The recent cold spell decimated the hunting calender locally with eight meets called off. However nothing was going to deter the Shillelagh and District Hunt from holding their traditional boxing day event in the village of Tinahely, Co. Wicklow. It was agreed to give the hounds a run and stage a walking hunt. Not quite the same razzmatazz given the equine absences but an escape from cabin fever and a chance to socialise non the less.
Gathering in the village square outside Murphy’s Hotel the local community imbibed hot whiskeys and ports, discussed Christmas, snow, the economy, future meets, and what ever else caught your fancy. The hounds yelped and the huntsmen added a bit of colour. To the sound of a hunting horn the group headed off in the direction of Coolboy hounds sniffing and quartering the ground. A fine tradition upheld.
The following Tuesday after a sudden and welcome thaw Egan’s public house of Parkbridge hosted the annual children’s Christmas Hunt. An opportunity for the youngsters to experience a hack out over open country. Well attended the day was mild and grey, the ground soft but not heavy. Hip flasks and stirrup cups are the pre-hunt ritual, keeping warm or dutch courage? Probably a bit of both.
The Tinahely Riding Club and the Shillelagh and District Hunt are fundamental to the local community, like the GAA they are inextricably linked with rural life. Horses create a common bond and a deep rooted social outlet appreciated by both young and old alike.
The kids had a ball on what was a grey foggy day. It stayed mild and the rain did not fall. The horses got a much needed run out and the hounds enjoyed mooching around the countryside.
At days end all those involved retired to Egan’s for much needed sustenance. Hot soup and sandwiches for all, crisps and lemonade for the youngsters, and of course we cannot leave out uncle Arthur.