H&H in­ter­view

The Zet­land huntsman talks to Tessa Waugh about his up­com­ing re­tire­ment af­ter 24 sea­sons — and the pol­i­tics of the hunt­ing com­mu­nity

Horse & Hound - - News Insider - H&H

Zet­land huntsman David Jukes

THERE is snow on the ground in North York­shire when I visit, but David and Ginny Jukes’ cot­tage at the Zet­land ken­nels is cosy and wel­com­ing, with the fire burn­ing and ter­ri­ers milling about at foot. I know David from hunt­ing as a child and 30 years on, he has the same youth­ful, easy man­ner and, strangely, no grey hair, de­spite be­ing nearly

60. He is one of Bri­tain’s se­nior pro­fes­sional hunts­men and when he re­tires at the end of this sea­son, he will have hunted the Zet­land hounds for 24 sea­sons.

DAVID grew up in the heart of South and West Wilts (SWW) coun­try — he still has a gen­tle West Coun­try ac­cent — and got into hunt­ing through his first wife, Scar­lett. He was a thatcher then, who did earth-stop­ping and fol­lowed on his feet when he could. When the hunt­ing bug started to bite, he moved on to horses — usu­ally the ones that no whip­per-in wanted to ride — and be­came am­a­teur whip to Capt Si­mon Clarke who was mas­ter and huntsman of the SWW. David has a lot of re­spect for Capt Clarke, an early men­tor, but wasn’t cowed by any no­tions of se­nior­ity.

“I got a lot of bol­lock­ings but I was my own man and I wasn’t afraid to shout back,” he says.

It was Capt Clarke who sug­gested David be­came a hunt ser­vant, ad­vis­ing him: “If you do, don’t go in at the bot­tom. Ev­ery year, jobs come up at short no­tice be­cause some­one breaks their leg or gets caught sleep­ing with the mas­ter’s wife and then you can ap­ply.”

Capt Clarke later told him about the whip­per-in’s job at the Zet­land. David re­mem­bers the in­ter­view well.

“They got me to jump all these hedges, which was a bit of a shock com­ing from the SWW, but it sort of worked,” he says. “They wanted me to start straight­away but I had to tell them I was in the mid­dle of thatch­ing some­one’s house so I went home, fin­ished the job and re­turned in Au­gust.”

At the Zet­land, David be­gan work­ing for Martin Thorn­ton, an­other well-re­spected huntsman, this time a pro­fes­sional. Martin was a hard taskmas­ter but David wasn’t put off.

“I didn’t know any­thing about the ken­nel side of things and was prob­a­bly more of a hin­drance to be­gin with,” he ad­mits. “It was a busy place then: a big flesh-round, three full-time chaps. Martin in­stilled all these old-fash­ioned hunt ser­vant ways and I just soaked it up.”

How did the hunt­ing com­pare?

“Si­mon Clarke was your ar­che­typal am­a­teur of the old school with a nat­u­ral flair for hunt­ing the fox and a good brain, but I didn’t re­alise how steady it was,” says David. “Com­ing here was a big shock. It was so fast and com­pet­i­tive. The rid­ing side was scary.

“Martin was the most ex­cit­ing man to fol­low a pack of hounds with and above all, a very good horse­man.”

WHEN Martin left for the Bices­ter with Whad­don Chase two sea­sons later, he was re­placed by Mark Es­ling. “There were plenty of good peo­ple in the frame,” says David, “but they were all fright­ened off by the pol­i­tics.”

It is the first of sev­eral ref­er­ences David makes to hunt pol­i­tics and it seems this sorry as­pect of hunt­ing has been a re­cur­ring fea­ture of life at the Zet­land. He has had more than 25 masters in his time as huntsman. When Mark crashed and burned af­ter one sea­son, David stepped into the breach as huntsman.

“I told them they might as well take me on de­spite my lack of ex­pe­ri­ence — at least I was

sen­si­ble and knew the hounds,” he says.

He cites pol­i­tics as the rea­son he left af­ter only two sea­sons — “it fi­nally ex­ploded” — but he was asked back again in 1996 af­ter a cou­ple of years as ken­nel-huntsman to Capt Ru­pert In­gle­sant at the Ted­worth.

David had reser­va­tions about the re­turn to York­shire but the fact that his se­cond wife, Ginny, was a Zet­land girl (Ginny’s grand­fa­ther was stud groom at the Zet­land and lived in the house where they are now) must have had a bear­ing on the de­ci­sion. Dur­ing their time away, they had pro­duced two chil­dren, the el­dest of whom, Vic­to­ria, was pro­foundly dis­abled and needed 24-hour care — an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion that might have knocked other cou­ples off track. David’s friend, Jamie Cameron, for­mer vice-chair­man of the Zet­land, de­scribes David as “tena­cious” and “a life en­hancer”. An­drew Spald­ing, joint-mas­ter of the Zet­land who whipped-in to David for 17 sea­sons, is not one to gush, but he de­scribes David as “brave, re­silient and pro­fes­sional”.

“He has been an as­set and guid­ing rock to us [the masters],” he adds. “We see him as the fifth ‘mas­ter’ and he has made this pack into what it is.”

DAVID had full re­spon­si­bil­ity for breed­ing the hounds since be­com­ing huntsman, some­thing he has rel­ished. “I am con­vinced that there is not a bet­ter pack in the coun­try,” he says. “The best bit of ad­vice I was given on hound breed­ing was from Capt Clarke, who told me ‘any fool can breed a bor­ing pack of hounds’. The Zet­land hounds are not bor­ing.”

We walk around the lovely old ken­nel build­ings and take a look at the hounds and Pe­dro, one of his favourite horses. David is very much a man sur­vey­ing his manor. He is re­laxed about the next stage; he and Ginny have bought a house nearby and he is talk­ing about a grouse load­ing course, a bit of ski­ing and is full of praise for James Fin­ney from the Hur­worth, who will re­place him.

On choos­ing this time to re­tire, he says: “I don’t want to go on un­til I’m 65, it is not good for the hounds. I am hand­ing over a pack that are still men­tal for it.

“The Zet­land is a young man’s coun­try. If I’m on a su­per­sonic horse, I can still go pretty straight but jump­ing five-bar gates on to con­crete yards is not for me any more.”

‘The Zet­land is a young man’s coun­try — jump­ing five-bar gates on to con­crete yards is not for me

any more’

David Jukes (on the grey), huntsman of the Zet­land, ar­rives at the meet

‘The best bit of ad­vice I was given on hound breed­ing was from Capt Clarke, who told me “any fool can breed a bor­ing pack of hounds”. The Zet­land

hounds are not bor­ing’

Rel­ished re­spon­si­bil­ity: ‘I am con­vinced that there is not a bet­ter pack in the coun­try’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.