Scarteen huntsman Raymond O’Halloran with hounds at Old Pallas in pre-Covid times | PICTURE: Catherine Power
This is the time of the year when hunting would normally start in Limerick, looked on by many as “Ireland’s premier hunting county”, says Dickie Power.
Hunting could not continue without the generosity of farmers and landowners who make the hunt welcome year after year, he said.
“However, human health and wellbeing are paramount so all of this is on hold hoping that December may allow at least some semblance of hunting to resume. In the meantime, the sound of the hunting horn will not be heard, neither will the ring of the blacksmith’s anvil as horses are being shod. Hounds, which were being got fit for the opening meets, have been roughed off and reduced to walking exercise all within the 5km of their kennels,” said Dickie.
Chris Ryan, whose family have owned and kept the famous Scarteen hounds for generations, expressed his disappointment with the current lockdown.
“Raymie (O' Halloran) has had the hounds in such great order these last seasons. We are so fortunate to have his expertise in the management of hounds in these uncertain times. Hounds have been busy this Autumn with some great mornings recorded. They have now been 'let down' again until the picture becomes clearer and we'll be ready to restart as soon as conditions allow,” said Chris.
It isn’t just the riders who will miss their outings, hunting attracts a huge number of foot and car followers. Several have expressed their disappointment.
Andy O’Dea, from Rathkeale, has been following the Scarteen for longer than he would care to admit.
“It is part of our lives this time of the year - the fun, the camaraderie and the excitement of seeing and hearing hounds hunting will be hugely missed,” said Andy.
Another long-time follower, Tim Lyons, of Inch St Lawrence, was equally forthright.
“For someone like me who lives alone it’s what brightens these dark days - the hunting, the fresh air and meeting old friends. The present situation is not unlike a death in the family!” said Tim.
The Scarteen hounds, based in Knocklong, were all set for the coming season and their huntsman Raymie O’Halloran, from Kilross, was confidently looking forward to a great season.
Dickie said the hounds are now back on roadwork with Raymie and his helpers. Horses have been replaced by bicycles to keep hounds exercised.
“Those keen hunters with horses ready now are reduced to a gentle hack around, all within the 5km limit of home," said Dickie, who adds that they are looking forward to the day when hunting can resume.
Because Covid or no Covid, without the kind permission of farmers there would be no hunting at all.