying on beef for the flesher.
Clackmannanshire is a very Rutland among counties as you see pretty nearly the whole of it in a ten-mile ride along the Carse and the Forth side to Keavil. The capital is not impressive. There is a clock with a cock on the top of it, and a Druidical stone with a cross, at the base of which Robert Bruce is supposed to have tied his shoes. A steamer is tugging up a brig with a rich cargo of grain and groceries past the mouth of the old coal-mine, whose shaft looks like a ruined abbey overtaken by the tide. Bretonnes and Alderneys are in possession of the grass Park of Comte de Flahault's and Lady Keith's at Tulliallan, and the rich traces of their presence are to be found in its cheese. The West Highlander is also no unfrequent tenant of the pastures, as we ride on past the gates of Torriburn, which furnished both the best blood sire (though one tinge of the dreaded h. b. made the decision void) and the head of the polled cow class, to the Highland Society at Kelso. Pretty beech glens fringe the road to Keavil, that home of Englishman and Seraphine 13th, and at last we see Mr. Barclay's snug grange half-hid in the oaks and planes " standing there in ages gone by," as Mr. Easton, the bailiff, observes. Our old friend was looking round in his hat of Leghorn straw, and was as full as ever of those dry aphorisms which have so often tickled the show-yard and the ring-side, where he is always so marked in his attentions to prima-donnas. Two weeks earlier, and we might have seen him looking like a perfect Boaz among the oat sheaves which had given such fruits of increase.
But the summer was past, and he was walking among a troop of Leicester ewes in the paddock, like a huntsman with his hounds. " Come awa', come awa', my wee doddies t" he says ; and even if they had not been hand-fed, they could not resist such blandishments. " Thirty ewes and their production" compose the Leicester flock, which is principally a cross between Lord Polwarth's and Mr. Cockburn's of Sisterpath. The " production " had been 51 from 26 that season ; and each year the tups go to the Edinburgh tup sale, or are sold at home. In the best year so far, twenty-two of them without the fleece averaged £5 15s. 44d. Thanks to the shelter and high feeding, Mr. Barclay calculates the fleece of the ewe hoggs at 10lbs., the ewes at 81bs., and the tup hoggs at 11lbs. The very sheds are worked on a regular rotation, and when the calves have done with them, the hoggs take their place, and eat turnips under shelter in the frosty nights. The same sort of scene-shifting, but of a more elaborate character, takes place in the stables, which are large enough for a master of hounds ; and with merely a manger alteration and a chain-pole, they help out the byres in the winter. There are about forty old and young in the herd and Captain Gunter's Northern Duke by Duke of Wetherby, and Mr. Bruere's Baron Booth by Prince George, have been purchased as the representative bulls of Bates and Booth.
Faith occupied a capital loose box made up by the union of two stalls, and the long and low Prudence looked as beautiful (though of course small in her horse-stall setting) as Little Lady, when that artistic light, in which Lord Stamford delighted, was wont to fall upon the bay in her Newmarket stable. The hens and turkeys are a great point here, and seem to have a most lordly time of it among the Portugal laurels. Turkey cocks and hens, by a sort of mysterious etiquette, separate towards the middle of the day, and sit demurely on separate rails. Mr. Barclay is as choice in these matters as he is in every thing else, both inside and outside his house, and adheres rigidly to the bronze-grey sort of Cambridgeshire. The Norfolk cross rather spoilt his size, and connoisseurs do say that the small black turkey from the North of France has done that county breed no good, At Keavil they average on their Indian corn, meal, rice, and potatoes, about I9lbs.all round at 6i months, but many of them are gradually` killed off: as poults.
