|Clifford Pellow, Clifford C Pellow, anti fox hunt activist, obituary, died, dead, england|
THE SORDID TRUTH ABOUT FOX HUNTING– BEHIND THE SCENE’S (sorry about the formatting)
A Brush with Conscience – Why a Huntsman Abandoned His Sport
Author: Andrew Tyler 1997
Formore than two decades, Clifford Pellow served as a professional Huntsman with several packs of fox hounds in England and Wales. The last eight years of hishunting career were spent with the Tredegar Farmers Fox Hounds in South Wales.Always a stickler for the rules, Mr Pellow became more and more outraged at theabuse of foxes ordered by his Hunt Master in breach of hunting codes ofconduct, until, unable to stomach it any longer, he protested. As a result helost his job.
Hetook his complaints to the Masters of Fox Hounds Association, which held amockery of an 'enquiry', and finally 'exonerated' the Hunt Master, Mr HowardJones.
InNovember 1991, Clifford Pellow, at the invitation of the League Against CruelSports, attended a Press Conference in the House of Commons, where he describedto the media and several Members of Parliament, several incidents during whichfoxes were abused in contradiction of the rules of the Masters of Fox HoundsAssociation during his career as professional Huntsman for the Tredegar FarmersFox Hounds.
Mr Howard Jones, Master of that Hunt, who was publiclyaccused by Mr Pellow of being responsible for these abuses, launched a libelaction against Mr Pellow. The case came to court on 24th November 1994 in CardiffCrown Court. In his defence Mr Pellow called hunt supporters as witnesses toverify his allegations.
On1st December, after a six-day hearing, the jury cleared Mr Pellow of libel. Thecourt ordered Hunt Master Mr Jones to pay all the costs of the case - estimatedto be almost £100,000. Mr Jones, however, continues as Master of the Hunt withthe blessing of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association.
Awardwinning journalist Andrew Tyler was commissioned by the League Against CruelSports to interview Mr Pellow and write the compelling story of a man whoseburning conscience caused him to turn his back on a sport which had enthusedhim from childhood, and in which he had risen to the top, but whose governingbody pathetically failed him when he complained of horrific cruelty in breachof their own much-vaunted codes of conduct.
CliffordPellow has since carved out a new living unconnected with bloodsports and is amember of the League Against Cruel Sports. The League and its active membersnow benefit from his advice and unique knowledge and experience. He now looksback on his hunting days with new eyes and can no longer justify the continuingexistence of the 'sport' he once loved - even if conducted in accordance withthe rules. However, it is possible that he would still number amongst hunting'sleading professionals today, had his less conscientious superiors supported himin upholding the standards they publicly and piously proclaim in defence of foxhunting.
Clifford Pellow, aprofessional fox hunter for 23 years, believed unwaveringly in the integrity ofhis 'craft'. He'd learnt its mysteries in night stories from his grandfather -all about wily Reynard and the special breed of man in red tunic who led thechase with horse and hounds that, on a good day, ended with Reynard beingvanquished. Grandfather was a Devonian quarryman who crushed stones for aliving; he followed the hunt on a push-bike. But Clifford achieved themiraculous. He married well and rose to become a huntsman: the highest rankingpaid 'servant' of the hunt.
Disillusionmentcame in stages. The Ruritanian cap-doffing and knee-bending, once an integralpart of the grand mystique, grew wearisome - especially after he came to seethe calibre of man to whom he was expected to defer. When, in 1985, he took ajob with a Welsh hunt - the Tredegar - that played slack with the rules, theremnants of his pride disintegrated.
‘I was getting very bitter, if you like, about the things that I saw. Itwasn't what I'd been brought up to. It wasn't the hunting that I knew, thesport that I had enjoyed, once loved and defended.' In advance of hunting days,he says, foxes were caught in traps, put into sacks and, after being draggedacross a couple of fields to get up a good scent, released for the hounds toslaughter. Bad sport. In one incident, a milk churn rather than a sack wasused. In another, the terrified fox bolted from the bag into a farm where hefell into a manure pit. The farmer's son shot him.
Whatmade matters worse for Pellow was that, from the start of his career, he'dalways been a man of starchy correctness, a disciplinarian who'd once beenfired for inflexibility. Now, here he was playing his own part in thetravesties. "I was as guilty as everyone else. Sickened by it, butguilty".
