Horse & Hound
SISTER CHIARA HATTON HALL
Sister Chiara Hatton Hall, or Cherrie as she was known, died on 23 September, aged 90.
She was the co-founder of Benenden Riding Establishment in Kent, one of the UK’s oldest and best-known riding schools.
As well as an eminent instructor and dressage judge, she also became one of the leading lights of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), travelling the world to teach others how to bring confidence, self-respect and joy to adults and children with mental and physical disabilities.
Sister Chiara’s earliest memories were dominated by World War II. Living in Kent, she was directly under the path of German fighters and bombers, which would regularly drop munitions. This made for hairraising times and several neardeath experiences.
After a raid in autumn 1940, Sister Chiara and her classmates came up from the shelter to find the Messerschmitts had strafed their school badly, leaving everything covered in shards of glass and the wooden desks ripped apart.
After the war, she discovered a love of horses, setting up Benenden Riding Establishment with her father, which grew to become one of the largest centres for equestrian training in Britain.
In 1960 she set up Moat Riding School with her husband, taking younger pupils, while Benenden concentrated on training adults. Sister Chiara’s most famous pupil was the Princess Royal; she also taught Ginny Elliot.
Sister Chiara rode to elite level herself, competing at Badminton on Bright Prospect, who was selected for the British team to go to the Stockholm Olympics in 1956, at which women weren’t allowed to compete.
Thanks to her discipline and persistence, Sister Chiara rapidly advanced through instructor examinations and in 1961, aged
30, she achieved the ultimate accolade by becoming a Fellow of the British Horse Society.
Her husband Nigel, an Army officer, died young in 1970. A few years later, aged 42, she became a Franciscan nun, embracing a life of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The order maintains a working life and during this time Sister Chiara became involved with the RDA, going on to travel the world for the organisation as its international representative.
In Singapore, a car was put at her disposal; a Toyota, covered with stickers of a nun in a white habit on a black horse. This prompted Sister Chiara to become widely known as the Galloping Nun, which was later the title of her autobiography.
She commanded respect and admiration from everyone she met – rumour had it even the ponies stood to attention when the Galloping Nun came into the school!
In the church Sister Chiara also made a big impression, becoming a judge on the tribunal panel in the canon law court on marriage annulments. She was later to become an instructing judge on a diocesan marriage.
Sister Chiara was always immaculately turned out in her habit, which only added to her gravitas, but she always had a twinkle in her eye, and maintained a beautiful, calm serenity.
Sister Chiara understood implicitly that there is no knowing happiness without knowing sadness, no joy without suffering. This, she once explained, is the balance of the cross. She bore her crosses with grace and gratitude.
Meryl Walmsley, a long-standing member of the Colne Valley Beagles (CVB), died at home in Ashton-under-Lyne on 16 August aged 80.
Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Miss Walmsley started to study for an architectural degree at Manchester University. This was not for her and she changed her course. After leaving, she secured a job with an architectural practice where she worked for many years.
At a very young age she developed an undying affection for country life. She was a keen rider, but in her teens suffered a bad fall and was injured. Gradually her dial turned away from riding and as a longstanding member of her local beagle pack, she was drawn further into the hunting world, where her passion flourished.
Miss Walmsley was honourable secretary to the Colne Valley Beagles for 35 years.
She was known throughout the country for her dedication to hunting. Wherever the beagles went, she went. Like the huntsman, she knew every beagle by name, and its breeding. The same knowledge was applied to members of the hunting community!
A regular at almost every CVB event, Miss Walmsley’s annual calendar was also filled by her visits to Lowther Hound Show, Rydal Show and the Peterborough Festival of Hunting, of which she was a vice-president.
Her love for the horse world never died. An avid supporter of eventing, she would never miss Burghley and Badminton. Heaven preserve anyone or anything that prevented her from getting to the trot-up on time.
With the ability to be able to talk to anyone, chin raised and eyes half closed, this remarkable lady will be missed for her stability, kindness, knowledge and, above all, humility.