Peggy Horsley, ‘The Lady in Red’ and Buacail

Chapter below taken from the book, Lakeland Profiles.

Buacail and The Lady In Red

Peggy and Buccail 6Can fell hounds, which follow a trail by their noses, also use their eyes to spot a familiar colour near the finish? The ranks of those who believe that a hound can, to a greater or lesser extent, pick out the colour of its handler’s attire must surely have swollen, and the number of doubters must surely have diminished, as a result of the recent exploits of the Champion Trail Hound, Buacail, and The Lady in Red to whom he dashes so eagerly at the finish of his trails. Followers of hound-trailing will have noticed time and again the acceleration of Buacail over the last hundred yards of a ten-mile trail, as he unerringly picks out his handler. Mrs. Peggy Horsley, who wears a red anorak or a red dress. Peggy Horsley has no wish to be dogmatic on the subject but she is of the opinion that, if her red clothing does not actually attract Buacail and spur him on to a final burst, it certainly does not act as a repellant. She continues to wear red, and Buacail continues to home in towards her, always strategically placed to allow Buacail to race the shortest way at the finish. Of course the red attire is not the only inducement to hurry home to Peggy, for, of all the trail hounds in training. Buacail surely receives the most attention. When I visited Peggy Horsley in her Borrowdale cottage, near Rosthwaite, I found myself sharing a sofa with Buacail, or Mick as he is known at home. He taking a well-earned rest and conserving energy for the following day, the day of his bid for a third consecutive victory at Grasmere Sports. I felt duly honoured at the time, and overjoyed the following day when my sofa-companion came romping home in a close finish at Grasmere. On the way in to interview Peggy Horsley I realised that I had come to the right place. On the clothes line were hanging one red garment and several hound-jackets— the latter to keep hounds warm, because in training they are usually clipped almost bare and need a jacket to replace the lost natural coat. No outside kennel or shed awaits Buacail on his return from the trail. He is a house dog. While I was there the butcher knocked on the door, with Buacail’s meat all the way from Threlkeld. The butcher said that Buacail was one of his best customers. Buacail wagged his tail in confirmation. No wonder he feels wanted and is in a hurry to return to the comfort of his cosy home.

When Buacail is not out trailing, Peggy Horsley walks him three Peggy and Buccail 5times a day: in the morning, before she goes out to work, and in the afternoon and evening. He has to be walked on a lead, for fear of his disappearing and finding some undesirable food to cat. The diet with which he is provided includes beef, chicken. eggs and rusks, in addition to his trainer’s own brand of “dog-loaf’. The recipe for this was handed down to Peggy Horsley by her late father, the famous hound trainer Ben Pattinson. Many trainers have their own recipe for “dog-loaf’. Peggy is no exception. She has been urged to incorporate the recipe in her will! Buacail is an average eater, as regards quantity, but he eats his food more slowly than most. He alone is privileged to live in his devoted trainer’s cottage, and he does not abuse this privilege. He thrives on it. It might be thought that, compared with the more rigorous life of most other trail hounds, Buacail’s is a pampered existence, calculated to make a hound soft. But one can hardly describe as soft a hound which has run 210 trails in three years, a total distance of 1775 miles, winning 111 times and being runner-up on 31 occasions. No doubt different methods suit different hounds, but that Peggy Horsley’s sympathetic method suits Buacail there can be no doubt.

Buacail’s birth and upbringing Buacail was born less than a mile from his present Rosthwaite home, at Victor Brownlee’s farm at Stonethwaite. His sire was the mighty Shannon and his dam was Lady. He was born on January 1 1974, one of a large litter of six dogs and six bitches. Six of them went to win trails. By April Buacail had been weaned and he went to Ralph Jackson. who was to race him in partnership with his brother Bill, owner of Shannon. The puppy was named Buacail, after Ralph Jackson, who is also known as ‘Boy”. Bill Jackson’s wife is of Irish origin, and the Irish for “Boy” is, I am told, “Buacail” — hence the name. Buacail’s early days were marked by a somewhat churlish demeanour towards other dogs of lesser degree, and he was sent to the Blencathra Hunt kennels to learn manners. Among forty or fifty other hounds there was no time to pick quarrels at feeding time, and a week there taught him to mix amicably with his fellows. Ever since then Buacail has possessed a pleasant temperament and good manners. His first lessons in trailing began, under Ralph Jackson in Borrowdale, in October that year. But progress came to a halt when he ceased to follow the practice trail. In desperation he was sent, in February 1975, to Peggy Horsley who lived nearby and had other hounds to teach him. His tuition re-started under Peggy and by the beginning of the trailing season he was ready and willing to race, In fact he had already won two organised pre-season practice trails, in fields of seventy or more.

