IT would be hard to find anywhere more picturesque for a pack of hounds to meet than Roberts Cove, situated between Kinsale and Crosshaven, on that very fashionable bit of coastline, south of Cork city and not far from the dormitory suburb of Carrigaline.
For all that, it has avoided hotel and other tourist-related development and has but two pubs, sadly neither of which were open that morning.
When we saw hounds being unboxed by their new huntsman Padhraic Moynihan, we knew it wasn’t going to be a buckets and spades day. He comes from Killarney and comes with a strong hunting C.V. He started with the Kingdom Hunt before taking on his first professional engagement as first whipper-in to Gavin Shorten in the Tipps where he remained for two seasons.
He then moved on to the East Essex, followed by The United in Shropshire and finishing his UK sojourn with The Surrey Union as Kennel Huntsman. Like many an Irishman before him, he became homesick for the green fields and rolling hills which brought him back to hunt the Carlow Farmers last season. He has now returned close to the land of his birth with the South Union.
He didn’t come solo and brought a real keen hunting girl, Rachel Welham, back with him from his time with the East Essex. His family were further represented in the field by his brother Gearoid, an electrician who turns hounds to him, and his young sister Sheena who is studying veterinary nursing in Athlone.
His co-whipper-in Donal Lordan certainly needed no introduction as he has been part of the team for longer than anyone can remember. For all that, he has lost none of his youthful exuberance and drive and is never found wanting when the chips are down. Donal runs a very successful caravan park near his home in Ballinspittle. Missing on the day were Allen O’Reilly and Brendan Hourihan, both playing a county final with their club, Ballinora. Also missing was area manager John McCann who suffered a family bereavement during the week.
Padhraic had 14 and a half couple out, a mixture Old English, modern with a dash of Welsh no doubt from his days on the Welsh borders with the United. Just a short hack to the centre of the village and a few welcoming words from hunt treasurer, Dane Curtis, who has really become engrained in all things associated with the hunt.
He is dad to Ben Curtis, the leading flat jockey with winnings of more than €1 million so far this year. Dane grew up in the home counties where he ran some very substantial businesses. The Curtis family are keen sailors and on a fateful occasion when they were intent on sailing across the Atlantic, they got windswept into Kinsale and very wisely never left. Hunt chairman Liam Burke and his wife Marie, who run a dairy farm near Inishannon where hounds had met the previous week for their last day of autumn hunting, were both out.
Photos taken with the Wild Atlantic Way as a backdrop, hounds went just outside the village to draw a huge field of beet, owned by Kevin O’Leary. Hounds spoke almost immediately but such was the size of the field and the amount of cover provided, eventually our huntsman had to lift his hounds and hack back through the village to draw the coastal farm of Benny Gash leading on to Crowley’s, both farms skirting the sea and mostly laid down to tillage.
As hounds were drawing, it gave us an opportunity to catch up with some old friends and hunting companions like Breeda McCarthy (the galloping grandmother) whose hunting goes right back to Col. Hayes of Crosshaven who hunted hounds in the ‘60s. She was out with her son Gary Murphy and his daughter Sarah.
Visiting from the Muskerry was joint-master Killian Lynch as was Catriona Beame from Duhallow. Willie Carrigan made the trip south from Tipperary and was relishing the change of scenery. No day in South Union would be complete without Sheila Corrigan on her faithful black cob, known to one and all as Podge. When not hunting, Sheila runs the Regina Mundi School in Douglas.
Another familiar face was Yvonne Broderick on her good bay. She hosted this season’s puppy show at her home where all attendees, both canine and human, were marvellously looked after.
But the sociability couldn’t last as hounds spoke and ran along the headland back towards the village. So open was the country that field-master John Cantillon on his good coloured was able to let the field gallop full tilt covering as much ground as they liked. John, a dairy farmer from Waterfall, previously hunted the Sth Union and has now joined David Burke and Imelda O’Donnell in the mastership of the Grallagh Harriers in Galway.
Galloping on with best was Isabelle Lordan (Donal’s daughter) on a nice bay who was brought on for her by Tommy Hurley of the Conna Harriers. Isabelle is a real all-rounder, as well as being a teacher, she now helps milk a herd of cows on her days off. Also going like smoke were the Crowley family, dad Paul with young Mike and Lauren. Well they might, the Crowleys are a blacktype family, whose uncle is no less than Ballydoyle jockey Wayne Lordan. Hounds ran on through Henry Daunt’s and Con Foott’s farm before taking refuge in a deep glen and was given best.
Hounds then crossed the road to draw yet another field of beet and they hunted well with marvellous music. All the while we met another stalwart of the chase, Fran O’Callaghan, with whom I hunted for many seasons with the Muskerry, The Clare, other places too numerous to mention. Happily fully recovered from a really nasty fall a couple of seasons ago, she was there with Justin Crosbie who is in the wine trade.
A field of beet must be a most welcoming home for Reynard because he showed no inclination to leave its hospitable surrounds. Eventually our huntsman had to lift his hounds and drew on through Foott’s very extensive farm which, alas, proved blank.
With shadows lengthening, hounds and the field returned to Robert’s Cove where the tide had conveniently come in and the field washed off in the Wild Atlantic way. Happily at least one of the hostelries had opened for the afternoon and riders were able to recharge the batteries, reliving the day before wending their way home.