Staumullen, Co Meath
Photgrapaher Donal Moloney writes:
The last time I witnessed a Fox Hunting scene was on the place mats my Granny used to wheel out to impress the visiting aunts and uncles. This would be accompanied by her best dainty China cups and saucers with matching plates. A variety of small fairy cakes and scones would then be presented on an afternoon tea cake stand. They would then gently position their morsel of choice in the centre of a doily and desperately refrain from wolfing it down in one go.
One could be forgiven for thinking that we may have been in some very posh suburb of Dublin or in a grand country home but all this occurred in Crumlin and I witnessed similar scenes in the three bedroom semi-detached on the Glasnevin/Finglas border where I grew up.
So I had always associated Hunting scenes with gentry and privilege. Over the last week I visited two events to try capture a sense of these occasions and discovered that nothing could be further from the truth.
Farmers, long distance truck drivers, publicans and all sorts meet at a pub in Stamullen, Co Meath. At the back of the pub all one can hear is the hounds in full cry desperate to get some exercise. The trailer opens and they pour out. Horse boxes litter the village and are abandoned until their return. They tack up and head out en masse into a local field not knowing their path for the next 2-3 hours.
I find a local man who’s daughter is part of the hunt and he graciously agrees to take me along and attempt to follow them in his 4×4. He’s very familiar with the local countryside and anticipates their moves around the vast area with a good deal of success.
My first impression is one of frustration as I have no clue how to ride a horse and everyone seems to be having such great fun. For the first time in my life I regret not learning how to ride (despite being a lad from Finglas).
Btw, I didn’t see one dead fox. In fact, I’m told it’s more common for them to return foxless. The Hunt would appear to be much more fun than the kill. Jumping monster ditches and fences is the prize and the priority.