Buacail’s Trailing Record Although he had shown this early promise. and was in the tickets in each of his first four puppy trials, it was not until he was clipped out that he won his first official trail, at Applethwaite Common on April 10th. In April and May Buacail notched up six firsts and seven seconds. In June the firsts outnumbered the seconds, and by July, when he won six times in a row between July 8th and 19th, he had established himself as the likely Champion Puppy of 1975. In August. with six more consecutive firsts, between August 18th and 30th, he clinched the title. By the end of the season his score for his puppy season was thirty-seven, his nearest pursuer being his litter brother, Merlin, with thirty-one wins. Buacail had run eighty-five puppy trails, each over a distance of five miles. and in seventy-five of them he was in the tickets (i.e. in the first six). Furthermore he had won in all eight of the areas of The Hound Trailing Association. thus demonstrating not only his durability but also his versatility. The big question was whether he would train on and stay the ten miles demanded of hounds after their introductory puppy year is over, when they have to compete in 10 mile hound trails against older hounds Buacail’s answer to this question was emphatic. By April 10th 1976 he had scored his first victory as a hound As the season progressed Buacail built up a great record of consistency, and moved relentlessly towards another title. In all, during the 1976 season, he ran sixty-eight times and was only out of the tickets on six occasions, to become Champion Hound in his first senior year. He won thirty-nine times. The runner-up was Maclintock, the 1975 Champion, with thirty-six victories. 1977 opened auspiciously for Buacail, now expected to be in his prime, with three consecutive wins in the first week of the season. During April and May things went very well for Buacail. as far as results were concerned, and he had established a commanding lead for the championship. By June 16th Buacail had twenty-three firsts to his credit, from twenty-seven starts, and all appeared to be going well, But though an injury to a toe-nail on his near hind foot, which occurred in mid-May, did not at first stop him from winning, it failed to heal properly. After he had failed to win four consecutive trails between June 18th and 27th, Buacail underwent a minor operation for the removal of the toe down to the first joint. The vet Mr RG. Gilbert of Keswick, made such a successful amputation that Buacail was back on the trail in a fortnight. His lead, which on June 16th had been 23— Il over his nearest rival, Merlin, was by mid-July reduced to 23 – 17 over Merlin, who had now been joined in pursuit of the title by another prodigious finisher, Moathill Lad, owned and trained by Mr W. Wilson of Maryport. It took another four trails, on his resumption, before Buacail managed to start winning again. This was a very worrying time for all Buacail’s connections, relieved though they were that the operation seemed to have been successful. The eagerly awaited first win after his resumption came at Lorton on July 23rd, more than five weeks since his previous victory. But an even more important date was July 25th, when Buacail registered his hundredth victory, at Black How, Cleator. The hard ground was not helping his come-back, but even so he managed four wins after his operation before Grasmere Sports in mid August. There, to a mighty cheer, he won for the third successive year at that important meeting, passing on the run-in another Borrowdale hound, the gallant Pisces – three times runner-up at Grasmere: in 1974 to Shannon; in 1975 to Rose and Crown: and in 1977 to Buacail. This win did much to remove any lingering doubts about the completeness of Buacail’s recovery from his toe operation During the remainder of the season, despite a lean time in September, he maintained his lead and his Championship, with a total of thirty-five wins, ahead of Moathill Lad (27) and Merlin (21). Buacail was also second on sixteen occasions compared with Moathill Lad’s three. What had looked like being a record season for Buacail, with a rousing start, ended less spectacularly for him, with two periods in the doldrums. But the way in which he came back after his toe-operation to claim his rightful Championship commanded great respect.

