Colourful huntsman with a love of nature
Charles Parker:‘HUNTING IS all that’s worth living for . . . ” wrote Surtees in Handley Cross. It is a sentiment that was shared by Charles Parker, who has died aged 87, one-time terrier man of the Tipperary foxhounds under their legendary master, Capt Evan Williams.
Williams with Parker opened up the country including the Golden Vale. Parker building his “Parker pops”, which were substantial hunt jumps in wooden frames set in the field fences.
Charles Parker was the eldest son of a director of Barclays Bank who was a joint master of the Cambridgeshire Foxhounds for 25 years. Always unconventional, he showed little interest in any work indoors.
He spent a brief time at the elite English public (private) school, Eton College, leaving there to go to another private school, Gordonstoun in Scotland, with its emphasis on outward-bound activities. He studied agriculture at Cambridge.
In 1941, he went out for the day with the pack of beagles owned by Ronnie Wallace. Parker was critical of Wallace for putting his hounds into a hedgerow but when a hare got up and a great hunt followed, Parker became a lifelong aficionado of Wallace.
When doing an officer training course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Parker took French leave so often in order to hunt he was asked to leave.
He subsequently joined his father’s old regiment in Norfolk as a trooper. In 1944 he overturned a bren-gun carrier and his injuries invalided him out of the army.
After a short time working on a farm, he went as terrier man, groom, whipper-in and earth-stopper to the Ludlow Hunt Kennels on the English-Welsh border where Wallace had his first foxhound mastership and continued as a master of various packs for 58 consecutive years.
From the Ludlow, Wallace, followed by Parker, moved south to the Cotswolds, where the sport was remarkable, partly due to Parker’s earth-stopping strategy.
He was meticulous. Wearing scarlet wool knee socks, cord breeches and muddy lace-up boots, he would walk the countryside night and day carrying a sack and a spade, dropping in on friends for a glass of whisky.
He encouraged fox preservation by landowners and farmers ensuring the hunt was pre-eminently the controller of foxes during the hunting season and strictly observing the close season when foxes breed. This resulted in a large and healthy fox population.
Parker and Wallace moved to the Heythrop, where he lived in a caravan. He became depressed by the urbanisation of the countryside and the pollution of rivers which decimated otters, so moved to Ireland. There he joined forces for five seasons with Evan Williams, former leading trainer and steeplechaser, who was master until 1971 of the Tipperary Foxhounds.
When Williams retired, Parker designed and worked on the Williams garden at Knockainey in Co Limerick before rejoining Wallace, now in his last great mastership at the Exmore, and he became Harbourer of the Devon and Somerset Stag hounds.
There were many anecdotes about Parker and his extraordinary understanding of foxes and otters. He loved a bet and once at a dinner party in the middle of winter, he swam across a lake in his dinner jacket.
He returned to Ireland to live in a cottage at Cahervillahow near Golden where he created a remarkable garden for the Valentines. He was always generous in sharing his knowledge and his plants and would fill friends’ cars with perennials and bulbs.
In his last years, he moved into a nursing home. He was choosy though and left the first one he booked into after a single night; the next one he left after two nights.
His funeral arrangements were specific. He inspected the crematorium where he was to be cremated and arranged that his ashes are to be sprinkled off Charles Bridge over the Blackwater when the hounds are hunting nearby.
Charles Parker: born September 7th, 1923; died October 6th, 2010.