He remembers one fox, caught and handed over by a localfarmer, who was kept for a week in a 40 gallon bone bin, where he was sustainedon liver and water. "I remember looking in on him on the Friday, lookingat this beautiful creature, which he was, and thinking: Tomorrow this timeyou'll be a thing of the past, ripped to pieces. Seventeen-and-a- half coupleof hounds will be biting at you, each hound with 32 teeth."
'And before that there's the fear as you're grabbed by the tongs andstuck in the sack.'
‘I've held a fox many times by the scruff and brush and felt howpetrified they get; their hearts banging away like hell; farting and excretingand peeing every time the hounds speak. And I'm the person giving him threeseconds to live. I am responsible for it. Absolutely ghastly..'.
InJune 1990, oiled by a few whiskeys, Pellow spilt his complaint to theTredegar's joint master at a hound show in West Wales. Pellow had been talkingto another practitioner when his master called over, condescendingly:"Have you finished with my kennel huntsman, because I am ready togo?"
"Iam not your fucking kennel huntsman", Pellow replied. "I am not youranything mister!"
Threemonths later, disgusted by the hunting establishment's failure to respondproperly to his complaints of malpractice, he took his case to the old enemy -the League Against Cruel Sports. Before the year's end, he was travelling toLondon with his wife, Barbara, to address a House of Commons press conference,at which he would denounce not merely the rule-breakers but the whole 'crueland pointless' hunting business. Death threats awaited him on his return to hisMachen home. A potentially costly libel action would soon follow.
'Asthe train pulled into Paddington, I remember looking out the window andthinking: What the hell am I doing here! Barbara, who is herself from ahunting background, looked at me and said "What's the matter withyou?" - because I must have gone quiet for a bit.'
Itold her I wasn't sure and she said: "Urn, you're not going to back outare you?" And I said, "Oh no, I won't do that". And she said,very staunch, like: "Good!" So I knew she was following what I wasthinking and I knew she was with me.
Acouple of days later when I had been accused of lying by someone when they wereinterviewed on our local television station, and I told them that nobody callsme a liar and gets away with it, Barbara looked at me and said: "Go on boy,you show the bastards what you mean!".
CliffordPellow is still trying to disentangle his feelings about a 'sport' to which hedevoted much of his childhood and all of his working life up until June 1990.He talks with almost starry-eyed nostalgia of the old-time 'greats' who trainedhim in his various jobs around the country - 'proper, professional huntservants' like Jack Champion of Sussex, Jack Dark of Somerset and Jim Chapmanof Yorkshire.
‘Theywouldn't have put up with the kind of nonsense I've seen in my time - likebagging, or tying a fox's leg over its shoulder to slow it down for the houndsto catch. If you did that in their country, they'd put a whip around you,without a doubt.’
But, on reflection, he recognises that, even in his 1960sGolden Age, things weren't quite so perfect. The rule book allowed, in thosedays, a fox to be dug up and thrown alive to the hounds. And it was alsoacceptable to cut the footpads of captured foxes, or dowse them in their ownurine, before turning them loose, so giving the dogs a stronger scent tofollow. While such trickery persists, it is, at least, formally proscribed.
‘The rule changes of the early 1960s were forced by public opinion,'says Pellow. 'For there was that same opposition as is happening today. Now,though, it's probably even stronger'.
‘Iremember you would be going through a village at night after a day's hunting,and the children would run out and shout things at you like, "How manyhave you killed today, mister?" Today they run out and throw bricks andcall you all sorts of rotten so and sos.’
'Whatevermight be said, hunting is no longer the thread that runs through village life.Eighty-five per cent of rural people are ignorant about its doings. It existstoday purely for a die-hard crowd who have been brought up to believe that itis a way of life, the country sport.'.
Pellowwas himself cast from such a mould. He dresses in the tweedy, striped shirtstyle of gentleman's apparel from the early '60s. His bearing is somewhat regimental,although gives way to quieter, melancholic interludes. His physique is compactand his stride brisk. He still has a crop of healthy black hair which brushesback ruthlessly, away from crisp, clean features. The dialect points to a lifeon the move, being a mixture of Welsh and Devonian. And there is the habit oflaying sudden and startling emphasis on a word or phrase that, for the moment,means everything to him.
