Sunday 19 November 2017

Charles Parker

The 'Old Etonian terrierman' was well known on the Irish hunt scene

CHARLES Parker, who died on October 6, aged 87, was known to many in the foxhunting world as "the Old Etonian terrierman".

Parker shared an extraordinary understanding of foxes with the famous huntsman Capt Ronnie Wallace, for whom he worked.

He had a circle of devoted friends, but could be disconcerting on a first encounter, due to his complete lack of political correctness. He treated everyone the same, regardless of background and could be utterly charming or, occasionally, downright rude.

Born on September 7, 1923, Charles Parker was the eldest of four children of Capt Roger Parker, joint master of the Cambridgeshire Foxhounds for 25 years (1935-60).

Although his father and grandfather served as directors of Barclays Bank, Charles failed to show any interest in activities that took place indoors. After a brief spell at Eton, he was transferred to Gordonstoun and then progressed to Cambridge, where he read agriculture.

In 1941, Parker encountered Ronnie Wallace, who had been a contemporary at Eton and was now a junior officer in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, based at Newmarket. Wallace had brought with him his own beagle pack.

Parker asked if he could come out with Wallace's beagles, meeting at Twentypence Bridge. The 18-year-old visitor was outspokenly critical of Wallace putting his hounds into a hedgerow, but when a hare went away from the hedge and a tremendous hunt ensued, it changed the course of Parker's life.

He became a devoted follower of Wallace and bunked off his officer training.

His military career ended in 1944 after he overturned a Bren-gun carrier; he was invalided out with injuries and ulcers.

After working for a time on a farm, Parker moved to the Ludlow Hunt Kennels at Caynham as groom, terrierman, whipper-in and earthstopper for Wallace, who was starting his first foxhound mastership.

For Wallace and Parker, hunting was an all-year-round sport. For 22 years (1946-68) Wallace was Master and huntsman of the Hawkstone Otterhounds, hunting throughout the summer in the rivers of the Welsh Borders.

Parker enjoyed social life and once paid for a dinner party in a Stow-on-the-Wold pub by writing a cheque on a sheet of lavatory paper.

He was twice engaged, but neither relationship ended in marriage and he remained a lifelong bachelor.

In 1967 -- depressed by what he saw as the urbanisation of the English countryside -- he moved to Ireland, where he enjoyed hunting trips with the Hawkstone. For five seasons he joined forces with the charismatic Capt Evan Williams, Master and huntsman of the Tipperary.

Parker helped to produce excellent sport in their superb bank and ditch country. He loved a bet and for a wager during an Irish dinner party, he twice swam the lake in the grounds in mid-winter, still wearing his dinner jacket.

Also in Ireland, Parker helped to set up a local otter hound pack, the Desmonds.

In the mid-1980s, he returned to England to hunt once more with Wallace at the Exmoor. Parker lived at Withypool, and was Harbourer of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds until 1996.

Later, Parker moved back to Ireland, where he created a fine garden at Cahervillahow, Co Tipperary, for the Valentine family.

He had recently lived in a nursing home, but during his last summer managed a day with the Desmonds' mink pack, directing a friend to drive through two farmyards, across fields, through an electric fence and on to a bank until he could gain a good view of the hounds working.

According to his wishes, his ashes will be scattered on Ireland's river Blackwater at Charles's Bridge on a day when hounds meet there.

Sunday Independent

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