Billeder på siden

attention to, and seek recreation and amusement from, our animating and diversified field sports, which the country of your adoption happily affords in a degree unequalled in any other part of Europe.

Considering your Royal Highness in the light of a Sportsman then, how much to be envied is your unrivalled ability to drain the cup of sylvan pleasures to its dregs! The opportunities which the Poet aspired to are yours, in possession, to the utmost extent :—

"Give me to back the steed, and through the chase

To wind my fearless way; to wield the gun

On moor or mountain, or in the thorny depth
Of forest intricate; nor less to seek,

'Mid slippery rocks and hoarse resounding floods,
The noblest tenants of the stream. Then Health

Shall brace my vig'rous frame, and Cheerfulness,
Health's handmaid, fill my soul with harmless joy."

Hoping, then, that we may see the sports of the field flourish under the revivifying patronage of your exalted station, I beg to draw the attention of your Royal Highness to certain abuses which have crept into a leading branch of our national diversions, confidently expecting you will see the expediency of prevailing on Her Majesty to apply the axe, as Her Majesty has fully the power of doing, to the root of one evil at least.

In order the subject may be clearly understood, it is necessary to explain, that down to the end of the last century, our ancestors, in breeding horses for the turf, were guided by principles involving the national advantage-their object being, not only to combine speed with stoutness to go a distance, but likewise power to carry high weight. The consequence was, that such horses as proved deficient in the first requisite were yet found immeasurably superior, as chargers, to the dragoon horses of any other country in strength, bone, and substance they were equal to the best; whilst their courage and lasting powers, derived from their high blood, defied all foreign competition. The breeders of such horses deserved to be encouraged, and they were so, not only by the fostering care of the Crown, but by the patriotic munificence of individuals.

As far back as the reign of Queen Anne, a gentleman left a sum of money, the yearly interest of which, amounting to 1300 guineas, he directed should be annually divided into thirteen Plates or Purses, to be run for at such places as the Crown should appoint (whence they are called the King's or Queen's Plates or Guineas), upon condition that each horse, mare, or gelding should carry TWELVE STONE,


This munificent bequest was made with the view and purpose of encouraging the breed of a strong and generally useful description of thorough-bred horse; and no question but the laudable intention of the donor was fully answered down to the end of the last century. About that period, however, unfortunately for the country, there existed a person who had acquired sufficient popularity on the turf to enable him to prevail on the public to patronise races for short distances and light weights. Under the plea of "humanity" to the horse, the late Sir Charles Bunbury established the practice of working

foals-yearlings !-in the severest of all work, that of training, for the great Stakes. The consequence has been, that scarcely five animals in a hundred have stood training on until they attained their full strength; and those few which, malgré their owners' "humanity," have attained a full mouth without acquiring physical blemish, have unquestionably been injured, more or less, constitutionally, by the stimulating food given to excite unnatural precocity, and by the hard work-sweating in a load of clothes-and strains of their early youth.

Another consequence of the establishment of short races and early work, not less lamentable and injurious, is, that a breed of horses of a totally different character is encouraged, light in substance and flashy in speed; horses that will live out the end of their third year-for beyond that age there are now no great Stakes to contend for-and then, as far as their owners care, for all racing purposes they may descend to the tomb of the Capulets; being really fitted in general for no more powerful work than bearing a spinster through her constitutional airing on such fine mornings as the sun happens to shine.

As to mounting our dragoons on the light ephemera of the turf of the present day, the idea even has been lost sight of has disappeared with the strength and substance produced by the breeders of the last century; and such has been the infatuation of the country in blindly following this destructive fashion, that even the Crown suffered itself to be drawn into the vortex of folly, having been prevailed on by the disciples of Sir Charles Banbury-himself one of the most implacable traducers of the late Prince of Wales-to consent to the King's Plates" being run for at light weights and for short distances! Shades of our ancestors! was there ever heard of, since the goose with golden eggs, such national folly and breach of trust combined!

This corruption and abuse, your Royal Highness, cries aloud for reformation. The trustee of the origination of "Queen's Plates" has the power of restoring his munificent gift to the patriotic object he had in view. A few words from your lips will be sufficient to convey to Her Majesty's ready apprehension the real circumstances of the case; and when your Royal Highness bears in mind how much more safely and pleasantly the rider is carried by a horse whose powers are two or three stone above the weight he has to bear, the "cherishing care of a husband" will doubtless suggest an argument in favor of the utmost encouragement being given to the breed of strong thorough-bred horses. -So far this branch of my subject.