Whathe has always wanted, you suspect, and what he turned to hunting for, was a safeniche within a clearly codified and stratified world; a world of orderly dramasin which the role of honoured professional - the potent leading man with thelicence to kill - would be his. Over the years, the thing unravelled. The gamewasn't played straight, he found out. And it wasn't worth playing, anyway. Itwas an awful realisation for a man like Pellow, but he has had the courage notonly to recognise it for his own sake but to make the discovery public.
Hewas born March 1943 in the mid-Devonshire village of Sticklepath and raised byhis mother and grandparents after his father vanished when Pellow junior wasjust three years old. His quarryman grandfather was the quintessential workingclass hunt adept, whose Saturday 'sport' gave focus to a life of frugality andhard labour. With his bed-time stories, grandpa was the tireless mythologiserfor the cause - the huntsman as stoic hero; the fox as bloodthirsty killer ofchickens and lambs.
Clifford'sfirst memories of a hunt go back to when he was four. He was on his way toSunday school in his best blue suit when a car backed into his drive and ranhim over, breaking his leg.
Aftertreatment, he remembers being pushed in a pram to where the hunt met atSticklepath's Taw River Inn. "A hound jumped up onto the pram and I stillremember his name after all these years: Wallflower. That was the name thehuntsman snapped when he put the whip around him".
1didn't go on the hunt itself but I did see them take off from the back of thevillage. The hounds were barking - or speaking, as I learnt to call it - and,being a bit afraid, I hid under the table. Our house was quite close to thecovert where they were and I thought for some reason they were going to getinto the house and get me. My mum came in and said, "Don't be so daft.It's only foxes they chase." A year later, nerves settled, he attended hisfirst chase where he was ritually 'blooded'. It was a pre-season event at which'un-entered' puppy hounds were being taught, by the example of the older dogs,how to kill, and at which the main quarry were fox cubs aged 20 to 28 weeks.
Wewere outside the village of South Tawton. A cub had gone to ground under abank. I saw him dug out. I was standing quite close, about 10 feet away. And Isaw him carried alive from the earth into a nearby field where he was chucked15 or 20 feet up into the air. When he landed, the hounds grabbed and tore himapart. Then the huntsman went forth and did the thing they still do today: cutoff the brush (tail) and the pads and distributed them among different people.Then the mask (head) was removed and given away as a trophy for mounting.
Beforethe carcase was thrown to the hounds, the huntsman - Bill Tozer was his name; abig gruff man, who, to me was like royalty (I remember pacing up and downoutside his house for half an hour just to get a glimpse of him) - he said tome, "Come here boy". Then he stuck his finger into the carcase andplaced two dabs of blood on my forehead and two on the cheek. I was bloodied.Years later, I myself used to blood the youngest member of the field.
ButI remember being absolutely over the moon, that this man had caught hold of meand touched me. And, of course, you don't wash it off. You let it wear off.
Fromthen on I went hunting as often as I could - always on foot, keeping up somehowby taking short cuts, like across rivers that the horses had to go around. Eventhough it was a minority of kids who went hunting. I'd always go with friends.Often their parents would come. But never my mum. Like my sister, she's alwaysthought it was cruel and used to grumble like heck at gramps when he waschatting about it.
Bynow, I was bunking off school to go hunting. I'd deliberately miss the freeschool bus so that I could go home and get sixpence from my mum for theomnibus. I'd use the sixpence to go to Tongue End and walk from there towherever it was. One day, I was caught by my form mistress, Miss Harvey; shewas at the hunt herself. All she did was smack me round the ear and say: "Enjoyyour day boy!".
Heleft school in 1958, aged 15, but was sacked from his first job, cutting kale,when he gave chase to a pack of hounds after they'd crossed the field in whichhe was working. His life's ambition at the time was to be a policeman, rather thana hunt servant. "In those days" he says, "the police wererespected. They had a certain power and trust. You had to be very, very carefuland polite with them. They were something special.".
Twicehe failed the police entrance exam; poor maths letting him down. A successionof labouring jobs, mostly on farms, followed before he walked into his firsthunt post in 1967 at the age of 24. It came after a chance meeting in a localpub with the top paid servant for the Tetcott Hunt. His name was Jim Deakin andhe invited Pellow to a Saturday chase, then back to the kennels - 'a greathonour' - where he watched the hounds being fed and their field wounds attendedto. They went for a drink in the village inn where Pellow recognised, in theway the regulars deferred to his older companion; buying him drinks andmanoeuvring to gain his ear; that to be a huntsman was to possess what he'dhoped to get from the police force: respect and honour.
