Brian Pheasey

This is an extract from the Tribute by his son David at the Service of Thanksgiving

“Bryan Henry Pheasey was born in Etwell,  Derbyshire. He had two sisters,Vi and Audrey.   Their father was a Stud Groom and their mother the saddler’s daughter.

When he was about 10 or so, his father bought some Hackneys from the Manchester Evening Post who were ‘motorising’.  They bred from one mare and early one morning Dad and his father found that she’d foaled herself overnight down near the river .They decided to call the filly foal ‘Wye Valley Magic’ and it went on to win the championship at almost every show in the North of England.  He grew up with ponies and horses, bringing them on and hunting them until they were ready to sell.

We all had a family break in Derbyshire last December, revisiting places where my Mother and Father grew up.  There is a very steep hill out of Asbourne towards Buxton, Dad was pleased to see the water trough is still there from his boyhood.  It was where his father always had to stop the Reo Speedwagon horsebox and fill the radiator, otherwise it would boil long before it made the top of the hill.

During the early war years he was very busy.  He was in the Home Guard for a while and Dad had to hold the ponies while the men were setting off explosions.  He did get into a bit of trouble with them though because they found out he’d also been taking one of the ponies out with the Meynell.

When he was 17½ , he volunteered for the RAF and  trained to be a Wireless Operator – Air Gunner (a WOP AG).  But luckily he was posted to Bombay, becoming an NCO, running a transport section delivering RAF equipment.  He and his friends liked to swim in the water tower after dark to cool down, they also made their lorries backfire – frightening mule trains which then bolted, and they sometimes used the staff car to go to the pictures – always ‘winding the clock back’ to cover their tracks.  This worked until some
audit figures indicated old Humber was doing only 5 miles to the gallon. But then, they were only 20.

The winter 1946/47 was extremely cold and Buxton had deep snow. Dad sent Mum a photograph of him sweltering in Bombay.

After he was demobbed he returned to Buxton and in 1947 married Nora Fearn. After a grand reception they set off in Dad’s Wolsley Hornet for their honeymoon in Windsor, stopping halfway at the White Lion in Banbury.

Dad was employed as an apprentice electrician and although it was interesting, didn’t match up to the world he had grown up in. So after a very short while he joined the High Peak Harriers and whipped in to George Steel for 5 seasons under the Mastership of the Misses Wilson.  Julie and I were born there in Bakewell. They were happy times.

George Steel was a good man and Huntsman and he taught Dad all the basics of hunt service, and after 6 seasons with the High Peak he moved to be first whipper-in to Jack Simister at Lord Fitzwilliams hounds in Milton Park near Peterborough.  This must have been the hunt servant’s ‘advanced course’.
The big Old English foxhounds combined with the management style of Jack Simister made for a hard but very correct and sound apprenticeship.  He said
he learned to do things before anyone else had even thought of them.

In 1957 he got a great opportunity, one he’d been waiting for, and moved to the Grafton to whip in to Joe Miller, where the Senior Master was Colonel Foster.  They were extremely happy years where many great friends were made, a number of you are here this afternoon.  My sister Carol was born in Paulerspury.

He had great respect for Joe – both man and huntsman.  Joe never swore or raised his voice, or appeared to lose his temper.

Around that time a new horse ran away with Dad.  After jumping a hedge to escape the gaze of the field and doing a few circles, hounds divided and he and John Shepherd went after them – but found them hard to live with, let alone stop.  I think this was from Ascote Thorns just North of Towcester on the A5 and they stopped them little short of Moreton Pinkney,  6 miles as the crow flies.  When they rejoined Joe, Dad’s second horse had been sent home and by the end of the day his runaway had resolved never to do it again.  I think he said this horse was bought at the end of the season by Ann Hawkins (then Ann Halt) who successfully evented it and sent Dad apicture of it jumping a haycart at an event in Scotland.  He said the horse was bought there and then and carried the Field Master of the Eglington for 13 seasons.