There is another of scarcely less importance, namely, the reckless and unchecked exportation of our half-bred mares.

During the last ten or twelve years our half-bred hunting mares have almost entirely disappeared from the country, the few that remain being luckily in the hands of those who cannot be tempted to sell them.

So long as stallions alone were exported, little injury was done; but the moment the foreign dealer cast a sheep's eye at our superior brood mares, the laws of the land, and had they not been sufficient the powers of Parliament, ought to have interposed by some such

prompt measure as that lately passed by His Grace of Richmond-a measure, by the by, which, if really sound-and I am prepared with argument to question its being so-involves not one ten-thousandth part of the national interest and importance of the subject now commented upon.

"When the steed is stolen we lock the stable door," says an old proverb: and the satire is but too applicable in this instance to the nation at large. When our brood-mares are gone not to return; when promising foals are not to be heard of, much less seen; then it is we begin to look about us, and inquire into the cause of the scarcity. After searching the country from end to end, making the most diligent inquiry, the mortifying truth forces itself upon us, that even were an entire stop now put to further exportation, a sufficient stock of firstrate brood-mares could not be replaced under the most favorable circumstances (a repeal of the corn laws, for instance, which would induce agriculturists to turn their chief attention to grazing) in less time than a quarter of a century! The Savage of the Desert, the unlettered Arab, retains more of Solomon's wisdom. His mares cannot be purchased. "You are a rich Elchee" (Nobleman), "I understand," he replied to the late Sir John Malcolm, after coquetting about the price of a mare, enticing our countryman to double and treble his biddings: 66 now, you want my mare, but you shall not have her for all you are worth, and all the money of your kindred into the bargain !"

Notwithstanding for so many years the exportation of our best horses has been suffered to obtain to so great an extent, there are laws in full force to be found in our Statute Books prohibiting under heavy penalties the exportation of mares above the value of ten shillings, unless a special licence be first had from the Crown under the Great or Privy Seal.

The validity of this assertion, involving a matter of such importance to the country as well as to its internal enemies, the exporters, can be ascertained by reference to the Statute 11 Hen. VII., c. 13., sec. 1 and 2; the 1 Edw. VI., c. 5., sec. 1; and the 1 Eliz., c. 6., sec. 9. Those Acts have never been repealed, though they were virtually suspended for a time by the different Statutes which imposed a duty on the exportation of horses; viz., the 22 Cha. II., c. 12, sec. 8, and the 49 Geo. III., c. 52. But on the repeal of these two last-mentioned Statutes by the 59 Geo. III., c. 52, the aforesaid Acts of Henry, Edward, and Elizabeth resumed their original force and operation. Besides other penalties, one of those Statutes prohibits the exportation beyond sea or into Scotland (repealed as to Scotland by the Act of Union, Art. 18) of any "horse, mare, or gelding," under pain of forfeiture of the same, besides a penalty of £40 for each animal, half to the informer, and last, though not least perhaps to some horse-jockeys, one year's imprisonment of the offender. Here it is obvious to remark, that had the treadmill been known in those days, the addition of its wholesome exercise might have had the desired effect of inculcating in the minds of our present dealers a proper notion of political economy.

As that is not the case, however, and as our common informers have lost sight of their vocation, it is highly necessary Her Majesty's


Attorney General should be required to put a stop to the further progress of the great evil alluded to, by enforcing the laws as they exist in our Statute Books; or otherwise, if found to be insufficient, which I maintain they will not be, by submitting to Parliament a Bill that will give the necessary power to protect the country from so exhausting a drain as that which has been but too long suffered to exist-the reckless exportation of our brood-mares.

In conclusion, I would beg to call attention to the low price fixed for the maximum value of the mares which were suffered to be exported under the Statute of Elizabeth. What sort of animal would ten shillings command in the reign of that Queen?

If we allow the value of money to have increased by ten fold, and the value of horses after the same ratio, which is more than can be fairly demanded, we shall contemplate a mare worth now about ten pounds-an animal that no foreign dealer would accept the gift of were he compelled to take her out of the country!