OnDeakin's advice, Pellow wrote to the Masters of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA),hunting's governing body, and asked to be put on their jobs-wanted list. Somemonths later came an offer from the Sussex-based Old Surrey and Burstow Hunt.Pay, for a seven day week, was £13 10 shillings, plus use of a tithed house andthree tons of coal a year. As kennelman, his task was to look after the houndsand their quarters. Also, to prepare their food - skinning and carvinglocally-collected cattle and sheep who had perished, from injury or disease,before they could be taken to slaughter.
Aheadof him on the rungs to the top were the whipper-in (the huntsman's ears andeyes on the hunting field) and the huntsman himself. While the master was thehuntsman's social superior, the man - guided by a committee - who hired andfired, it was the huntsman who was supreme when the chase was on. 'The masteris strictly the amateur', says Pellow. 'He might tell him where to go and whatcoverts to draw but it is entirely up to the huntsman where and when he doesit’.
Downstairsas much as upstairs the lines of demarcation were fastidiously observed. To thekennelman, the huntsman was always Mr or Sir and his orders were not to bequestioned. The hounds also had their clearly defined functions and, as soon asthey failed to meet the terms, were ruthlessly expunged.
'Untilthat time, they were kept in warm, clean kennels - bitches and dogs apart -where they slept together on bench beds in a huge pile. In the morning theywere turned out into the grass yard for exercise'.
Morestringent conditioning, known as walking out, began during the spring andbecame progressively more taxing as the November start to the seasonapproached. At first, they are led on foot. Later, it would be by bicycle and,ultimately, by horseback for 15 mile cross-country trots.
Controlledbreeding was by the 'best' male and female specimens, with the new-born in thecharge of the kennelman for the first seven or eight weeks. Then they wereturned over to a friendly local farmer or some other hunt supporter so thatthey could get used to a world of chickens, geese and tractors.
'Bythe time they come back, it will, hopefully, be with some knowledge of theoutside world. As summer wears on, they are introduced to the kennel activityproper and trained to obey the various commands. At this stage, they are still"un-entered", which means they have no hunting experience. This comesduring the cubbing season - starting in August - when they will be 12 to 18months old. Those that fail to make the grade get the bullet; they are takenround the back and shot'.
Dogspast their prime (generally, older than five or six years) are also killed.Altogether, says Pellow, out of a pack of 60 animals, eight to ten are disposedof every season.
Howdoes a dog fail his or her master? There are many ways: A hound that won'tdraw (search for a fox) when a fox goes into covert but sits outsidewaiting for somebody else to do it, he's no good to anyone. Nor is the houndthat won't speak (bark) - because there's no point a hound finding a foxif it won't tell you about it. Or you might have a hound that speaks ateverything that moves - at a blackbird flying into a tree. Babbling it'scalled.
OldSurrey and Burstow was good hunting country, clean with plenty of open fieldsbetween coverts, hedges and ditches. The kill rate averaged about one a day.Most followers, of course, wouldn't have a clue whether you've killed or not.But, for hunt servants, the kill is essential. It's good reward for the hounds,sharpens them up, does them the world of good to have a bit of blood, as theycall it.
The game, for the two seasons he was at the Old Surreywas, he says, played straight. The Master, local squire Sir Ralph (pronouncedRaif) Clarke, was a 'splendid fellow, a first class chap'. And, with his fellowservants, Pellow developed genuine friendships. He also received the respect hecraved. ‘In the village you were the hunt. You were accepted by the localpeople as being something a little bit special.'.
Thechance of more variety took him to the Seavington Hunt in Somerset. Here, hewas allowed to ride the huntsman's horse, drive a Land Rover and build or mendthe odd fence… but never on hunting days. You weren't actually allowed out ofthe kennels on hunting days. No, no! Good gracious me! A kennelman's place, asthe name suggests, is in the kennels.
Hishuntsman tutor at the Seavington was 'the great' Jack Dark, whom he remembersbeing as straight as squire Clarke from the Old Surrey. And yet, while therules were observed, it was still a wounding business, and not only for thefoxes. The field injuries incurred by the hounds came regularly and were oftensevere. But, like soldiers in battle, pain and infirmity were invariablydeferred.