Buacail’s style Such then is Buacail’s record. What of the hound and his style of winning? His consistent record is based on an economical style, which seldom entails doing more than is required, rather than slaughtering the field as Shannon liked to do. The majority of Buacail’s victories have not been by great margins; he usually finishes strongly, to win cleverly. In this economical style the red attire, aided by the voice, of his handler is considered by some to play no small part. It is this economical style which enables Buacail to run so often and keep his form so well. He is also resilient, and the way in which he bounced back to winning form so soon after his toe operation is proof of this. Buacail really prefers good running over such terrain as Cold Fell, near Whitehaven. or the country round Caldbeck. But he has shown his adaptability over all sorts of country, including the steepest fells round Borrowdale and Grasmere. He can also win in any weather. In short, just as a champion racehorse is supposed to be able to act in any going, so can Buacail cope with any terrain and any weather. In February 1977 Buacail received an unusual honour not previously accorded to a trail hound. He was invited to Crufts, to parade among the canine personalities of the year — somewhat analagous to the appearance of Red Rum at the Horse of the Year Show. His joint owner Bill Jackson drove him from Borrowdale to Olympia, where he duly appeared alongside various canine celebrities, including the Crufts Champion of the previous year, the Champion sheepdog. Guide dogs,  Mountain Rescue dogs and a remarkable Setter which after being lost on holiday in Cornwall, had found its own way back to its home in the Midlands. Buacail, as Champion Puppy in 1975 and Champion Hound in 1976 was already entitled to this honour. With another championship to his name in 1977 he is even more famous now—with, it is hoped, further honours to come, thanks to the meticulous care and sympathetic attention that he receives from his trainer.

The Lady in Red So much for Buacail. Now let us turn to “The Lady in Red”, to whom Buacail shows such urgent enthusiasm to return, ahead of all his rivals. Peggy Horsley was born at Longthwaite Farm, in Borrowdale, and only the river Derwent and two hundred yards divide her in her present cottage from it. She was born into hound trailing circles, the daughter of the late Ben Pattinson, one of the greatest hound trainers of all time. The remarkable thing about this man was not so much that he excelled at training hounds, as that he did so despite having a wooden leg since the age of twelve. He lost his leg as the result of injury at football. Yet despite this handicap he was a hill-farmer in some of the steepest country. and managed to go out to the fells to tend his Herdwick sheep. Ben Pattinson trained a succession of famous hounds. In his early days he favoured bitches for trailing, regarding them as easier to train and less readily diverted from the job in hand. Famous bitches which his daughter recalls include, in chronological order; Dark Dawn, Crowndale (killed when hunting on Scafell). Crowndene (Champion Hound), and Ransom (also Champion Hound) Famous dogs include: Wild Echo. Sunset (Champion Hound and winner of many big events, such as the famous trail at Langholm, in the Scottish Border country. run at six o’clock in the morning), and Signal Box, Ranger, Dairy Man (Champion Hound in 1961, 1962 and 1963), and Dairy Box. Peggy had a hand in training all of these from Crowndene onwards. Her father promised her a bicycle if Crowndene became Champion Hound. As subsequent results have proved. Peggy inherited her father’s skill at training hounds, and soaked up his vast knowledge, adding thereto her own brand of sympathy arid meticulous attention to detail. Peggy married Maurice Horsley from Braithwaite. who worked at forestry for Lord Rochdale on the Lingholm Estate, near Keswick. Their daughter, Ann. who has attended twenty-seven Grasmere Sports meetings out of a possible twenty-eight (she missed one through courtingi), is married to Billy Bland, a fell- runner and trainer of Pisces, which was three times runner-up at Grasmere. Throughout her married life Peggy continued to help her father with his hounds. Then in 1973 tragedy struck twice within three weeks. Peggy suddenly lost her husband in his forties and her father aged seventy-five. This was a sad time for Peggy – and yet this very misfortune was to be the reason why she received Buacail to train. When Buacail was having second thoughts about being a trail hound and need educating along with other hounds, his joint-owners. Bill and Ralph Jackson decided to send the puppy to Peggy Horsley for training, partly to cheer her up at a time when she needed a boost. The Jacksons felt that a hound of Buacail’s possibilities would be a help to Peggy at that particular time. Equally they knew that Peggy, with her skill and perseverance would in return be of great help to Buacail. Thus from two sad losses came a happy association. Although this book must go to press, the chapter on Buacail and The Lady in Red is, one hopes, by no means closed. Buacail should find further fells to conquer, and further fame to achieve. As for The Lady in Red, let us hope that Buacail will continue to pick her out at the finish of many more trails, and that in future years she will have the fun and satisfaction of training some of Buacail’s offspring. May she have many more years of successful trailing before the secret of her “dog-loaf’ is revealed in her will if indeed she chooses to reveal it then!