But Mr. Easton will have us away among his "sappy queens," and we are not loathe to obey-the call. " There," he observes;" is, Erontlet from Mr. Adkins; Miss Burdett Courts, then one nearest you, The twins, red and roan,, you remember, only the roan has lost a 'piece of her tail. They both had calves ,when they were, only twenty-five months old. They're always together. The roan's "milked three times a day : we're a little kind to her. Yes, Mr. Culshaw always says that he thinks: he'll give them: a little somethingto eat.' Well, welt!I dare say we both mean the same, ' Mr., Culshaw's a man of discernment. The roan's Lady Mary and the red's Lady Anne i they are from Cruickshank'sLancaster by ,Lord Raglan. She had' a triplet ; it's a fact not more. curious than true. The third, a roan, came seven :hours after, when we had bedded the cow up for the night, and left her ; it was the finest of them all, but it got smothered. At Perth the red beat the roan, but the Kelso gentlemen reversed. it ` Come awa', my Serzphine 13th ! I met Captain Oliver lately, and he asked very kindly after her.. He was our opponent at Southcote. ' He's not easily beaten of. I said to Mr. Barclay: ' Go in, and give the Captain another "chokes it's as well to elo right as wrong.' So we got her for 250gs. She will bezjust three years and nine rin.onths, and she's had two calves, and in-calf again. She was- beaten at Stirling, and people came up. to me, and asked if it was right ; but on those occasions I sit down in my corner and `say nothing : it's the best way; talking doesn't avail. She was seen, ' We never fed her for it ; she was only led about this field for canniness.
`There's Water Maid, a nice deep roan of the old stamp, a great favourite of ours. She was, the prima donna of the Maynard sale ; Mr. Barclay gave 110 gs. for her. We have her portrait, as true a touch as I ever saw. What 'a plateau,' as they call it, she has over- the, loins! We've given Englishman the hest of the cows. We like to pay respect to the animal; and the man who had him. Those are both. English ladies—one from Sylph : Came to me, my darling! Sylphida—that's your name. Come, my gentle queen ! " This is Flower of Spring. No, no ! we've not for, gotten Emperor of Hindostan ; we've six by him, There's Lancaster 25th, with her son in the home park, under the plane-trees, called sycamores in the days of old. That's a neat little roan by Englishman out of Prudence. There's Platina, a white we've just enough whites; and we've got Royal Errant, who beat the Royal .Newcastle bull, for her, and to help the white into red. The Duke was very gracious about it Royal Errant's bred like Blue Belle—from a Cardigan cow.
"We'll get over into the next field. You jumped those iron rails well for a family man, and yet you must be tolerably stiff with all these peregrinations. Do you ever sleep at all ? That's Lady Raglan, darn of Flower of Spring. We'll just take the outside ones, and work to a centre. Here's Sylph, one of Duckling's sort--one of the Sir Samuels; and second at Lincoln Show. That's your old friend Prudence by High Sheriff : you liked her in the stable last year. They've fat backs, but they've only the pullings of the field and good constitutions to digest them. This is Annie Laurie. ' Come awa, Annie!' She's gay, young lady, as wild As a Highlander.` Englishman and her will make a fine cross., Faith's always by herself ; she would still be lonely at Mr. Sanday's. She broke down on us with a premature bull-calf. We hope better things of her : but she's all waves and hillocks to look at. Mr. Housman can dissect her down to a sixteenth part. He dissected, her very prettily a fortnight after we got her. He told us all about her. Nonpareil by The Baron—that's her. Her breeder parted with her in an evil hour. Only she and Lancaster 25th left out of that lot. The other two, Duchess 2nd and Matchless, were barren, and sold. If we had saved the triplet it would have squared matters. Last, though not least, there's Fan Fan, the white daughter of Sir James ; she has a calf, the image of Emperor, six months old. That's the town of Dunfermline on the hill ; the abbey and the spires, and the damask manufactory ; three acres for one of them. Upon my word, they are spreading their wings !
"This is the yard ; it's quite a menagerie here. There are no pig sales in these parts. Mr. Findlay gets all the pig money. They think it, about here, stiff enough at 20s. for one of eight weeks. There's one sow of our own breeding, and the others are Lord Wenlock's breed. That's the family ! One is a little too close bred, from a Wenlock and by a Wen-. lock ; its tail came, and it withered.