'Every-dayinjuries were thorns in feet and minor and major rips from barbed wire. ButI've seen hounds with their intestines hanging out, their eyes hanging down,and hounds with broken toes, broken legs, exposed testicles, and with ribs thathave stuck through their flesh; a collision with a vehicle or with a horsewould be the likely cause. I've never had a hound die in the field, though. Onehad a heart attack back in the kennels but she didn't die until the Sundaymorning'.
Thehorses also suffer. He has, personally, shot two in the field after they'dbroken their legs. And he remembers another being so badly ripped across herchest and legs by newly-erected barbed wire, she was incapacitated for threemonths.
Manyof the injuries to the dogs are dealt with by the hunt servants. 'We considerourselves, somewhat, as veterinary surgeons, which of course we aren't. Wedon't have the competence or the equipment, such as local anaesthetic. Yet, Imyself have stitched a hound with ordinary needle and cotton. She was calledTablet and you could see the fleshy part of her ribs underneath a barbed wiretear. Happily, she made a good recovery and the vet congratulated me on a goodjob'.
Onanother occasion, he used a razor blade to sever a toe that had been danglingby the cord through much of an active day's hunting. ‘I think it was then shefelt it, for she gave out with a yelp. I washed, bandaged and put some cream onit and she was out again in a fortnight.'
Trainingthe younger hounds and rebuking older ones for loss of concentration is also abruising business. To scold a pup, the servant seizes the culprit and strikeshim with the handle of the whip across the ribs - firmly enough, says Pellow,to raise a row of bumps. At the same time, the youngster is verballyreprimanded. An older dog who, say, shows interest in a sheep, will feel thewhip's leash. 'And I can tell you, I've had a whip around me a couple of times,that it does smart a bit.’
The aspect of his hunting career that, today, causes him mostremorse is his participation in 'cubbing' - the annual hunting and destructionof foxes aged no more than five to seven months, with the aim of teaching theirfamily group as well as the new entry of hounds a suitable lesson.
‘It is a barbaric, hideous business in which the victims are stillcompletely and utterly inexperienced and still dependent on their mothers.
‘It works like this: a huntsman, who knows his salt, knows there isa vixen in a particular covert and that there are five cubs with her. He goesinto the covert and soon the hounds pick up the vixen's scent and speak to her.They rattle around a bit. She'll try to warn them off and, when the going getstough, put her cubs to what she considers safety underground, in the earth.
'She will then break covert to take the hounds - she knows, she's experienced- away from the cubs. She'll run across the fields and when she decides to go,she'll go, never mind that there are 50 frightful people out there makingnoises and shouting. The hounds will come out and chase her a bit. This is agood thing. It enables your young hounds to know what happens when you'rehunting across a field.
'After a field or field-and-a-half the huntsman will call them back.Now they go to the earth where the cubs are and they dig them out. And theydon't kill one or two or three but every one of them - after which theycongratulate themselves on a beautiful morning's cubbing.
'Sometimes the cubs themselves break covert. I remember seeing one -no bigger than a ten-inch ball of fluff - up at the Lamerton (in Devon). Whenhe saw all these people shouting at him he stopped, looked at the hounds in aclump of brambles a distance away and thought, "Oh well, I'm safehere", and sat down. He was no more than ten feet away. And of course, thehounds came and he never moved. The master, a chap called Robbins, said to me:"Committed suicide that one." When a second cub came out, the samehappened to her'.
At the other end of the hunting season in March, many vixens areeither already nursing their new-born cubs or at least heavily pregnant.
'At the Tredegar, my last hunt, we had a vixen to ground. We justhappened to come across her hiding, if you like. One of the bitches slippedaway and started to mark the ground. The master said, "We haven't had akill so we'll have this one." When we got to it, I said to the master'Whoops vixen in cub sir!" And he said, "That don't matter, we'llstill have her." 'We carried on digging but by now my blood is boiling,for this is against all etiquette. And, now, he said, "Don't bother toshoot it, just fire into the ground and we'll leave her to the hounds."But I couldn't.
‘I did shoot her. I couldn't be bothered to go through the ritual,either, of holding her up. I just threw her and the hounds ripped her topieces, and as they ripped her, there were four little baby foxes, not yet withhair. They were naked, or bald, or call it what you like. And the master wentalong and just screwed them into the ground with his feet'.