It is clear, therefore, that if the policy which prohibited the exportation of mares above the value of ten shillings in Queen Elizabeth's reign was sound and good, as it is apprehended there can be no question it was, the wisdom of the present day ought no longer to countenance an evil which has progressed to a degree that a long course of years only can repair.

I have the honor to subscribe myself

Your Royal Highness' most respectful
and most obedient servant,






"My heart's in the Highlands."-Old Song.

THE Country for the last three weeks having been as hard and dry as
a Macadamised road, without an atom of scent, putting fox-hunting
completely hors de combat, we popped ourself into a britska with two
friends, and started for Bonnie Blair, the seat of Lord Glenlyon.
Sportsmen, like rolling stones, gather no moss: they must be "
up and
doing," and "keep moving" is their legitimate motto. In a very short
time we were penetrating the stupendous mountains of the North; and
in passing the small glen through which the beautiful Almond wends
its way, we could not but admire the wild grandeur of the Highlands.
By 10 A. M. we found ourselves at the Corrie, and having procured a
change of cattle, we started for Dunkeld, on approaching which the
glorious orb of day broke through the misty mountain-clouds with all
the warmth of a midsummer morn. Here we put up for a couple of
hours, as we intended to proceed with the same tits to our destination,

deeming it necessary to partake of the "entertainment for man and horse" held out by the sign at the principal inn. On leaving Dunkeld, and passing the base of Craigie Barns, the lovely Tay burst suddenly on our view, rolling its mighty waters through dark pine forests and red coppices to the ocean. During a "pull-up" at the village of Moulin, we threw a longing look at this majestic stream of the North, and regretted that we had not our salmon-rod to take a cast on its noble surface. A few miles further we entered the far-famed Pass of Killiecrankie, and had a bird's-eye view of the romantic villa of Archibald Butler, Esq. of Fascally, a true Sportsman and raal Son of the Mountain. His absence in a foreign land precluded a visit to his hospitable abode, which had been "booked" at our last meeting. Every villa we passed on the banks of the Tummel and Gary, our heart warmed in the expectation of meeting our brother Sportsman THE ORGANIST, whose graphic pen adorns every subject he touches. We feel confident we should have recognised him, for there is a freemasonry among Sportsmen

[ocr errors]

a dialect and skill,

Catching all passions in their craft of will."

On arriving at Blair Inn, the shades of evening were fast closing around us, and the mists had capped the snow-clad summit of Ben-y-glo. We ensconced ourselves snugly in a warm corner by the peat-fire, the inner-man being comforted with as good a repast as the slackness of the season would permit, washed down by a glass of real whiskey-toddy. Wines, at the hostelries in this quarter, are for the most part but so-so; but if ever so good, we greatly prefer the genuine mountain-dew in its native purity, as a beverage better suited to recruit the spirits after a long day's journey.

"Under the opening eye-lids of the morn" we proceeded to Blair Castle, and arrived there at six o'clock, when we found Ritchie walking out his hounds. After taking a survey of the pack, "honest John" led the way to the kennel, and with his "help," as Brother Jonathan would call the kennelman, drafted the hounds for our inspection. They consist of 23 couple, but His Lordship not having a printed list, we must sink their pedigrees, and can only give their ages and names. Their average standard is from 18 to 20 inches.

Seven Years.-Duchess, Music, Vanity.

Six.-Blueman, Dansic, Flasher, Frolic, Portant, Regent, Trimmer.
Five.-Boxer, Fiddler, Lassie.

Four.-Charmer, Regent, Thunder.

Three.-Friar, Joscelyn, Piper.

Two.-Bachelor, Climbank, Coroner, Gallant, Harmony, Melody, Miller, Partner, Pastime, Ruby, Spicer, Vengeance, Victory, Vigilant. One.-Danger, Dashwood, Dragsman, Driver, Dorking, all brothers, out of Dansic, a lovely bitch; Famous, Forester, Freeman, one litter; Gaiety, Gaudy, Guardsman, Gilder, one litter; Gameboy, and Governess-all bred at Blair, and splendid looking hounds.

Frolic has a litter of seven beautiful puppies; and another bitch whose name has escaped our recollection has a fine litter. Dansic, the belle of the pack-at least in our estimation-is just "down-lying," and so are Harmony and Vengeance.

« ForrigeFortsæt »