"The bulls are this way. That's Silver Duke : he's a nice waxy lad ; but this is his conqueror ! We've mostly Bates, with a mixture of Booth for emergencies. Here's a gentle thing, Emperor of Hindostan, but he's got the lion's share of the cows. He. stands well in the book. We've a twelve days' calf by him out of May Queen. Vine Dresser—look how he stands round to let you see his chest. That's an Englishman calf, and his dam's a beauty. We think as much of his father as any body's bull : I'm happy to say he's rallying he puts them all right on the top. ` Englishman ! here's an old friend come to see you.' He always roars this way when any one comes in that he doesn't know. He was blistered on the chest and gullet. We have given him aconite to act on his heart, and now he gets digitalis and green food,"
Not a Fife cow was to be found even as wet-nurse in the herd ; and now that they have been struck out of the Highland Society's list, we did not care to search for them beyond the Society's picture. Some of them had brocky faces, and the popular be-lief. is that they owed their origin to Germany. They are middle-sized horned blacks, not unlike the old Hamburgh breed, or it might be said a cross between an Ayrshire and an Angus, and alike good for the shambles and the dairy. Mr. Aiken of Carnbee had some of the last winners, and Mr. Stocks of Beveridge has still a dairy of them near Kinghorn. As a feeding county Fife stands very high, and pours out its beef supplies from February to June, with boundless plenty and precision. The Angus and Galloway beasts were once termed its "spring keepers," but the Shorthorns have gradually crept in during the last twenty years, and their quick feeding qualities have carried all before them. Its farmers breed very few sheep and cattle. They go to Melrose or St. Boswells for half and three-parts bred, as well as a few Cheviot lambs to winter ; but a good many crossbreds are bought at Glendevon, off the Ochil Hills. Their own great markets are at Cupar and Kinross, and their best feeding beasts are bred in Forfarshire and Kinross-shire ; but the bulk are bought at the Falkirks, and Hallow Fair. The largest feeders in Fife are the Duncans, Alexander, Thomas, and Robert of Pusk, Boghall, and Kirkmay, the Ballingalls, of Ayton, and Dunbog, and Alexander Reid of Cruivie,
The Sederunt, which established the Fife fox-hounds, was held on May 7th, 1805, at Cupar. Mr. Gillespie of Mountwhanny, Mr. Johnson, jun., of Lathrish, Mr. Patullo of Balhouffie, and Mr. Dalzel of Lingo composed it. It was proposed to raise 'boo a year for ten years ; and 'loo was promised in the room, General Wemyss, Sir W. Erskine, and Mr. J. A. Thomson gave L100 each, the Fife Hunt and four: other members L50, and six other Members, including the Sederunt, L25. The thin attendance was the cause of an adjournment for a month to the parlour of Mr. M'Claren, vintner, when Mr. Johnston was absent and Colonel Thomson present. There were some refusals, doubts, And "conversations" reported, but £75 more came in, Being armed with full powers, the seconds Sederunt went promptly to work. The., Harrier Kennels at Brock Hill were inspected and approved-of, a stable was built 30 feet by 14, and fresh land feued for a hound-yard from the Council of Cupar. A huntsman was advertised for in the York and Edinburgh newspapers, the whipper-in to the harriers was kept on, and David Law was fixed on for feeder, with this proviso, " if he can be got." Three horses were purchased for 4148 Is., And one was received as a compliment from Major Thomson, who was one of the first committee, with Sir Charles Halkett, Mr. R. Ferguson, Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Patullo, and Mr. Dalzel The financial part of the question was grappled with in a most business-like style, as the Secretary was empowered, on the 2nd of November, 1805, to "charge interest upon such subscriptions as remain in arrear from this date." The hounds that were purchased only cost L54 8s., and the drafts were advertised in the Edinburgh papers. All these precautions did not avail, as on March 24th, 1809, there was a debt due to the treasurer of £563 7.s., and only a very problematical chance of getting in two years' arrears of £100 to set against it. The next Sederunt compared their accounts with those of the East Lothian, and came to the determination to have "a total change of servants." The change was not for the better, and the debt swelled to nearly a couple of hundred more, and affairs became so puzzling that Mr. Rigg offered to keep the hounds for L800 a year. His offer was accepted, and the debt was more - than half paid off when the first ten years had expired.
