EVEN in these straightened hunting times, lawn meets are always special and when the location is the aptly named Windsor, which shares many of the characteristics of its aristocratic namesake, you can’t go wrong.
For starters it is owned by Muskerry joint-master John Crean whose business, CMP Road Planing, is based nearby in Kilumney. He and his wife Grainne only recently bought this farm overlooking Kilumney village and over the space of a year or so have transformed it from a run down establishment into a show piece with all brand new farm buildings, stable block, and all that goes with it.
Hunting on foot
This was something of a first for us as the Muskerry were hunting on foot having fallen victim to what is the scourge of all that is good in Irish country life – Public Liability Insurance. For all that, they have wisely decided to hunt on with foot hunting cover but are determined to do it properly with hunt staff properly turned out in their hunt coats, riding breeches, long stockings and running boots.
The stable block was already awash with hunt supporters from both the Muskerry and the nearby South Union, whom we hunted with recently from their opening meet in Robert’s Cove.
It had been planned as a joint meet but the South’s had come down with kennel cough so it was just the huntsman Padhraic Moynihan with veteran whipper-in Donal Lordan, and field-master John Cantillon making up the visiting group.
Warm and merry
The hospitality started with a log brazier burning merrily outside so the chill could be taken from visitors before joined in the festivities. It was all semi-outdoor so all Covid formalities were in order. For all that, it was a festive scene that greeted us with enough food and drink to equip an Antarctic exploration.
Speaking of which, our host for the day, John Crean, is a close relation of the legendary Antarctic explorer Tom Crean. John was out with his family – young Daragh, Charlie and Grace, aged 5, with mum Grainne, who originally hails from Durrus deep in West Cork.
They were on hand to welcome all, be they local land owners or hunt followers. Senior master, the ever debonaire Robert Harkin, and his better half Kay with daughter Sophia were there, making sure everyone was properly refreshed.
It was in Kilumney I first met Chantal Lynch on a day’s hunting before she met and married Killian, now joint-master. Chantal is a research pharmacologist in one of Cork’s burgeoning pharma factories and was there with the apple of their eye, young Rochelle.
Making up the quartet of masters was huntsman Ken Grandon with his whipper-in, young Daniel O’ Riordan, whose dad recently featured on the front cover of the Irish Horse World with 12 and a half couple smashing Old English hounds. Neighbouring farmers Liam Riordan with Denis and Peter Murphy, had stepped in to see hounds off. Course builder Tony Hurley and his son Niall were enjoying the festivities as were Fran O’Callaghan and Justin Crosbie, a man to know as, being in the wine trade, he knows the difference between a Bordeaux and a Burgundy (give me the former any day!).
All too soon, hunt coats were donned and with photos taken, hounds moved off to draw some covert on the farm. With many still watching with refreshments in hand, hounds spoke and basically with very short breaks, hunted non-stop until our huntsman blew for home around 3pm with runners having covered almost 13 km according to their smart phones.
And with Christmas only round the corner, nothing was left but a return visit to Windsor with the brazier and the barbeque still alight to relive the day.
Chairman: Brendan Browne
Master and Huntsman: Ken Grandon (2014)
Joint-masters: John Crean (2014), Killian Lynch (2014), Robert Harkin (2003).
Whippers-in: Killian Lynch, Daniel O’Riordan
Kennel huntsman: Allan Garrigan
Field-master: Eamonn Grainger
Honorary secretary: Donie O’Riordan
Meets: Wednesday and Saturday, 11.30am
Reputedly the oldest pack in Ireland, though neighbouring Duhallow might dispute this claim. They go right back to the Tonson-Rye family of Rye Court in 1742.