SOME gentle persuasion helped me accept an invitation to attend the Centenary celebrations of the Kilworth and Araglen Harriers in the beautiful ‘Hidden Ireland’ area in North Cork that borders on three counties, Cork, Waterford and Tipperary, so there is constant rivalry when it comes to hurling.

I was also told that ‘The Lads’ were getting their hair cut, so they would look well in the photos, so how could I refuse! It also marked the retirement of their huntsman Liam Russell after 13 seasons. I was welcomed by the chairman, William Rice, who is retiring at the end of the season.

He immediately said, ‘You’re from The Irish Field, that paper is our bible here every Saturday’. His nephew, Sean Joseph Allen, had a runner called Prophet’s Corner that day, finishing runner-up in the winners’ of one at the Co Clare meeting in Bellharbour, ridden by Pa King.

Younger brother Darragh Allen rode a double on Dream On Daddy and Sean Says at the United Hunt meeting in Ballyvodock on the same day. It was a privilege to meet the most senior member of the hunt, 92-year-old William White, President of the club and highly respected, as he started following as a four-year-old in 1936, just 12 years after the hunt was founded.

Having been on four hunt committees myself and experienced all that goes with it, what I find special and refreshing about the Kilworth and Araglen is that it is all voluntary. No masters, no-one is paid, not even the huntsman, which means they do it for the love of the sport, for their club, for the community and for all the young followers, who probably represented 60% of the 50 mounted followers on the day. I am grateful to Brendan and Anna O’Brien, who guided me around to all the best places.

Retiring huntsman Liam Russsell shows his class jumping off the road at the Kilworth and Araglen Centenary Meet at Willie Rice's \ Noel Mullins


There are no frills, hounds are known as dogs, which everybody understands, the hospitality is from farm to farm, and from neighbour to neighbour. Their subscription for many years was €50 for a family and that included a cap, which made it affordable for everybody. They have a wonderful pack of Traditional Irish Harriers, kennelled on two separate farms of William Rice and William White, somewhat similar to a trencher fed pack. The outcrosses come mainly from the foot packs of West Cork, and they have to be steady avoiding deer. Hounds range in colour including black and tans and make the most wonderful melodic music, especially in woodland. Like typical harriers, they keep their heads low, as Scarteen master Chris Ryan, a great admirer of harriers, once remarked to me, ‘That’s where they get their information!’

Producing made hunters

The people are extraordinary friendly, especially when word went out that the man from ‘The Paper’ was coming, as nobody could recall The Irish Field featuring their pack in the hunt reporting pages. And there were more people following by car and on foot than were mounted, with farmers going about their work in this dairying area stopping to enquire, ‘Did they get a run’?

Retiring huntsman Liam Russell with 92-year-old William White who started hunting in 1936 at the Kilworth and Araglen Harriers Centenary Meet at Willie Rice's \ Noel Mullins

The hunt country is spectacular for hunting on foot, but challenging on horseback with electric fencing, so a huntsman needs to do his homework before a meet. It also means that some of the best made hunters in the country are produced there, as the country is so challenging made up of narrow banks, deep ditches, double banks with enormous drains on take-off and landing and, of course, wire.

Many of the made hunters go to masters, hunt staff and followers of foxhound packs and more recently to the Iveagh, Kildare, the Limericks and the South County Dublin Harriers. It would be hard to find a site for a tennis court, with so many hills and valleys, but great for schooling point-to-pointers!

Some followers went skiing to Austria and a number wanted to go on the Black Slopes, but the instructor cautioned them on the gradient. Imagine his reaction when Neilus Kearney remarked, “If you spread slurry on a hill in Araglen, you would know what a real Black Slope is like!”

Three generations: Neilus and David Kearney, Dave and Jenny Slattery and Amelia Kearney at the Kilworth and Araglen Harriers Centenary Meet at Willie Rice's \ Noel Mullins

Centenary celebrations

What would a Centenary be without a cake and an enormous cream-topped cake was on display and the older members, who have earned huge respect and appreciation and have kept the hunt going in good and difficult times, turned out for photos.

