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Hunt Club

Jennie Carter:
Although small and sparsely populated, West Guildford did boast a very important establishment which became the centre of the small community at Guildford in the early years of the colony. The Cleikum Inn was the site of meetings of the Agricultural Society, the Guildford Kangaroo Hunt and the yearly auction for tenders for the horse ferry which plied between the Guildford township and Dodd’s landing.

Roy Stanley:
Hunting was another sport which attracted the attention of the gentry owing to it representing Englishness, virility and aristocratic rank. But, unlike hunting in England, there was [sic] no deer or [sic] foxes, no packs of hounds and few horses to ride and chase down the prey. The kangaroo and dingo therefore, substituted [for] the fox. There is no evidence to suggest ‘blood sports’ existed and there is very little information available concerning the formative years of the hunt. What evidence there is, however, suggests William Brockman founded the Kangaroo Hunt Club sometime in late 1832 or early 1833, because members of the club were dining at the ‘Cleckham Inn’ [sic] in Guildford in February 1833. The hunt club was a purely private affair, restricted to the gentry and merchants who had the privilege of owning a horse. On reflection, the club was an ambitious attempt to replicate hunt clubs back ‘home’ in England and, like the ‘Yorkshire Club’, there is no evidence to indicate how long the club existed, because it was never mentioned in the press again, nor are there any entries found in diaries or journals. (p. 34) ...
Prior to 1860, the colonial gentry introduced the ‘hunt’ to replicate traditional English values which continued after 1860 owing to British connections guaranteeing the sport’s heritage. Even so, the colonial hunt was unlike the traditional English chase owing to procedure, the breed of dog, the type of prey chased, and the breed of horse available.
Early references concerning hunting are sparse and it was not until the late 1880s that more light was cast upon the sport. If horses were unavailable hunting was accomplished on foot with a breed of dog known as ‘kangaroo dogs’ (a cross-breed between mastiff and greyhound, or foxhound and Scottish deer hound). Hunting with ‘packs of hounds’ did not take place until 1890 following the York Hunt acquiring a number of harriers (a taller, longer legged beagle) from South Australia. 34
In England the sport was associated with a pack of hounds pursuing a fox; at Swan River, the kangaroo and wallaby were hunted on foot or on horseback with two or three dogs. However, evidence suggests another form of hunting was introduced in the 1880s known as the ‘drag hunt’, whereby ‘hounds’ (riders on horse-back) pursued a man-made scented lure (the hare) dragged over the terrain by a runner or mounted rider before the hunt took place. 35 Reports suggest the first ‘drag hunts’ were staged at York’s inaugural hunt in October 1889 and at Guildford in May 1890, on James Morrison’s property. 36
The topography of the land was consistent with dense scrubs, sedges or swamps that assisted the prey more than the hunter. This, however, was an integral supplement to the sport, which tested the hunter’s skills. Those who participated in the ‘hunt’ rode on light-weight colonial horses called ‘hunters’ and, although they were not thoroughbred horses, they were considered beneficial for hunting the bush-tailed wallaby in Banksia woodlands and swamps off the coastal plains. 37
In England, hunting was a popular and exciting means of entertainment in many ways. The landed gentry started the ‘hunt’ with a toast and finished the day’s proceedings with an invitation to dine in the evening. For the local rural population, the excitement of watching or following the ‘hunt’ on foot was supplemented with bouts of drinking at local taverns. At Swan River, colonists who were not invited to take part in the ‘hunt’ either positioned themselves on carriages or obtained a more favourable spot on the course. Hence, the gentry and the middle class dominated membership of a sport whose main participants in the mother country were the landed gentry. Members of the hunt club invited guests and evidence suggests women participated in the ‘hunt’, although there is no information to establish who they were. 38 Notable members of the York Hunt Club included Everard Darlot, who was the first master of the hounds; Dr. John A. O’Meehan; Kenneth Edwards; Frederick A. Hare; and members of the Parker and Monger families. 39 Lady Broome and her entourage often played an ancillary role in the hunt by way of arranging refreshments for participants who had been hunting. 40
There are no references to indicate whether members of the working class were invited to take part in the ‘hunt’. However, they or the aborigine [sic] may have been employed as ancillary workers to manage the horses and the hounds, or to lay a trail for the ‘drag hunt’. In contrast to the heavy criticism hunting has received in modern times, press reports acknowledged the ‘hunt’ as a social and sporting occasion. 41 But the sport in late nineteenth-century Western Australia was handicapped for three reasons. There was always going to be a shortage of people skilled in the management of hounds, it was an elitist sport, and the expense of maintaining a pack of hounds would have been considerable. (170-171)

References and Links

Hasluck, Alexandra 1955, Portrait with Background, OUP, Melbourne; republ. FACP 1990. [?]

Stanley, Roy 2012, 'A spot so eligible for settlement': Sport, Leisure, Class and Community at the Swan River Colony 1829-1890, PhD thesis, Murdoch University. 'Cleckham Inn' should be 'Cleikum Inn'.

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