Laois Foxhounds

Kennels: Beechfield, Abbeyleix, Co Laois

Chairman: Mr Ray Shore

Joint-Masters: Mr David Lalor (1992)

and Mr Marcus McLoughlin

Joint-secretaries: Mr Jim Kelly and Miss Cameron Cleland

Point-to-Point secretary: Mr David Lalor

Hunter Trials secretary: Tony MacInerney

Huntsman: Mr Michael Comerford

Whippers-in: Shay Barry, Colm Gainey, Oisin Kelly

Country hunted: Co. Laois (all of) mixed banks trenches hedges with an occasional wall

Brief history

The hunt was formed in 1850 when the Emo Hounds amalgamated with the Ossory Hounds to form the Queen’s County Hunt, now known as the Laois Hunt. Meets: Wednesday and Saturday, 12 noon.

Some former masters; Maj. Hamilton Stubber 1919-23, Capt. EA Cosby 1933-38, D Blundell 1974-75, Des Lalor 1964-74, Rory Dicker 1978-81, Joe O’Flynn 1981-91, Harry Lalor 1982-91, Billy Phelan 1992-99

THE Laois opening meet has to be one of our favourite days on the hunting calendar. Despite the fact that they meet at the modern Abbeyleix Manor Hotel on the old Cork road, it has an air of old fashioned elegance that would not look out of place on a Lionel Edwards print.

As we arrived, the lounge was brimming with riders and their supporters waiting for the off. The hotel is owned by the very sporting Kent family, who play polo internationally.

Laois Ladies turn out for the Opening Meet at Abbeyleix Manor Hotel; Frances McEvoy, Pippa Ryan, Louise Thompson and Susie Val Der Puit \ Catherine Power

This was a time to catch up with old friends whom we hadn’t seen since last season, like the ever-genial former chairman Lionel Foot. Newcomers to Laois, who have re-located from America, were event riders Daisy and Richard Trayford, who have set up an event yard near Timahoe. They were preparing their horses for the Golden Button race, which will be run over Ledbury Hunt country in February. From Limerick for the day (and the season) came Dr Pat Meehan, a research fellow in Limerick University, who claims not to have missed an opening Laois meet for well over 40 seasons. As well as his academic career, he has a leading herd of pedigree Angus cattle and his bloodlines are to be found in all the best herds in the country. Another Laois veteran is Richard Mooney from Cloughjordan, who at 85 must surely be Ireland’s most senior rider to hounds.

Women riders were well represented in the field, with Marlene White from Cullahill, Teresa Delahunty, Lynsey Graham, Katie Wrest, who runs a horse yard and Pippa Ryan of Kildangan Stud. Visiting from Cork was Lionel Powell riding a horse of David Lalor’s.


Laois veteran and hunting solicitor, Billy White, who has been hunting with the Laois for over 50 seasons, but still crossed the country like a teenager, was on hand. With fellow hunting solicitors, Oliver Ryan-Purcell MFH (Ormond) and Matt Nagle MFH (Duhallow), they were instrumental in getting the new hunt insurance policy over the line and Irish hunting owes them a huge hand of gratitude.

Youngest rider on the day was nine-year-old old Sean Barry, pictured with his Dad Shay Barry (whip) at Abbeyleix Manor Hotel for the opening Meet of the Laois Foxhounds \ Catherine Power

Likewise, senior master David Lalor was at his inimitable best and he also was a major player when chairman of the IMFHA in putting the policy in place. David was having a council of war with huntsman Michael Comerford and David Thompson, a former huntsman, who was area manager for the day. David was on a chesnut cob to die for. His son, young Jock, a previous whipper-in to the Laois and an accomplished polo player like his cousin, Lord Tyrone, while not mounted was out on his quad all day.

Michael Comerford, who previously hunted the Golden Vale FH, has made a great success of the county pack. David Lalor has Laois hunting in his DNA and has been in office since 1992, succeeding his father Harry and uncle Dessie, who were in office back in the 1970s.

Ready for off

Late arrivals were local trainer Billy Lanigan and Mary Blundell, who haven’t missed a meet of the Laois since the days of Harry Lalor. As they mounted up in the very extensive hotel car park, it was nice to see local padre Fr Willie Hennessy and Kevin Brennan, whose daughter is studying veterinary medicine.

Our huntsman Michael had his 12 and a half couple of old English in tip-top condition and, with the two joint -masters, David Lalor and Marcus McLoughlin, looked a picture as they made their way to the first draw.

The whippers-in were no less impressive, with Shay Barry, who was out with his young son aged nine, the youngest member of the field. Making up the trio was young Oisin Kelly, whose brother is the new huntsman of the famed Kilkenny Foxhounds, whose opening meet in Mount Juliet will feature in next week’s The Irish Field.

The family were well represented as his father, joint-hunt secretary, Jim Kelly from Rosenallis, was also out.


Colm Gainey, resplendent in a gleaming scarlet hunt coat produced for him by Vincent Neville of the Pike of Rushall, would not have been out of place in the Shires. Colm, a Curragh farrier and a former NH jockey, has been hunting with the Laois since before Arkle won his first Gold Cup.

No move off would be complete without a few words of welcome and a special thanks to the farmers over whose land they were going to hunt, which came from David Lalor on his good grey. Before hunting proper could begin and as a pipe opener before going down to the start, Billy White had set a series of hunt jumps on his land adjacent to the De Vesci estate. This gave the field an opportunity for a “jolly” and was enjoyed by all.

But hospitality was not over for the day. Another local landowner had laid on a hunt breakfast, with all sorts of good things to eat and drink, so the field were well refreshed before going to the first draw on Arthur Harvey’s farm near the Black Hills, a well-known draw for the Laois, which was blank so they drew on towards Warren Allen’s farm, who was out on his quad.

While the covert may have looked unpromising, it held and Sunbeam and Suspect, litter brother and sister, opened and, with the rest of the pack rallying to them, our pilot was afoot.

He crossed the Ballacolla Road over a few smashing hedges and hunted on towards Abbeyleix town.

Scent was never better than patchy, but hounds made the most of it and hunted for most of an hour, all the while treating the field and the foot followers alike to marvellous music.

We were kept in touch with the action by Jim Fennelly in his wheelchair- adapted van and JJ McEvoy, whose daughter Francis, a former hunt secretary, was out having being involved in maternity duty for the last two seasons.

As it was the their first day and plenty done, our huntsman blew for home and made the short hack back to the hospitality awaiting them at the Manor.