Anne Condon is a fund of information and back in office as honorary treasurer. She followed the hunt all day on foot and showed me the minute book from the dance at Bennett’s Hall in 1945, which made a profit of £15-9-4 ½ with 2/6 for crystals. I remember when I was younger crystals were scattered on dance floors to make them slippy, and better to dance on.

Members gather with the Centenary Cake at the Kilworth & Araglen Harriers Centenary Meet at Willie Rice's \ Noel Mullins

Another type of hunt has been going on for months, for old photographs and stories of the hunting past for the ‘Centenary Book’ that will be published in March. They have also asked the young followers to write short pieces of their memorable days in the hunting field. Gillian Condon is coordinating the content. Families have been rooting out old albums and cuttings recording hunts, drag hunts, point-to-points, gymkhanas, Pony Club, dog shows and events like the carnival, drama groups and marque dancing that have been running for more years than anybody can remember. Also the Cinderella Balls, Oscars and, of course, the Hunt Chase at the Dublin Horse Show. Progress has been made, as the hunt have printed a calendar this year, which has a group photo taken in 1940 of members of a drag hunt that includes Tommy Moore, the grandfather of champion point-to-point jockey Derek O’Connor and his mother, Gene Moore.

They are always looking for new ideas in addition to hunting from November to March, they host a drag hunt in March, dog show in June, followed by a barbeque and an auction night, fun ride in October, as well as running fund raising events supporting community members facing challenges from illness to injuries, cancer, organ transplants and the Children’s Hospital.


Sean Joseph and Darragh Allen are the hunt’s top point-to-point representatives, with Darragh lying joint first in the Southern table of leading riders. The hunt point-to-point is on March 17th with no entry fee, except the purchase of the programme. It’s held on a new track in Kilworth on Arthur Coughlan’s farm.

They host a preview night with top jockeys and trainers on the panel and usually a mystery guest. Aidan ‘Suntan’ O’Connell told me he rode a horse in the hunt point-to-point called Looking Down in the 1960s for John Crowley on the same day as Tim Hyde was riding. Aidan said he got more instructions from the handler on how to ride the horse than during five years’ education with the Jesuits! He recalled the hunt’s well organised gymkhanas, where he competed his Grand Prix horse, also named Suntan, that won later at the Dublin Horse Show.

A graduate from the Kilworth and Araglen hunting field is Johnny Allen, one of the leading jumps and flat jockeys in Australia. Emigrating in 2004 to the State of Victoria, he has ridden 1,157 winners and placed 1,881 times.

His partnership on Gotta Take Care has resulted in nine wins, including three Drecher Hurdles and one Australian Hurdle.

On the flat, he won his first Group 1 on Howard Be Thy Name including the South Australian Derby on Volatile Mix. He rides mainly for trainer Darren Weir.

Pony Club and Hunt Chase

The Pony Club was founded by Margaret and Mary Allen in 1993 and Kevin and Seamus Condon, Vincent O’Donoghue and Paula O’Brien represented Coláiste an Chraoibhín in Fermoy in the interschools. The hunt team of Sean Moher, Tina Burke, John Reidy and Liam Russell won the Hunt Chase at the Dublin Horse Show in 2008.

Retirement of huntsman Liam Russell

Liam Russell is retiring as huntsman after 13 seasons and had his two sons, Oisín and Liam Óg, following. He has backup hunting hounds from former Carlow Farmers’ huntsman Kevin Condon, an excellent horseman. His other whipper-in was Seamie O’Gorman, another fine rider and his horse has enormous scope.

Liam is a talented horseman, who worked for the legendary Tom Costello and a highlight of his career was leading up the triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate, when he won his first point-to-point at the North Galway Foxhounds meeting in Belclare in 1999, ridden by Adrian Costello. Liam went on to ride point-to-pointers for the Costellos, Tadgh and Liam Donoghue and for hunt chairman Willie Rice, the best of which was Skim A Bit.

I first met Liam at the Team Chase at the Dublin Horse Show, which Liam, Sean Moher, Tina Burke and John Reidy won in 2008. He rode in the Huntsman’s Challenge Race at Punchestown in 2017 and the hunt hired a 40-seat bus to support him.

