Stonehall still packs a punch in hunting
Famous Limerick hunt unveils book to celebrate its centenary
The Stonehall Harriers, one of Co Limerick's best-known packs, celebrates its centenary this year, having been formally founded in 1911.
However, the pack's history goes back even further, through local hunting families including the McDonoghs of Bansha, Kilcornan, the Westropp family of Melon, Kildimo, the Hewson family in Toomdeely, Askeaton, the Langford family from Foynes, the Whites of Nantenan and the Sheehys of Court, Kildimo.
Until the formal founding of the Stonehall Harriers, these families had maintained their own packs of hounds, but, following the club's formation, the families donated hounds to the Stonehall pack.
The founding members of the club included John McDonogh, Denis O'Shaughnessy, Tommy Power and Michael O'Neill, with early subscribers including the Hunt, Hewson, Sheehy, Massey, Langford and Mangan families.
The past 100-year history of the club has been recorded in a new book, Stonehall Harriers Centenary Record, written by Dr John Feheney, a native of Ballysteen.
According to the author, the Stonehall Harriers were initially known as the Kilcornan Harriers, while they were a trencher-fed pack. However, when the hounds were kennelled in the vacant Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Stonehall, the name was changed to the Stonehall Harriers. The hounds were to be kennelled at Stonehall until a purpose-built kennels was constructed in Bansha in 1945.
The Stonehall Harriers has the unusual distinction of having two masters whose careers have spanned the club's entire 100-year history. The hunt's first master, Paddy McDonogh, held the office from 1911 until 1953. Michael O'Shaughnessy became joint master in 1953 and, sharing duties with others over the years, including Betty Hewson (1953-1956) and George Kennedy (1956-1990), has stayed in that position since.
The Stonehall Harriers is a farmers' pack in which social class was brushed aside and members of the gentry and working class shared their love of hunting. A generation or two ago, there was a local carter who laboured six days a week, using his one horse to cart materials for a local business. However, every St Stephen's Day and New Year's Day he put the cart aside and rode him to the Stonehall Harriers' meets. It was a similar story with two local farming brothers, who used two half-blood horses all week for ploughing and general farm work but, come Friday, the horses were washed, saddled and ridden to the Stonehall meet.