They were then established for another five years, no subscription to be received under £25." General Wemyss, Mr. Christie of Durie, Mr. Rigg, Captain Hay, and Mr. Moncreiff became the committee- of management, and £50 was' "supposed to be voted by the Fife Hunt as formerly." It was also settled that Cupar and Dunfermline should be the stations for the twenty couple. The hounds were to go to the latter town after the October meeting of the Fife Hunt for as long as the gentlemen in that quarter wished to have them, to Cupar till after the spring meeting of the Hunt, and then finish up the season in Forfar or any neighbouring county the committee might appoint. So far, so good ; but some hitch would seem to have arisen in the Dunfermline country, as by a New Inn minute, the proprietors of coverts in Clackmannan and Kincardineshire were begged not to destroy foxes. Shortly after this a five years' arrangement was come to with the Perthshire men, through Sir David Moncreiff, to subscribe £480, and have the two Cupars and Bridge of Earn as the prim, cipal stations for the ensuing year. Towards the close of the season of 1820-21, Captain Douglas wrote to say that Lord Kintore was leaving the Forfar country, and that there was a wish in the county to combine the hunts. The committee were accordingly authorized to "confer with the gentleman from Angus," and, as Mr. Rigg stated that "the game is very scarce in Fife," the hounds hunted in Forfar for the remainder of the season.
In 1821, the two packs were united, and two gentlemen from each county formed' the' Coalition Cabinet. Thee leading conditions ran thus: "No covers to be drawn North of Lawrence-kirk or West of Belmont; and in case of a separation, the Fife men to draw twenty five couple of the running hounds by ballot, and the Forfar fifteen, and divide the puppies." This arrangement went on for three years, at the end of which time the Forfar gentlemen were £795 15s. 5d. in arrear, and as it could not be recovered, '800 had to be borrowed, and the hounds were handed over by a deed of transfer to the gentlemen who had become answerable for it. The West Lothian men did much better, and being inclined for five weeks' sport in 1842, they offered £200 and paid it.
Having thus acquired a sort of national debt, things began of course to look up. On July 27th, 1827, Captain Wemyss and Mr. Whyte Melville were appointed joint managers, and after eleven seasons, the whole management was vested in the latter, by whose Gladstonian manipulation of ways and means and Will Crane's and John Walker's fine science as hunts-men the hounds were carried bravely on until the end of the 1847–48 season, when they were sold for £500 to Sir Richard Sutton, and Walker went to succeed Will Grice, or rather Jack Woodcock (who hunted the hounds for one season), at Wynnstay. Thus the old Fife Hunt ended with a balance of L40 9s. 5d., which was paid over at the beginning of 185o to Earl Rosslyn on behalf of the New Fife fox-hounds.
A friend has sent us a slight resume of the " Merry John" days : " Will Crane died in the middle of the 1829-30 season, and John Walker from Lord Kintore's succeeded him, and was huntsman for eighteen seasons. Captain Wemyss found the horses and Mr. Whyte Melville the hounds. The kennels were at Cupar, and also at Torriburn, twenty-one miles from it, in the west of the country, where the hounds went for three weeks in the autumn, and three weeks in the spring. Dunfermline was then the head-quarters for the scarlets. In Fife there is a finer scent over the fallows than the grass. The east part is old grass. We could race in the west when the dust was flying, and we could do nothing in the centre or the east. There were great meets in the west, and the foxes never turned their heads. Mr. Ramsay's hunt used to join in then.
