The hunt was established in 1838, then in 1895 two hunts amalgamated, the Tynan Harriers and the Armagh Harriers and renamed the Tynan and Armagh Harriers. They celebrated their centenary in 1995.
Tynan and Armagh Hunt
Chairman - Brian Dougan
Masters - Andrew Phillips, Brian Dougan, Wilson Faloon and Roy McCall
Huntsman - Oliver Little
Whippers-in - Samual Phillips, Philip Singleton
Field-Master - Andrew Phillips
Honorary Secretary - Lady Sheil
Honorary Treasurer - Maud Black
THE Tynan and Armagh Hunt are rooted in the community, proud farming stock passing on their rich traditions to the next generation, an appreciation for the beauty of the countryside and crossing natural country on horseback but never forgetting their civic responsibilities.
In this case the first duty was to present a cheque raised at the recent Children’s Meet where 104 children turned out on horseback to support the Southern Hospice and The Northern Ireland Air Ambulance Service. The masters, junior members and Sadie Keys (4), riding her pony Timmy, lined up as Flo McCall accepted the cheque for the Southern Area Hospice and Liz McCarragher represented the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance service which also backs up the rescue services in the South of Ireland.
The service costs £2.5 million a year to operate much of it by voluntary donations. And I met Sean Gordon who is chairman of the point-to-point committee who has given unstinting service as a paramedic in the emergency services for 46 years, some through troubled times and at all hours of the day and night. He told me that he has delivered at least seven babies during that time, a truly remarkable achievement.
It was my first time visiting the Tynan and Armagh Hunt and I must say the hospitality was superb. The meet hosts, Andrew and Denise Phillips, opened their door to the followers with the kitchen heaving with supporters many bringing bottles and other tasty treats. There were pots boiling, cakes, and tea on tap and you could smell the aroma of the cloves in the mulled wine to get the followers into cross-country mood.
But I was amazed at the number of young people hunting, and it was evident that the adults work hard at providing country and sport to ensure that there is a bright future for the hunt. They also have a very active Pony Club.
Andrew’s wife Denise and his mother Sylvia were the perfect hosts in their large kitchen and in case anyone forgot, there was a large painted sign on the wall with the hunt name ‘The Tynan & Armagh Hunt’ emblazoned across it.
It was also a special day for a fit-looking Dr Ken Livingstone who also hunts with the Newry Harriers as he was celebrating a little over three score and ten birthday.
Four hunters left joint-master and host of the meet Andrew Philip’s yard who was joined by his daughters Alex and Beth, and his son Samuel whipping-in, all talented riders. Alex was riding a 24-year-old mare hunting for her 20th season, but the horse’s appearance and performance all day belied her age.
Andrew’s father Robert was following in his jeep with friends Sean Gordon and David Armstrong, the latter who is out of action temporarily due to an injury. One man that was sadly missed was Jim Donaldson who was starter at the hunt point-to-point for many years and passed away recently. Ellie McCann was one of the first to arrive, looking very stylish riding side saddle. She has a great seat and she reminded me of Maria McNamara of the Galway Blazers who also hunts side saddle. She had perfect balance all day jumping on her 23-year-old Irish Sport Horse and particularly the positive way she approached every obstacle, jumping off roads, over drops, trunks of trees, post and rails and hedges - a really remarkable exponent of side saddle riding.
The Pony Club is really strong in the hunt, and the line-up of young riders, all immaculately turned out, was refreshing. They were all talented riders, no taking it handy, they rode on at every fence showing that they were in their element crossing country.
A key to the success of the hunt is the great stability in the mastership, with joint-masters Andrew Phillips, Wilson Faloon, Roy McCall and Brian Dougan, 34 seasons a master. He was a well-known point-to-point rider and remembered racing against some of the great riders at the time, Ian Buchanan, Brian Hamilton and Billy Vance. He enquired about The Irish Field correspondent Margie McLoone and remembered her reporting and race riding on their Farmacaffley Course.
He had two horses at one time, Dernamaye and Russell Lodge. The latter he described as the ‘bookies’ favourite’, as he ran 36 times and although placed regularly, he only won once! This year they will add a four-year-old race over two and a half miles to their programme. Oliver Little hunts the pack who I last met hunting in Omagh as he hunts the Donegal Harriers on Sundays. Hounds looked really well with good strong backs on them, and they can hunt too and be heard as they have brilliant voices.
Ready for action were Samuel, Alex and Beth Phillips Carolyn Gilpin, Katie Robinson, Andrea Keys, Marie Keys, Beth Wishart, Mark Keys, and Jeremy Herne, who is an undertaker in Glaslough, but there was no need fortunately to call on his services! Also following were Nigel Lawson, Harry Purdy on a smashing grey by Olive Broderick’s Kylemore Stud stallion Womaniser. Visiting were Mark Mulrine and Mark McGlinshey from the Newry Harriers, and Katie Donnelly riding her Connemara Pony stallion The Gambler, as well as Amy Clarke, Ava Phillips-Martin, Una McClennand, Rebecca McAdam, Phobie Starrett, and Sarah Bell.
There were a number of families following by road such as Philip Dougan, Toni Donnelly, who won the Working Hunter class at HOYS, Robert Robinson and Paula Johnson.
Hunt host and joint-master of the Tynan and Armagh meet at Richill, Andrew Phillips crossing country \ Noel Mullins
The first pipe-opener was couple of laps of Andrew Phillip’s farm over rails, drop fences and hedges but this was only an appetiser to what was to come later. These followers love crossing natural country and they are very good at it too, as I only saw one faller and that was early on when a young horse was getting his early education.
The first draw was in the Bamboos in Robert and Sylvia Phillip’s farm which has a host of natural fences, drops out of the wood, tree trunks and other uprights so while they were waiting while the huntsman drew the wood, the followers were not idle, but there was nobody at home.
Ivor Stevenson’s farm was next on the list. Ivor is a retired school teacher who has had a lifelong involvement in music through his association with The Armagh Old Boys Silver Band, all brass and percussion. He plays the euphonium which is like a tuba but smaller and plays at a slightly higher register.
He was awarded an MBE in the Honours List for his lifelong services to music and banding. Meanwhile Ivor’s forestry held and the pack were soon away right-handed flying over Irwin’s, Rafferty’s and they marked him in Jenkinson’s Bog.
They drew under the Old Railway Bridge onto the disused line opened in 1864 and closed in 1957, some of which is being developed into a greenway. Hounds had a fox away smartly running straight and then swinging right-handed over McCaul’s where hounds checked and cast themselves over the hill through Pillows
At this point, whipper-in Samuel Phillips and Ellie McCall, the latter riding side saddle, were impressive jumping a hedge with wire off the road to get to the pack who were by then crossing Carson’s and marking to ground in Moffett’s.
Light was fading by now but the huntsman drew Edgar’s Bog where hounds spoke on a stale line but could make nothing of it. Nichol’s Hill Fort was also blank so it was time to blow for home.
A roaring fire and a pot of soup and tasty refreshments were ready back at Andrew and Denise Phillips which was a hive of activity after a smashing day’s hunting over the wonderful old pastures of Armagh. Judging by the number of young riders hunting the future certainly looks bright.