I HAVE to thank my GPS and satellite tracking for getting me to the Moneystown meet of the Bray Harriers in Co Wicklow. It is high in the Wicklow Hills and I even came across a Tesco delivery van with nowhere to pass on a narrow road. But I recognised some of the terrain as my late brother, Maurice, an international ultra-runner, conceived and designed the 50km Wicklow Hills Ultra Race rated in terms of difficulty by the Irish Mountains Running Association as ‘Extreme’, that is now named after him. My daughter, son-in-law and my nieces have all completed this gruelling race a number of times. It is a beautiful area with sloping hills, woodland, wetland and grass slopes, 1,272 feet above sea level.

It was worth getting there, if only for Shauna Watters’ egg sandwiches. They are a special taste and could be considered ‘gratification eggs’, as Shauna keeps rescued battery hens that seem to have tried harder to produce a special flavoured egg as a homage to their rescuer. Shauna gets her battery hens from Little Hill Rescue Centre and they make for happy hunt followers.

The Brays are a drag hunt and the drag ‘queens’ are Mairead Watters, who has been laying it for 15 years, Kathy Fisher and Jane Bradbury, show horse producer and winner of the Supreme Hunter Championship at the Dublin Horse Show in 2023, who all rode ahead with a scented drag. Sarah Magee, who was recovering from a riding accident, was the perfect guide for the day, but she would be equally at home car rallying!


There were other Dublin Horse Show connections, with Chief Steward of the Showing Classes and local farmer, John Crowley, keeping a parental eye on his son, John John, who needed no help as he has developed into a very capable rider on his pony AJ, also known as Cobeen, and he had a big smile on his face regardless of the size of the bank. Dublin Horse Show Triple Supreme Hunter Champion producer, Jane Bradbury with Bloomfield Ollie in 2011, Bloomfield Excelsior in 2014 and Bloomfield Watergate in 2023, all owned by Daphne Tierney, but with the latter owned at the time of the show by USA-based Wexford veterinary surgeon Brendan Furlong, who was featured by The Irish Field columnist Susan Finnerty recently.

It just proves that Jane Bradbury can ride across tricky country as pathfinder, as well as conquer the show ring. Also following was Pam Chapman, who together with her husband, George, have produced Dublin Champions, especially when George won the Supreme Championship on Zatopec and Billy Connors the Reserve on Grenadier in 1979. Their son, Aubrey, took the Reserve to Jane in 2023, with the Middleweight Champion Casey’s Express.

Since I last visited, the hunt have lost their hunt chairman Eamonn Holmes, a true gentleman who was also Chief Steward of Simmonscourt warm up ring. A Humanist ceremony was held on his farm with over 300 friends and family attending, which included music especially Country Jive, a favourite of Eamonn and his wife, Rita.

John John Crowley, son of Dublin Horse Show Chief Steward John Crowley, at the Bray Harriers meet at Moneystown\ Noel Mullins

Master and Hunt Staff

Master John Wilding is well-known for hosting hunter trials, eventing, Riding Club and Pony Club events on his extensive farm, Rosanna, in Ashford. The huntsman, Johnny Murphy was riding a home-bred Irish Draught Connemara cross. His two children, Charlie May (10) and Noah (14), are two capable riders and must be the youngest whippers-in in Ireland. In fact, Charlie May was first over most obstacles after the hounds. I have known Johnny from when he worked with Jack Lambert, breaking a new batch of three-year-olds every year, ready to finish their education in the hunting field, and also when he whipped in to John Stafford in the Killinick Harriers and Paul Scallan in the Island Foxhounds. I have the highest respect for Wexford horse producers as Walter, the best hunter I have owned, came from Wexford horse producer Walter Kent, who Susan Finnerty also featured in The Irish Field recently. I have learned that there are riders and there are horsemen and women, often two very different types of people. Horsemen are now getting rarer. Just to illustrate, I remember a lady in Wexford that had a stallion that she could not catch and eventually offered it free to anybody that could catch it and take it away.

The so-called experts tried with buckets of oats, but to no avail, then the hardy boys tried to corral it and again no success. Enter Johnny Murphy and John Stafford. Horse whisperer Monty Roberts talks about getting into the mind of a horse. Well Johnny and John find that very easy, as they focused instead on the most powerful matter circulating in the stallions head, testosterone! They brought an in-season mare to the lady’s farm, and Johnny rode it bareback with only a halter along the road, and they certainly got into the mind of the stallion, as he followed like a lamb with Stafford driving behind in his jeep. He was very strong to break, but they succeeded and John Stafford hunted the Killinick hounds off him, and later sold him for a good price. It just goes to show that testosterone does not respond to crushed oats, but oats of a different type! No doubt Murphy and Stafford could give lessons on the subject.


They had a great turnout of young followers led by field master Michael Bolger and chairman Andrew Pollard. Also Galwayman Michael Freeley and his wife, Mairead Moynihan, who grew up hunting with the Galway Blazers and the Bermingham and North Galway Hounds. Following too were Clare Kenny, Ann Marie Cullen, Hannah Woods, Johnny Codd’s daughter, Edie, Timmy and Charlie McCaul, Rose Garland on a dun, Grace Kirkland, Cliona Brennan, Lil Bolger, Abbey and Jack Magee, grandchildren of former huntsman Norrie Magee and following on foot was their cousin, Seanie. Others hunting were Lauren English, Brian O’Rourke, Louise McQuinn, Finn O’Gara on a four-year-old, Geraldine Blake whose daughter, Grace, was hunting. Dee Brennan, Gabby Harding complete with cameras, Lyn Clemants, former master, and Pam Chapman.


The huntsman had a small pack out, including some drafts from the Island, as he laid them on for the first line in Brian O’Rourke’s. This took them left towards a small wall and on to a few nice drains and doubles. The second line was from Dr Dan McCarty’s and on to some more typical Wicklow double banks and drains and across a river, where Greenwood, a blue mottle hound and Placid, a draft from the Iveagh Foxhounds, led the way in good voice. For the third line, they started from John Mulvey’s, who hunted with the pack, but is also known in the show jumping world as a coach. Here, there were more banks and drains in very soft ground. The last line entailed jumping in off the road into John Staunton’s beside Donal O’Beirne’s house. Donal is familiar to equestrians for his Hoofprints range, as he sells probably the most extensive range of safety equipment for the horse and rider that comes from his own experience of having suffered a serious riding accident. Meanwhile, Pam Chapman was keeping a close eye on Hannah Woods, who was riding one of her young horses.

Catherine Clarke was on the road looking out for her daughter, Louise, who was hunting her Irish Sport Horse by Diamond Roller out of a Connemara dam. Others close by were Bobby Evans, Kimmy and Noel McCall and Bria Speakman. The double into Beatty’s was followed by drains in very soft paddocks. Jane Beatty laid on mulled wine and snacks. Jane is a partner of chairman Andrew Pollard and daughter of two and a half years, Sally Ann, was giving her Shetland Kubbie a day off.

So it was back to Moneystown Community Centre, where a good old-fashioned long table was erected in the car park, with all sorts of goodies on offer, and yes, pride of place was given to Shauna Watters’ magnificent tasty rescued hen’s egg sandwiches. As they contain 230 calories per sandwich including protein, vitamins and minerals, they sent the followers home with smiles on their faces and an energy boost ready for the Hunt Dance that night at Wicklow Polo Grounds. Not alone do you get a good day’s hunting with the Bray Harriers, but you get fed as well, that is, as long as the hens keep laying!