If cubbing is the practice that, when looking back, most 'revoltsand sickens' him, the element within the hunt for which he reserves hisgreatest contempt are the terriermen. These are the hunt addicts who, aided bytheir fearless terrier dogs, block potential fox escape routes prior to thehunt and, on the day itself, dig out and either bolt or shoot animals who stillmanage to go to ground.
As well as 'official' terriermen - those attached formally to hunts- there are the 'unofficials', who freely assist the officials on hunt days forthe pleasure of 'working' their dogs.
Often, this second category will race to be first to get their dogsdown earths so that they can test them in underground battles with the corneredfox. They enjoy vying with each other to see who has the toughest, mostaggressive terrier and will proudly display their animal's, sometimesappalling, wounds.
Whenever a dog-fighting or badger-digging case comes to court, aterrierman will more often than not be at the centre of it.
‘Terriermen' says Pellow, 'are the thugs of the hunt. They are,quite frankly, a law unto themselves. They consider themselves in charge ofthings and completely indispensable. If you get too close when they are diggingout and producing a fox - 90 per cent of the time by foul means - they becomeaggressive. I've heard them even tell a hunt master to bugger off and come backwhen they've finished.
'They are aggressive because, deep down, they know what they aredoing is wrong and they believe you will see something and report them. What'sin it for them is that they get the fox in the end. It doesn't matter whetherthey throw it to the hounds, bash it on the head with a spade or stick an ironbar through its guts. And I've seen it all.
‘I've seen an iron bar stuck right through the lower jawof a fox. "Whheeerrr, you bastard," this one said to me "Thefucker won't get away now." And he, literally, had him pinned with an ironbar through his nose and jaw.'
Theactivities of terriermen, says Pellow, are tolerated because the spectacle ofsuch men at work is enjoyed by a large number of hunting's foot followers. Andit is these people who provide valuable revenue through their membership ofsupporters' clubs.
AfterJack Dark and the Seavington came The Holdemess Hunt in Yorkshire. Pellow wasthere, as kennelman, for one season, resigning over what he regarded was theshoddy treatment of his immediate superior and friend, Huntsman Patrick Read.
Readwas put down a peg when the master - an amateur - decided to take charge of thefield. Then came Read's dismissal, by means of a letter and withoutcompensation.
'Theydidn't even have the guts or the decency to tell him to his face.’
Thenext day I handed in my own notice and although they tried to get me to changemy mind, with an offer of a better job, I wanted no more part of it. They hadbeen, personally, very good to me, providing me with a couple of convectorheaters when my son was born and, every week, filling my car with petrol. Butthe principal of the fact remained. And I am a stickler for principal. I won'tbudge from it.'
Next,came a Hunt in North Yorkshire, where he was to witness a sadistic piece oftrickery.
Ridingahead of his huntsman, he saw what he thought was a three-legged fox. Hereported what he'd seen, they gave chase and eventually found the animalhobbling in a hedgerow. The dogs killed him. Pellow's huntsman - 'a first classprofessional and first class man' - jumped off his horse to take a closer lookand discovered that one of the fox's legs had been tied up behind his shoulder.Someone had hobbled him to ensure a straightforward kill.
'JimChapman called it a day there and then. On the way home he said something thathas always stuck with me. He said, fox hunting is the best sport this countryhas ever produced. Therefore we must always play by the rules. He was broughtup with that belief and because he saw the rules had been broken he stopped andwent home.'
TheHursley Hunt in Hampshire was his next posting and, here, he finally reachedthe pinnacle position of huntsman. He joined as something less - as kennelhuntsman, which placed him in charge of the kennels but not of the huntingfield. This was under the command of one of the joint masters - a ColonelDouglas Drysdale. The Colonel had followed in the previous huntsman's tail-windfor years. Now he, the amateur, wanted to do the professional's job.
'Fromthe reports I've had, you're a good chap,' he told Pellow at the interview. Hewas doubly convinced after seeing Pellow in action. From May I, when Pellow wasengaged, until the Thursday in November prior to the Saturday start of theseason, the Colonel persisted with his ambition to take charge of the action.
