By Lyn Harber
Reviewed by David Harcombe
When I settled down to read this book I came to page 8 and knew that I was on to something out of the ordinary, run of the mill, hunting/working dog book. For page 8 tells us a little of the work of the Hospice of the Valleys and profits from this volume will go to that worthy charity. Lyn Harber had kick started me into feel-good mode; what a magnificent gesture from a man about to publish his first book, which must have consumed many hours of time, travel and effort. This is a book written for no other purpose than to record the experiences of the author and the characters involved over a period of many years spent hunting, digging, drinking and singing with the larger than life characters of Lakeland, an area long since famed for such activities.
Lyn hails from south Wales but the people and the foxhound packs of Cumbria had an irresistible attraction for him and he spent much of his time indulging it. He writes from personal experience, which is always the best recipe for truth and authentic knowledge. No airy fairy theory or second hand speculation here, he tells it as it is and as it happened, and while doing so, brings to our attention some characters that have rarely been well known outside their own circle.
There are hunt histories and records, tales of epic moments for hounds, terriers, huntsmen and diggers and, detailed for all time, lyrics of many of the famous and not-so-famous hunting songs which used to be sung at the regular functions and after-hunt gatherings. Sadly, much of this has now passed into history, the great characters have gone and will never be replaced, many of the “hunting pubs” now cater for other, more sophisticated clients and those of us who were “never there” can only curse ourselves for missing out on it.
I particularly like the chapter on terrier man Pete Doey and his comments “fell terriers should be rough and ready little dogs that just want to work” and, commenting on some grand runs, “somewhere in these hunts there’s been a little tyke that probably nobody noticed, but just got on, did its job and made the day what it was.” As Pete also penned an excellent Terrier Song and another called John Nicholson’s Retirement Song then it is obvious that, besides being a fine terrier man, he has a talent with words.
Another excellent chapter focuses on Thomas Burton, terrier man to the Duke of Beaufort for the last thirteen years but who served his early time with the Lunesdale, who writes comprehensively on his career, including his involvement in the hunting protests when the traitors of the Labour Party tried to ban us. One chapter features Wendy Pinkney (née Bell) and she is just as blunt and outspoken in print as in person! Daughter of the famed Maurice Bell, she gives her views on terriers, hounds, terrier men and huntsmen and is always prepared to stand by her opinions. And why not? She has hunted her father’s pack and worked and bred her own terriers in company with the best, and her intelligent thoughts are always very valid.
There are items on the late Arthur Wells and Bill Crisp, two characters who are, sadly, no longer with us and personally, I would have liked to know much more about these two, perhaps Lyn will expand the details in any further volume. I know that Lyn had a very high regard for Arthur and his terriers and Bill Crisp penned many classic Lakeland songs, including the hilarious Early Morning Hunt with Carol and The Little Brown Dog.
All in all, this is an excellent volume
with a view of Lakeland days and nights, which is slightly unusual and,
in many ways, reflects the author’s character, which is as it
should be. I thoroughly enjoyed it and if there is to be a next volume,
I look forward to it and wish Lyn the sales he (and his Hospice Charity)
so richly deserves.