THE fog was mighty as we made the short journey from home to the cross of Knockainey for a meet of the Co Limerick Foxhounds. Lesser souls would have put it back to 12 noon or perhaps abandoned altogether, but huntsman Fergus Stokes was determined to go ahead. Was there a hint of sunshine on the horizon as we arrived? Well Fergus certainly thought so and, as in most things connected with hunting, he was proven right.

On the dot of 11am, as if by magic, the fog lifted showing the glorious Limerick countryside at its best. Debutante hunt chairman Liz Barry of Manister House Stud, who is taking her new role seriously, was there and rarely misses a day but sadly, nowadays only on foot. Those who felt they had quite a while to un-box suddenly had to get at it and be on their horses in quick order.

It wasn’t the biggest gathering ever but what it lacked in quantity, it more than made up for in quality. All the joint-masters were out perhaps for the first time this season, John Halley MRCVS had made the trip from Fethard, his first day out from the rigours of the sales season. From Fethard also was Jack Ronan who is a real Limerick regular, joint-masters Emma Thompson, now resident in Clonshire House for the duration of hunting, and Niall Foley had made the trip from Middleton where he is one of the main players in the United FH, currently going through a revival.

Bearing gifts

The village’s only pub was firmly shut but the deficiency was somewhat overcome by a visiting master from the Devon, George Lionel Smith, who has become something of a regular in the Limerick field.

Like the wise men from the east, he came bearing gifts, neither frankincense nor myrrh but something much more appropriate to strengthen the resolve of riders having to face the biggest and best that Limerick has to offer.

Area managers for the day were the hard working couple of Timmy and Adrienne O’Connell from nearby Bottomstown. Adrienne has only recently taken on the role of vice chairman of the hunt and we can but wish her well in this onerous task. When not hunting, Timmy is the farrier to the stars, keeping the McManus horses well trimmed and shod, including the legendary Istabraq. In fact it could be said that he has shod more Cheltenham winners than any farrier ever.

Of course no day in Limerick could be complete without the long serving and hard working secretary Deirdre Hogan, out on the veteran home-bred Happy. A pedigree full of blacktype, her mother, Dorothy McNamara, was one of the outstanding point-to-point riders of her generation while her uncle, P.P. Hogan, was possibly the finest cross-country rider of all time.

Ollie Hartigan, John Halley MFH and David Bevan at the Co Limerick Foxhounds meet at Knockainey \ Catherine Power

Steeped in racing and hunting

Knockainey is steeped in racing and hunting history. Knockainey Stud, just a stone’s throw from the meet, produced no less than two Derby winners - Ard Patrick and Galtee More in 1902 and 1897 respectively. It was then the property of John Gubbins who was also master and huntsman of the Co Limerick Foxhounds of the day.

Now still a major force in the racing world, Knockainey is currently the property of Neilus Hayes who has enjoyed considerable success on the turf, particularly with the famed Risk of Thunder whom he hunted before the horse found fame and fortune on the track in the ownership of Sean Connery.

With all gates open, Neilus and his wife Miriam were on hand to see hounds through their busy racing and hunting yard which was a hive of activity. Their daughter Kate was not out on the day as she is studying equine science in UCD.

The scene could be out of a Daniel Crane painting as Fergus and whipper-in David Beecher, followed by the field, took their fabulous pack of Old English to their first draw on the stud.

So even were they, that every one of them could have been from the same litter, and none would have been found wanting were they to be shown at Stradbally. Farrier Ruairi Brennan was riding up front and giving a hand as required with gates and so forth. Nearby farmer Dave Bevan was out but his wife Emma was on foot as she is recovering from a broken wrist.

No such fate had befallen the Hartigan’s with Ollie and Helen, who farm nearby in Lough Gur, and Anne Marie O’Leary from Athlacca out, rarely missing a day.

Field-master for the day was Niall Foley whose father James was whipper-in to the legendary Hugh Robards back in the day. For all that, Knockainey had no resident fox and hounds went back on the road and on to draw Seamus Halpin’s farm and jump into Tommy Cooke’s where Peggy Cook was there to see them through. The last time we were there, Sarah, their daughter, was out on her good cob but on this day she was missing as she is studying veterinary medicine in far away Warsaw. Mother and son team Emma and Ben Buckley from Crecora were out and going well.

As they were drawing on through Bottomstown, Scarteen visitor Billy Halligan was forced to go beagling for a field or two. However, the other members of the Scarteen delegation, led by John Gleeson complete with his trademark cigar, had a clear round.

With ideal weather conditions, they drew on to hunt treasurer Mathew Lloyd’s estate at Kilballyowen. Mathew was out on his ongoing bay who, as usual, was quite a handful. Kilballyowen has loads of cover and has never failed to hold and Monday was no exception.

Orchestra strikes up

Hounds had barely touched down when the Limerick Orchestra struck up. Whipper-in David Beecher’s face was more scratches than skin from an earlier angry exchange of views with a particularly thorny bush in which the bush came off better! It obviously impaired neither his vision nor enthusiasm as he viewed Reynard away with a rousing ‘holloa’ which could have been heard in Bruff.

With hounds flying, they ran hard for the old disused quarries at Knockderk where Reynard took them on a tour of the hills and plantations, almost to the Herbertstown road, before taking refuge in a huge heap of boulders left over from quarrying days.

The plan was to go back towards Bulgaden for the next draw but as hounds hacked through Kilballyowen, another fine dog fox, perhaps returning from a night of romance (it’s that time of the year), crossed their path and hounds took off for a tour of the estate. They again made for Knockderk and ran through Cringer almost as far as Patrickswell Church before swinging right-handed and returning to Kilballyowen, where a welcoming shore was found.

It was the end of a most enjoyable day both for riders and a huge platoon of car followers.

Hounds made the short hack back to Knockainey where, no doubt, George L. Smith rendered some sustenance before riders boxed up.


Co Limerick Foxhounds

Kennels - Clonshire Adare

Chairman - Liz Barry

Masters - John Halley MRCVS, Emma Thompson, Niall Foley

Honorary Secretary - Dee Hogan

Point-to-point secretary - Dee Hogan

Hunter trials secretary - Sue Foley

Huntsman - Fergus Stokes

Whipper-in - David Beecher

Field-master - Niall Foley MFH

Country hunted: Co Limerick, the biggest and best of banks, ditches with walls, in the Wednesday country around Askeaton.


In or around 1828 or 1830, Mr Croker of Ballinagarde started a scratch pack of foxhounds with Geo Fosberry as Master. Mr Fosberry held office until his death about 1845 when a committee of three took over.

Some former masters include: (1881-86) John Gubbins, (1908-22) Nigel Baring (Barings Bank), (1933-36) Lady Helen McCalmont, (1946-1990) Lord Daresbury, (1987-89) Lord Harrington (1997-99), Lady Melissa Brooke, (1999-2001) Kate Jarvey Meets: Monday, Wednesday, Saturday