"The whole country is a fine mixture of plough, grass; and sheep-walks. We had some beautiful runs over heather, straight across the Dollar Hills. We had also some rare runs with Walker from Belliston; Stravithey Gorse, Kidd's Whin, Largo Law, Mount Melville, and Bishop's Gorse. One of our very best was from Scots Craig, one hour and ten minutes, to Crail. Walker was close on his fox, and they ran him down to the water edge. We saw 'Charley's' ears twinkle, and then he swam out to sea 150 yards, with the hounds after him, and sank like a stone. The whole body of the pack swam round and round the place where he disappeared, and then gave it up ; but Vaulter stopped and retrieved him. There was always a very large field on the Edinburgh or Kirkcaldy side, and the officers from Jock's Lodge barracks. Sir Hope Grant, Captain Percy Williams, and the 9th Lancers were there. John Walker used to say that there were sometimes nearly thirty in the field who would all make huntsmen or first-whips, and no small credit to him for the teaching he gave them.
"Lord Elcho and Sir David Baird were often with them, and so were Major Douglas and Lord Kintore ; three Captains, Hay on Wasp, Wemyss on his bay Driver, and Wedderburn on his thoroughbreds, all went well and so did Mr. Gillespie of Mount Quhanny, Lord Rothes of Leslie (a light weight), the two Stewarts of St. Fort, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Whyte Melville on Malvern, General Lawrenson, and others still going or gone. Tom Smith, Jack Jones, Stephen Goodall, and Cooper, all whipped in to Walker, whose favourite horses were Grocer, Doctor, Kitty, Lucy, Clinker, Farmer, Major, and the grey mare Nutmeg. There were no hounds for one season after the pack were. sold ; but Mr. John Grant of Kilgraston hunted Perthshire occasionally from Sir David Moncreiff's kennels, near Bridge of Earn, and then sold his hounds to Sir Watkin. Then Captain Thomson kept hounds for one season at Charleton. He had' the Donnington dog pack, which he purchased from Mr. John Story and Mr. Seymour Blanc. Will Skene, one of Walker's disciples, was head man, and Charles Pike from the Devon whipped in. They were very short of foxes, and the hounds run roe-deer like fury. Many of ,them went back with the Captain to Atherstone, and they turned out very well.
" Lord Rosslyn established the present pack, and managed it with Mr. Balfour of Balbirnie Mr. Oswald, Mr. Peter Paterson, Mr. John Haig, and Mr. Frederick Wedderburn, for six seasons ; while Captain Thomson-was with the Atherstone, and in 1858 Captain Thomson took to them again, along with Lord Rosslyn, for a season, and had his first day in Melville Woods. Lord Rosslyn joined Lord Derby's administration, and went to the War Office the next season ; and Captain Thomson carried them on up to the spring of '64. He then went to the Pytchley, and under the next master, Col. Babington, the country was hunted five days a fortnight, instead of three days a week. At the close of last season Mr. Balfour of Balbirnie took them for two seasons, so that we have' had many changes of Ministry."
The New. Inn at Fruchie, Fife, has been for sixty years a favourite tryst for the Sederunt, and it rose in 185o to kennel dignity. Potts, Jack Grant, and Oxtoby were all huntsmen there in turn, and Captain Thomson put up Fred Turpin, who had whipped
and then hunted the hounds, in consequence of Oxtoby's illness, the last season. Fred completed his fifth season with the Captain, and then they parted, one to the Pytchley and the other to the Vale of White Horse, The Inn is only one in name now, and " the iron horse " runs close past it, and mocks the fate it created. It lies pretty nearly in the-centre of the country, and it is only necessary to go to Nottingham, two fields away, in order to -find- a fox-Lomond Hill is hardly two miles off, and when it does require routing, about four times a season, every hound that is fit bears part. Forty-four couple were in it one day, and after working among six brace of foxes for eight hours, a brace were killed, and a brace marked to. ground.