On leaving the track, Rich Ricci was waiting for a lift to Naas after his mare Annie Power won the Champion Hurdle. But the Kilworth and Araglen bus picked Rich up and they had a good sing song on the way to Naas, with Liam wearing Rich Ricci’s trademark hat! Liam was also one of only 10 riders to finish a Kildare Foxhounds meet at Cutbush now known as ‘The Cut Bush Ten’.


Following were Tony Russell, Ciaran and Kate Magnier, Francis and Niamh Hogan, Neilus Kearney and his three-year-old son David, Isabel Russell, Katie Clifford, Irena Flynn, Jane Lenihan, Dave and Jenny Slattery, six-year-old Amelia Kearney on her 32-year-old pony Jack, Robert and Frances Leddy, Dylan Mee, Mark McNulty, Brigid McAuley, Matthew Hickey, Gillian Condon, Mark McNally and Ciara O’Brien, who had borrowed her sister Anna’s pony, Nancy.

Also keeping up were former honorary secretary Mary Buttimer, farrier John Allen and his wife Niamh, Tim McCormack known as ‘The Man from Music Mountain’, Johnny Brien, Lar Carey, Tom Kane, Timmy McCormack, Tony White, Eugene Lomasney, John and Mary Jo White, Mick Donoghue, Davie Hogan, Emmet Allen and Lorraine Quirke.

Ciaran Magnier in action at the Kilworth and Araglen Harriers Centenary Meet at Willie Rice's \ Noel Mullins


The countryside reminded me as a cross between the Ballymacad Hunt country and the Fell country of the Blencartra Hunt in Cumbria Lake District, with grassland and gorse on the upper areas that slope away to valleys and glens, with rivers bordering the woodland country. Hounds worked hard along the first draw in the valley, but there was nobody at home, but after crossing Dave Kearney’s and Edmund Donoghue’s when they got to Dave Gleeson’s, hounds opened and despite the strong wind, we could feel the magic of the deep melodious sounds that only traditional harriers can make. One man commented, ‘the dogs are on fire’.

Hounds pressed on the length of Kearney’s Glen, eventually turning towards Gleeson’s and going to ground in a grove of trees. The only signpost I saw all day was for St Michael’s Well in Tubbernahulla that has been the subject of on-going debate as to whether it is in Waterford or Cork. Meanwhile, farmer Billy Moher and Martin Casey stopped on his motorbike for a look.

The next draw was Ann Condon’s hilltop Furze Covert and then Donovan’s Bog, which challenged the followers with drains and banks as they crossed into Richard Sweetman’s Furze jumping in off the road over a yawner into The Captain’s Field, where followers had to sit tight over the drop. Then they were faced with a blind drain with no take-off, which horses had to scramble through into Nedzer’s.

Meanwhile, some road followers were wondering where hounds were, as a man on the road gave directions. Doubting the directions, one observer remarked, ‘That fellow could not tell the truth if he tried’, followed by typical Cork humour, ‘I would not even believe the radio in that man’s van’!


Meanwhile, the followers had to poke horses and ponies first through briars and then push for take-off. Niamh Hogan parted company, but was quickly back in the plate, while young Fionn Hogan was shot sideways but like a jockey, he held on for a remarkable recovery. Meanwhile, Jenny Slattery took over on her father Dave’s horse.

Hounds found again in Mike Brien’s, running the length of the glen and back in a circle up the hill and left-handed into Alex Buttimer’s and Willie Brien’s and down the valley for Timothy Kane’s remarkably into a strong wind. In fading light, the huntsman blew for home after a busy day.

The fencers William Rice, Seamus Clifford, Tom Finn, John Allen and huntsman Liam Russell were ready to go out and mend any fences, so stock would be secure.


A Very Happy Centenary to the Kilworth and Araglen Harriers, and well done over the last 100 years and here’s to another century. A happy retirement to huntsman Liam Russell for sterling service to the hunt. And thank you to Brendan and Helena O’Brien, who were so hospitable.