Times Past: Stanislaus Lynch - author and master huntsman
Historian Jonathan Smyth's latest edition of Times Past looks at a Cavanman who went on to become a celebrated author...
There can be little else more thrilling than the sight and sound of hounds, horses, and riders at the height of a chase. The beagles on the scent, signalling to each other in the direction of the prey. Each horse manicured, their shining coats gleaming in the sunlight and the horse-riders in their finery, dressed in red, or black jackets, helmets and polished boots. The hunting horn echoes as the spectacle of the hunt begins in all its entertaining form. In full flow this is a magical event for all, excluding Mr Fox of course, who has to make good on his instincts.
The atmosphere of the hunt was never portrayed better than in the writings of Stanislaus Lynch. In his descriptive prose and poetry, he captures the moment, visually describing the countryside and the events of the day.
In 1907, Stanislaus Joseph Lynch was born in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan. He was the son of Thomas and Sarah Lynch, Dublin Street, Ballyjamesduff. Stanislaus’s siblings included Mary Clare, Kate Magdalen, Gerald Matt, Sarah Gertrude, Annie Josephine and Francis Elizabeth. His father was an auctioneer and a wine and spirit merchant.
Stanislaus was to recall in later life that he had himself for many years kept hounds in Ballyjamesduff for the purpose of hunting. His wonderful love of the great outdoors and the beauty of the Irish countryside, be it Cavan or Cork, shone through in every sentence he wrote in his hunting books. In some of them he wrote about Cavan, which he does with an expression of love for his native county. There is something truly admirable in a person who, after attaining success, never forgets their birthplace. After attending schools locally, Lynch was educated at Castleknock College, Dublin.
Recently, having delved into these beautifully written books, it only seems right to share a glimpse of the treasure they contain. In chapter five, from ‘A Hunting Man’s Rambles’, Lynch recalls a drag-hunt he attended in Co Cavan. Of his mother county, he stated, that Cavan was one of those ‘unchartered regions of the footmen’ and not a place particularly associated with huntsmen on horseback. Although, he does say: ‘I once kept a little pack (hounds) of my own there and hunted them on horseback, the country generally is unsuitable for riding, but is excellent for footmen.’
He attended the Cavan drag-hunt in the esteemed company of Laurence Campbell, Professor of Sculpture in the National School of Art. The Professor who was a young man, looked forward to the day’s proceedings. Lynch noted with joy: ‘I was delighted that the love of good hound-work is still as keen as when I left my birthplace some years ago.’
The drag-hunt was arranged to take place in Cornafaen, a territory that was unfamiliar to Lynch. Never-the-less, after a few minutes he soon renewed friendships, realising, that he was ‘in the midst’ of hunstmen and the hounds of former days ‘whose grand-sires and grand-dams’, as he put it, ‘had given me many a good day’s sport’.
He acknowledged that, in those days, drag-hunting was not especially carried out around Ballyjamesduff and wondered if the Cornafaen hunters carried out the hunt in the same manner as the Kerry lads. The Cornafaen method, he soon learned, was slightly different.
He explained, in Kerry the hounds all competed in one giant pack of between forty and eighty dogs, whereas in Cavan they were divided into smaller packs, each running a shorter distance. The Cavan packs had about 18 hounds each which competed in five chases with ‘a total entry of ninety hounds’. The winning owner received a grand prize of £40, which was a considerable amount of money in the early 1950s.
Lynch notes that the Cavan men left ‘nothing to chance’ and, before entering a hound in the race, it was branded with ‘red lead or white paint’.
Out of the 135 hounds that day in Cornafaen, there were two hard workers, firstly, ‘Drummer’(number 35) owned by Mr C. Farrelly, Kildallon Hunt Club, and secondly, ‘Famous’ (number 31), belonging to Mr L. McIntyre, Behey Hunt Club.
In ‘Hounds are Running’, Lynch spoke of a horse-rider from Ballyjamesduff, who by the time of writing the book, had been living 25 years in America.
Ballyjamesduff’s Paddy Callaghan’s ‘feats of horsemanship’ were still discussed around firesides with pride, he wrote.
Lynch’s father had employed Callaghan to ride horses at shows in Cavan, Castleblayney, Castlepollard, Oldcastle, Ballyjamesduff and Cootehill.
A prominent horse breeder was Hughie Grey from Ryefield, Virginia, who owned a winning mare named ‘Motor Car’. She won numerous prizes at the Dublin Horse Show with Paddy Callaghan on horseback.
In Lynch’s opinion, of all the horse shows he attended, the ‘most spectacular’ displays ever witnessed were those of Paddy Callaghan on Motor Car, the famous horse from Virginia.
Stanislaus Lynch was Ireland’s most authoritative writer on all matters to do with hunting. His work was published in ‘several countries’ including Ireland and Great Britain.
He often took part in hunts across Europe and won numerous prizes at horse-jumping events. His skills as a commentator were valued and he broadcast for many years during the ‘Military Jumping Competition’ for the Aga Khan Cup and the ‘International Jumping Championship’, at the Dublin Horseshow.
A note on the back of ‘A Hunting Man’s Rambles’ suitably described him as, ‘the acknowledged dean of Irish hunting writers.’ The excerpt mentions that Lynch had been commissioned by the Department of External Affairs to produce a ‘folder’ on ‘Hunting in Ireland’ in the early 1950s.
He also received a ‘Diploma with honourable mention’ for a literary event he entered at the London Olympics in 1948.
On February 21, 2019, an event to honour the life and work of Stanislaus Lynch was held in Cavan County Museum, located in his native Ballyjamesduff.
In Foxhunting Life, Noel Mullins said of the occasion: ‘The late hunting correspondent, poet, author, broadcaster, huntsman, Irish Draught Horse and Connemara pony breeder Stanislaus Lynch (1907-1983) from Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan in Ireland was honoured recently in Cavan County Museum. The special remembrance night drew a capacity crowd of hunt followers from both mounted and foot packs, including admirers of his work from all over Ireland. Lynch’s wife Margaret was also with us’.
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