Then,returning to the kennels after exercise, he confessed: ‘I must have been acomplete and utter idiot if I think I can hunt hounds. As from now, you arepromoted to huntsman.' At this moment of opportunity, Pellow panicked: ‘I said"I'm not ready for the huntsman's job sir". And he said, "Well,see how it goes”’
Theywere due to start cubbing at 6.30 a.m. The Colonel called his new huntsman out45 minutes early so that Pellow's first moments in charge would be without thescrutiny of a critical audience. Drysdale was not only pleased with that firstperformance, he went on to describe Pellow to the Duke of Beaufort - hunting'spremier figure of the day - in superlative terms "Give this lad a couplemore years experience and he'll become one of the top six huntsmen in thecountry."
‘Ifmy grandfather could have looked down through the clouds he would have said,"Well done boy!", because I had done it. I had got there. Walking outinto the kennels in the morning half an hour after everyone else, it was readyfor you. The yards were clean, the hounds were ready for you to exercise. Andit's "good morning sir", with a little twiggle of the cap.'
Troubleat the Hursley started after two seasons following the Colonel's departure;there had been a financial dispute with his committee members. A banker, HughDalgetty, came in as master and now he wanted what the Colonel had originallysought but relinquished: command of the hounds.
Thecritical point of tension, however, related to Pellow's marriage breakdown. Hehad met and wed his first wife, Anne, seven years earlier in 1968 while at theOld Surrey and Burstow. She was gentry; an uncle owned a vast estate in NorthWales. She rode expensive horses, shot and hunted and did nothing much else inthose days (though Pellow says she's now a reformed character, living apractical life in the Orkneys. They remain friends.)
In1975, news of their discord alarmed Pellow's new master. He was worried the'antis' would make great play of it and that the whole matter would bedetrimental to hunting's reputation.
‘Iwent down to his house, Lockerby Hall, which was quite a big house; he waslocal landed gentry. And I said, "I can't be bothered with people likeyou". His mum came in and they all stood up, and they're not dukes orearls or lords. They're just Mr and Mrs who happen to own 16000 acres.
'Andthere was all this bobbing up and down like mushrooms in a frying pan and hewas rattling on. He wanted me to resign at the end of the season because he wasworried for the hunt's reputation, but I said, "Oh, stuff it!" Ichucked it in, I resigned - there and then.'
Inhis early days, the arcane nature of the hunt - the social stratification, thebaronial etiquette - were a prime attraction for Pellow. But, at the Hursley,he came to see that his cherished world was unjust as well as risible. It wasprobably here that the seeds for that rich crop of discontent were sown.
Amatter of personal pride, fiercely defended, led to the break, after five yearsservice, with Pellow's next hunt: the Tivyside in Cardigan.
Hewas out in the field one day chasing a fox when he came across a rider who, hesaid, caused him to send the hounds in the wrong direction, yet shifted theblame onto Pellow.
‘Ifa fox breaks covert and goes East, you turn your horse, take your cap off andpoint the way he's going. But he didn't, he holloaed and carried on lookinginto the covert. I put the hounds on the way he was looking, to which he said,"You're hunting heel line (in other words, the opposite direction that thefox took) you daft bastard".
‘Itold him if he knew what he was doing he wouldn't be looking in the wrongdirection anyway. And he replied, "Don't you dare speak to me that way, Ihappen to be this, that, and t'other." And I said, "You also happento be a bloody idiot", and carried on.
Areprimand from his master followed, with an order to apologise; the offendedparty was an important hunt official. Pellow refused, insisting he had been inthe right. His master insisted on obedience. The following day, Pellow formallyresigned. For some weeks, the master stalled about accepting it. Pellow was askedto reconsider but he wouldn't budge.
'Thischap accused me of doing something that wasn't my fault and it wasn'tretracted. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a stickler for principle.I would not be moved.'
Itwas 1980. For one season he worked as huntsman with the Lamerton, his 'home'pack in Devon. He was fired from here for excessive strictness - a failing heconcedes. ‘I wouldn't have people riding in front of me, in front of hounds.Wouldn't have people calling me Clifford. If they couldn't say "Goodmorning sir", don't bother to speak at all was my attitude.'
Withno job and no house, he, his two children and first wife (from whom he hadstill not parted) sheltered for several months in a caravan belonging to alocal farmer. Their furniture was kept under tarpaulin for eight weeks on thelawn of the tithed cottage he had been forced to vacate.
Hisfinal hunt job was with the Tredegar Farmers in Gwent and it was here that hemet his 'adored' second wife, Barbara.
