Ron Black

Article text
By The Cumbria Family History Society

Otters and Hounds
Temporarily, my family and I were evacuated during WWII when my Dad was called up to the RAF, from our home in Carlisle all of nine miles to the home of my maternal grandparents, the EDGER’S in Brampton where we remained until just after the war ceased and my Dad returned to ’Civvy Street’. As a small boy my uncle, Tommy DOWTHWAITE, took me under his wing and introduced me to the pleasures of country life taking me journeys along with him on his commercial travels with West Cumberland Farmers in the fells of North East Cumberland and Eastern Northumberland, border country where, I suspect, I was useful in opening the many farm gates along the roads and lanes for him.
Apart from my introduction to farming life in the wilds of Cumberland I was also introduced to the life of the Hound Trails, Otter Hunting and C & W Wrestling, all the entertainment of country life. I recall being dragged along the banks of the River Irthing looking for the elusive otters, staring into the distant hills watching for signs of the baying hounds returning from their fruitless run to the calls of “woo-hoops” and at intervals attending the call of the local shows and watching the particular style of wrestling attributed to Cumberland and Westmorland.
These long filed memories have recently been awakened by reading two books written by Ron BLACK and a third written in conjunction with George STEWART and Jean GIDMAN describing the History of the Lunesdale and Oxenholme Staghounds, The Mardale Hunt and Bobby TROUGHTON and the Kendal Otter Hounds and I highly recommend them to my fellow members as a good edifying read.

A History of the Lunesdale & Oxenholme Staghounds by Ron Black
This country has, to a degree, lost one of the mainstays of the countryside economy by the banning of hunting with hounds and it is fortunate that we have a written history of the Lunesdale and Oxenholme Hounds leaving a legacy for us and future generations to begin to understand and learn from. This illustrated booklet of 58 pages is crammed with detail and personalities.
Gone 2 Ground Books, 2011. Price £5.99 plus £4.00 p & p.

The Mardale Hunt – A History by Ron Black.
The second book I have just read is a more substantial account, 158 pages, dedicated to Joseph William GREENHOW of the Mardale Shepherds Meet, probably the best known of all the meets of the Lakeland Fell Packs. Vivid descriptions of Mardale before and after the construction of the dam and flooding heralded by these words:
“The Farmsteads are empty; their roof tiles are gone,
The strong hardy Dalesmen have left one by one,
There’s nothing to show where their old dwellings stood,
Save whitening stones fathoms deep neath the flood”.
Gone 2 Ground Books, 2011. Price £15.99 plus £4.00 p & p.

“And there is no Candidate for his Mantle” Bobby Troughton and the Kendal Otter Hounds by George Stewart, Jean Gidman and Ron Black.
216 detailed, informative and entertaining pages covering the legendary figure of Bobby Troughton, a man who left his legacy in the town of Kendal and was renowned for his character, humour and lifetime struggles as well as for his passion for Otter hunting, his flair as a successful and talented huntsman in establishing of the Kendal and District pack and the preservation of one of our oldest breeds, the Otterhound.
The local studies section of Kendal Library was the ferment of this story in which close friendships were formed by mutual interests of George Stewart and Ron Black in anything and everything related to the outside life of the huntsmen and hunters and is embraced by the life and times of Bobby Troughton. One cannot be but transmitted into an era of long ago 1830’s to 1910’s without grasping the realities of the life and its personalities. Bobby walking through Kendal town with a tame otter at his heels like a dog and he also kept a tame badger back at his home.
Gone 2 Ground Books, Jan 2013 Price £21.99 inc. p & p.

Anyone of us who respects the traditions of the countryside will thoroughly enjoy the tales throughout these three books brought alive with colourful expertise and a dedication to accuracy and research, the books are enhanced with references to many local families and individuals, poetry and songs. History lights up!

From the website Sons of Savages

"And There Is No Candidate For His Mantle" stories about Bobby Troughton and the Kendal Otter Hounds.

Began reading and sent Ron a note to say how much I was enjoying it. Lots of information plucked from court records and a family history section contributed by Jean Gidman as well as incites from George Stewart all tell the story of Bobby Troughton and his life's desire to hunt Otters. A great read with historical facts depicting a well lived life, touching, humorous, and most of all giving you a sense of life and the hunting of Otters with hounds in 19th century Kendal. It's wonderful how things work sometimes to preserve these small seemingly insignificant closing windows of our past.
Thanks to George Stewart for saving this one and to Ron for recognizing it's value and spending the energy and funds.
You will be interested to know that Ron has established, "Gone to Ground Books" for the purpose of publishing these small and mighty memories of a hunting past that is sadly slipping into non existence.