One hound they failed to retrieve from the Morton Pinkney run was Harvester who was later reported to be on road at Cannons Ashby.  Dad arrived there in the Morris van at about 10.30 that night to meet him coming straight downthe middle of the road.  He wondered how he was going to catch this rather independent dog-hound, and, if he was going to get a nip for his trouble. As it happened, Dad opened the passenger side door and he got straight in and sat up like any other important passenger, all the way home.  Dad said, he knew Harvester was looking at him, but every time he looked back at him the old dog looked away.

In 1962, after 5 extremely happy years with the Grafton, he went as Kennel Huntsman to the Avon Vale. Capt Neil Parker was to hunt hounds and Major Bartholomew was Senior Master.  The kennels are in Spye Park, at that time the home of Lord and Lady Spicer.  This is a special place with no through traffic, heavily wooded, with two lakes and a view which stretches down the valley to the river, and at the other end of the park, down Sunrise Hill to Lacock.  Dad loved the pretty Avon Vale country, he loved the people and they loved him.  He and my mother had so much fun during their two seasons there and formed  friendships which have lasted ever since.  Sport was also very successful indeed, they were a clever pack of hounds, and Neil Parker was a top horseman and huntsman.   He and Dad made an excellent team and got on very well.

In 1964 came an opportunity to hunt the bitch pack at the Bicester and Warden Hill.  This was really what he wanted to do, but he found it very hard to leave the Avon Vale, particularly because of the many great friends there.  But to the Bicester it was with Sir Richard Cooper, Miles Gosling, and Dick Smith-Bingham as Senior Master (all sadly no longer here).  It would become a remarkable 25 years of hard work, happiness and success.  He made even more good friends to add to those already gathered particularly
from the Grafton and Avon Vale.  He earned this success and tremendous popularity by – certainly hard work, in the hunting field and everywhere else too, certainly through a talent for his job, his love of hounds and interest in their breeding, and by being thoroughly dependable and knowledgeable, but above all for his friendly and positive attitude.  Nobody could open a gate for him without getting a compulsory smiling ‘thank you’ and a friendly comment by name.  He knew all the Bicester people and always used their names.  Even on days when things weren’t working out so well he was the same.  He was just an irrepressibly good humoured man.  To say heenjoyed working with a succession of talented Masters, Huntsmen and Staff over the 25 years at the Bicester is an understatement in the extreme.

This (supposedly) came to an end with his retirement in 1989.  The great and sadly missed John Howard Jones organised a ‘This is Your Life’ evening for him in John O’Neill’s barn.  He even got the actor and supporter of hunting Robert Hardy to compere it.  It was a great night.

On his retirement, Ian McKie asked him if he would like to choose his favourite horse to continue hunting (now in an amateur capacity).  He chose the one horse (The Snob) which neither the hunt nor Mr McKie owned.  But Mr Sumner kindly lent him Snobby on a permanent basis.   He thought a great deal of Mr and Mrs McKie who were very good to him and let him keep Snobby at the Mill.  He also liked to help maintain the horse swimming pool and gallops, in fact, he never did retire at all.  To my mother’s frustration, he still got up before it was light (but she knew he would never change) and also enjoyed helping at the Preston’s and drove cars all over the place for Martin Cook.

He continued to enjoy hunting right through to 2005, when Patrick Martin suggested he should hunt the hounds to mark his 80th birthday.   This resulted in a great day hosted by Robert Hawes – meeting at Monks House.  At around 2.30 hounds ran quickly from near Shelswell House across the road and on towards Chetwode.  Afterwards as we hacked home across the park we followed Dad and Patrick riding side by side with the hounds around them, it looked like the end of an era rather than the end of the day.  However, it was not yet the end of the day, perhaps also an omen for hunting.  Nearing the bottom of Willesdon they  somewhat accidentally let hounds run on, resulting in them finding and accounting for a fox in the small covert Mr Richard Cooper has now named Bryan’s covert.   There were several other great events in celebration of his 80th year, but towards the end of 2005 it became clear he was seriously ill.  He was incredibly the same cheerful and positive man through to the end on the 24th May.  Counting his blessings – a wonderful wife and partner for nearly 60 years, they were devoted to each other, a strong and close family which was always of the utmost importance to him, richness beyond measure in his many great friends, and a life which he chose, and would choose again, almost by the minute, without hesitation.