Barbecues and tattie nights lost with demise of ancient hunt in Scotland

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The Independent Online

For most people who live in the area once covered by the Dumfriesshire hunt, the demise of the sport has caused social deprivation rather than financial hardship.

For most people who live in the area once covered by the Dumfriesshire hunt, the demise of the sport has caused social deprivation rather than financial hardship.

It is the lack of quiz, bowls and "tattie" supper nights - once organised to fund the hunt - that they most regret.

While there has been an undoubted economic impact on those immediately involved in breeding or caring for horses, the first complaint among the residents of the small villages around Lockerbie was a lack of the social functions which drew together a scattered community.

The Dumfriesshire, one of Scotland's oldest fox hunts, was disbanded last October - the first casualty of the Scottish ban. Although committee members continue to gather in the hope that one day they will be able to hunt again, the twice-weekly meets have ceased. When Sir Rupert Buchanan-Jardine, 80, told organisers "with regret" that he could no longer allow them to use his 20,000-acre estate for fear of prosecution, supporters predicted a "huge loss of income" in the area.

Stud farms report a drop in earnings, with people no longer buying horses, and farriers say they are suffering during the winter months, a time when the hunt kept them going after pony club and cross-country events ceased.

John Carruthers, the kennelman who cared for the distinctive black and tan hounds, which were sold off or shot, has taken a job as a lorry driver.

William Hodge, owner of a stud farm in Waterbeck, said he had lost 25 per cent of his business. "We used to sell hunters but you just haven't got that market any more," he said. "We still sell them to England but the way things are we don't know where that is going now. We have had to diversify, training horses for racing," he said.

But despite the business difficulties, it was the lack of social gatherings, which appeared to annoy Mr Hodge most. "It used to be a focal point for everyone, even the children were included," he said. "There used to be barbecues and fun rides but we don't have them any more. People are not meeting as much because there is nothing going on."

While Dumfries and Galloway Council insisted it was too early to consider a full study of any commercial downturn, Lavinia Vaughan, councillor for the area covered by the hunt, said: "I don't think there has been a major economic impact, it is more of a social one. Most people don't employ grooms. They are country people and look after their own horses. But socially it used to draw together all sections of the community."

Malcolm Bell Macdonald, chairman of the hunt supporters' club and organiser of many of the social nights, agreed. "A big bit of life has gone. There are no point-to-points, no hunter trials and the supporters' club has stopped the social events.

"We used to have tattie suppers, race nights, bowls, auctions, quiz nights - all of those things were driven by the hunt. Now the elderly people who might have come to those evenings sit at home and watch television."

Mr Bell Macdonald said he saw no reason to continue such events without the sport it funded. "People ask me why I don't organise them any more but they were to raise money for the hunt and the hunt is no longer there to raise money for," he said.

HUNTING IN NUMBERS

£15.6m income earned by hunts

£250m income generated by hunting, according to the Countryside Alliance

318 registered hound packs

16 registered draghunt packs

1,280,000 people who attended meets last year

1 average number of foxes killed per hunting day

8,000 full-time jobs dependent on hunting

£8,000 average wage of a full-time hunt employee

£3,448 annual amount spent on tack and riding clothes by the average horse-owning household

45% proportion of hunt supporters who are women

80% proportion of hunts with only white members

60% proportion of people in rural areas who opposeban

21,000 foxes killed by hunts every year

217,000 number of foxes in the pre-breeding season

651,000 number during breeding season

£930 cost of each fox killed by a hunt

£1,000 cost of a day's foxhunt

31 minutes average length of the chase during a foxhunt

6 miles covered by the average fox hunt

3 hours average length of a deer hunt

1,000 number of deer culled each year to maintain a stable population

160 number of deer killed in hunts

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