Its hunting stable was principally filled with Irish horses bought in Perth. " The Dentist" had knocked out the teeth of a dealer, for a standing testimony against ginger. There, too were Snapdragon, Crinoline (a fine lengthy mare, but not so dear to Fred as Kathleen), the big Victor Emmanuel, the lop-eared chestnut ! Kangaroo ;(and a trimmer if he were not touched in the wind), and Ben with a knee bound up, which "is no disgrace to a Fife hunter." Strange horses always cut themselves on the curb place in Fife. The ditch on the taking-off side is 1 yards from the wall, and if they drop short they don't get their hocks over. Walker always obviated this by going as hard as he could, and clearing everything. Captain Thom-son's horses were at Charleton, and from the Lothians they an be seen with a good telescope, at exercise along the sands; The slashing chestnut " Highlander," bought out of a drove at Brachia, would be good to tell at that distance, if sixteen-three and six feet-and five have anything- to do with it ; and so would Gladiator: and the six-season grey Unicorn. HighLander was by Ferneley, the property of Lord Strathmore, out of an Arab half-bred mare which ran in the Defiance coach. Phoebus, the sorrel stallion by a Norfolk Phenomenon horse out of a thorough-bred mare, was as stout as a castle, and a clever as a cat, and so was a - horse pony from the Atherstone country, where his owner had been laid up for two months with a broken bone in his leg.
The heads of Syren and of Benefit, that mother of the Gracchi, adorned Fred's chimney-piece, with photographs of his father-in-law Will Danby, and Blossom, while the skin of the big Blucher hung like a mantle over his chair. Benefit, by Burton Cornus from their Benefit, came originally in a draft from Dick Burton. She was so bad in the distemper that Mr. Henley Greaves thought she was not worth carrying away, but Captain Thomson took her in the Burton draft along with the Donnington dog pack of 32 couple, to Fife in '49. Her Blossom by Atherstone Ravisher was an especial pet, and the Captain only retained her and her sort, when he sold off at Stratton Audley in '57. She had fourteen puppies that season to Morrell's Bajazet, and four couple of them were still running to head in their fourth season, and among them Bonny Lass, " the largest and most powerful combined with quality" that her owner ever bred. Her nose was the same to the last even in her tenth season, and " her lovely eyes " were as bright as ever. Blucher was the solitary puppy of her old age, and she died in whelping him. In one of her litters she had seventeen, and with wet-nurse aid she reared sixteen. Fertility runs in the sort, as she had forty-one in three successive litters, and Trifle her daughter died with sixteen. Syren was not so shy in the field as she was at the Guisboro' Show. During the season after her victory there, she came cantering to meet Captain Thomson as he rode up to the meet at Mount Melville, and happening to touch his horse's hock with her nose, the white lashed out and killed her on the spot.
Once upon a time, hounds could always make a fight over Fife, but now drains and guano tell their tale only too surely. It is a good scenting country, but four-fifths of it is on the plough. There is no hedgerow timber, so that you see mischief before you, but plenty of brooks and ravines, which require a man to know the handy places, or disappear then and there from the front. From east to west—Cambo to Shaw Park-it can be very little short of sixty miles, and there is a vast expanse between the Tay and Forth from Queen's Ferry to Kilgraston. The east, of which the best part is from Ceres eastward, is mostly old pasture, and its farmers ride far harder than the west country men. The foxes often run along the sands, and then sit down under ledges of the rock, and the hounds work it out, feeling like their rough-haired brethren, for the scent in the waves, and speaking to it here and there on a stone. Most of the covers are young plantations with gorse, but they are getting very hollow at the bottom. Kidd's Whin belongs to Captain Thomson, and was made by Walker during its owner's schooldays in four bits of ten or twelve acres each ; and it was there that " Merry John" claims to have blooded in due form both Captain Thomson and Major Whyte Melville—an afternoon's work well worth remembering. Stravithie is also a very strong and noted gorse of twenty-six acres, and the finest woodlands are Melville, Falkland, Airdrie, the Earl of Leven's woods, Dhu Craigs, &c.