Hewas to stay with the Tredegar for eight years, the longest any servant hadremained. This was despite the fact he regarded the area as poor huntingcountry, with little opportunity to gallop through its small fields which werespiked with barbed wire and had lots of woodland and other cover. At theTredegar a familiar theme re-surfaced: the master who wanted charge of thefield rather than leaving it to his professional servant.
He considered resigning in 1985 but persisted. Jobs wereno longer easy to find. ‘I stayed and gave the master all the support I couldbut then I noticed things were going wrong.' Trapped foxes held captive in milkchurns and in bone bins, then, on hunting day, put into bags and dragged acrossfields - all so as to impress the followers whose donations keep the enterpriseafloat…this was not the 'sport' of his grandfather's night-time stories.
‘It was "only a fox" at the end of the day, not a creaturewho could feel the same as you or I. The excuse given in arguments with theantis is that the fox is a killer, a pest. But when you're at your huntfunction, such as your hunt dance, you never hear the hunting fraternity say,"Oh, we'll have to kill a fox tomorrow because it killed a chicken or asheep." That's just an excuse. The hunting fraternity have hundreds ofexcuses for hunting but not one justification.
'Thereason for hunting is simply to provide sport for, as we term it in the huntingtrade, those who follow you. That is to say, for those who pay the subwhich, in the end, pays your wages.'
Followingthe bust-up with his master at the June 1990 Builth Wells hound show, Pellowlodged a formal complaint about the rule breaking with the Masters of FoxhoundsAssociation. Several letters passed between the two parties. An inquiry time wasset but, when Pellow asked for it to be re-arranged because one of hiswitnesses couldn't attend on the given day, the MFHA refused.
"Theirhandling of it,' he says, 'was absolutely filthy. They had been given dates,places, what was done by whom and three signed statements - and still theyallowed the guilty party to carry on. But then they were not going to be toldwhat to do by a mere servant and, at the end of the day, that's what we are.When I had asked for another date for the inquiry, I was told, "That's itboy, you've had your chance." I might at least have been called Mr Pellow.I was not a boy. I was 47 years old.'
TheMFHA rejection drove Pellow into the arms of the League Against Cruel Sportsand, before the year's end, into a public denunciation of the 'craft' to whichhe'd devoted his life.
Hebriefly took a job as a senior security man for government offices in Gwent,heading a team of eight other men. At the back of the offices was a fox earth,occupied by a vixen and her young. Pellow regularly threw out food for them,brown bread and other scraps. Now he is running his own business deliveringanimal feed to farms in South Wales.
Butthere is still one ghoulish reminder of the bad old days: the head, or mask, ofthe fox from Tredegar whom he kept alive for a week in the 40 gallon bone bin.Though Pellow was not in at the kill, he arrived soon after and, personally,decapitated the slain animal. Until he abandoned hunting, the mounted trophywas displayed at his home. It now sits in a cupboard. One day, he says, he'llsell it, and give the £60 or so it should raise to charity.
‘Ifyou were to put two petitions in front of me - one for the continuation ofhunting and one for the abolition, I would, without hesitation, sign for abolition.All the hunting fraternity think I've been got at. After all, I've had myencounters with the antis. I've galloped over them and put the whip aroundthem. Caught one chap by the hair and galloped up the road and bounced him alittle bit.
‘Myopinion of the antis was that they were scum, scruffy, glorified hippies, andthat they only did it for a free lunch, or £20, or whatever it was. Now,looking at it from today, the antis I've met - the active saboteurs – OK, theydress odd to say the least. They have long hair and have earrings stuck wherethey shouldn't have earrings. But they are, when you think about them, genuinepeople who genuinely feel for the quarry. And, as such, I don't think theywould do damage to hounds or horses. It does happen but it is not theirintention to do it.
'Whenit comes to the fighting in the hunting field, I can only speak from the videoevidence that I've seen, and 9 times out of 10, it is the hunting fraternitywho start it.'
'Yes,they think I've been got at. But nobody approached me. I made the approaches -both to the MFHA and, when that failed, to the League Against Cruel Sports.
'Orthey might say that I was not up to my job. Yet, the afternoon of my argumentat the Builth hound show, I had been speaking to a regional secretary of theBritish Field Sports Society who wanted me to do a public relations stand forthem at a major event in Swansea.
‘I believe that speaks for itself - that I must be regarded by those in the knowas some sort of authority on hunting.'
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.
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