Captain Thomson generally kept about forty-two couple of working hounds, and ran them mixed. Charleton, New Inn, and Torriburn were all stations, and much they were needed ; but Cupar was desolate. The old kennels form part of the coal depot at the railway, the flags are in the Charleton kennel, and old Shepherd, the feeder, is still in commission at New Inn. The hounds were out in the meadow behind, and a wave from the Captain would have sent them off in a crack to make inquiries at Notting-ham. Old age was creeping on the grey-eyed Rally-wood ; Ornament, half-brother to the late Tom Sebright's beloved Ottoman, looked as if he had been " boxing a bit ; " and Ravisher of the delicate nose had got it all scratched in puzzling out his fox the evening before, among the ivied ruins of Balmerino Ravisher and Ransom by Wemyss's. Ringwood were the only Blossoms left out of the seventeen, and have all the fine, low-scented properties of their grand-sire, Drake's Duster. There, too, were Bajazet, Bondsman, and Bonny Lass; but Baronet, 'the best of the litter, was found dead near the railway bridge at Perth, and there had been as much lamentation over him as there was for Syren, Benny Lass, one of Fred's "premium lasses" at Redcar, was of course called up to verify what so much astonished Captain Williams and his tape-line, viz., that she is 29 inches round the heart and 5 inches below the knee.
Dairymaid was another of the Redcar three couple, and as good as an otter hound among the rocks; and Tempest, Charmer, Symmetry (a niece of Syren's), and Tragedy made up the prize lot, which had a long seaside ramble on the: Redcar, morning, arid came to the pest as clean as smelts. Conqueror is a genadier to look at, but always there when there is a pace ; so is Ringwood, one of the big Bramham blue and whites, hard in temper, but capital in work, and the sire of a capital litter from Captive. Matron is a regular chub, and Melody all life, with too short ears . " She's a merry beast: all the Marlboroughs were," said Fred, enunciating this great truth with a deeply solemn face. Then the Master chimes in : As for Trooper, if Fife were not almost an island, he couldn't have been kept in . it, though he: gee out every day." Ranter, has been out thirteen times' running ; but the sort are all hard tempers, and difficult to break, and the very flesh has to be knocked off their bones to keep them quiet"
And so we run through them. There is the red Wildfire, so often in front that she has been mistaken for a fox ; Rhoderick, the law and thick line-hunter, who runs in the middle of the pack, and of course kills the foxes; Sportsman and Songstresse, the, last of the Syrens, good in themselves, and loved for her sake ; Struggler and Striver, lathy, but full of drive ; little Damsel, light over the chine, but never idle ; Favourite from Fashion, whom Captain Williams declared to be the best ; Barmaid, simply "a trimmer ; " the half-faced Reginald, " about our leader, who'll turn at a mile for his master's whistle;" Standard, " my best friend," though he has one eye, and his toes all but broken by a Rufford trap ; Rhapsody, small but very pretty ; Ransom, who can carry it further along a road than any of them ; and Mystery, who was buried in a sand-bank for nearly half-an-hour, and was speechless when she was rescued, and yet scratched up to her fox again, and held him till they were dug out.
For slow work Standard and Bajazet were the best, and Struggler and Reginald quite the leaders of 'the guides." Standard was entered by Oxtoby, and narrowly escaped being hung for roe deer; and Winsome was steady in her devotion to Lord Rosslyn. She was walked at Dysart, and would never leave his lordship; except for a fox, and then finish 300 yards up a drain at times.
The last day of the Captain's reign was at Kilgraston. They found at Glencairn, and ran to Invermay, but they could hold the line no longer in such dry weather. However, they drew Glencairn again, and gave it up after a couple of hours. Bonny Lass and Tempest died the same evening. Both were fall of puppies, and there was an ulcerated ring round the neck of every one of them, which puzzles the profession to this hour.