Australia – 1987

Reprinted from the Spring, 1988 issue of The Deerhound Club newsletter. Copyright The Deerhound Club. Reprinted with permission. Many thanks to The Deerhound Club for the use of their materials.

Written by Anastasia Noble

As I sit here in the candle light, owing to the raging gale having put the lights out, and the rain pours down as it has done for the last 6 weeks – I think fondly of the time I spent in Australia and the warmth, due to both the weather and the welcome I had from everyone there.

The start was shaky, I traveled overnight to London by train, as always, and had with me a 5 months puppy which was going to Australia too – to Mrs. Thomson – but not with me as that is not possible now, he followed a week later. The shippers were supposed to meet me at 7.00 a.m., but no sign by 7.30 a.m. so I phoned, to be told they had it down as 7.00 p.m.! By then of course the man coming had hit the rush hour. By 10.15 he still hadn’t arrived, but finally did at 10.30, extremely boring however, finally he went off and I could get to my niece.

A soaking day, with much delay getting anywhere, however, I eventually made it to Heathrow, the plane, and was on my way. A fairly boring long journey, but traveling doesn’t worry me, and eventually we arrived in Melbourne. First set-back was the non arrival of the smoked salmon I was taking to Mrs. Thomson, enquiries in the first few days and writing to claim for it produced nothing, but about mid-December I received a letter, almost the same time came one from Mrs. Thomson, to say that at the end of November Quantas had told her it was in their cold store and did she want it? She said ‘yes’, which surprised them, maybe hoping she would say ‘no!’. She said it was none the worse and much enjoyed. With great honesty l told them this, but suggested they might pay something for the disappointment, trouble and delay – they paid the whole claim, whether because of my honesty, or more likely because the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing, I can’t say.

At home everyone was envious of my going to the sun and heat, as well as everything else, but I was greeted with rain and wind – not like I’d left, but still….There was snow in some parts, and in New Zealand where l spent a few days later. However, after a week the weather changed to lovely early summer weather, just rlght for me.

Owing to Cook’s having slightly boshed my travel plans I had a week before the show, so I decided to go to New Zealand for a couple of days to see an old friend who was unable to come to Australia to see me and go hunting as he did last time. Little did I know the trouble that would cause. No trouble at the start, apart from the expense for such a short trip, however it was great fun seeing him and his family, talking much of old times, coursing, staying at Portsonachan, etc., and having a drive around.

The trouble started when I came to return, got to the airport to be told that my Visa for Australia was a single entry, and, as I had entered once, I would now need a new one to get in again.

The New Zealand people were extremely nice, and luckily it was Thursday (the show was on Sunday) so they said the best thing was to fly to Wellington and try to get the Visa, there is no Australian Consulate on the South lsland. So off I went extremely annoyed and frustrated. When l got to Wellington I had to get a new photo, then on to the Consulate. There the girl said “it takes 5 working days to get one.” I pointed out that I had one for 2 months and only needed another entry – I had to fill up the same form as the original one and she asked endless questions about why I was to be in Australia, was I a professional judge, getting paid, going to settle in Australia etc., etc. Luckily I kept my temper and she said to come back at 4 o’clock and I might get it.

The rest of the day was cold and tiring, however, I got back and got the Visa, flew back to Christchurch, and the next day managed to get a seat on the plane to Melbourne – luckily as there was no plane on Saturday. Does not endear one to the Australian regulations! No Visa was needed for New Zealand. Of course I should have planned things differently, but I didn’t.

Back in Melbourne there was a dinner that night, and on Saturday there should have been some outdoor event, but the weather was against that so we sat and talked at Mrs. Guthrie’s.

Sunday, and the show came, it was held at the Royal Show Ground, and as it was grey and dull and the forecast was bad it was decided to hold the show indoors to save having to move in – actually I think we could have been out; but probably more pleasant inside. The ring was large and there was a room for the club to use for meals, etc.

There was an entry of 78, and I think, 19 absentees. The system of judging is much the same as ours, which makes things easier, the classification also is similar. They have a Baby Puppy class, which I think is a mistake, but there were none present this time – I am not sure of the ages for it, but in my opinion for large breeds it is silly. A difference I think from the last time I was here were the classes for Best Headed and Best Gaited – the same hound won both classes. There is only one prize in these classes so it is more like a special. Stewarding is much more in evidence than here, he or she organizes exhibitors and one has to work through them, which is a bit difficult to remember, when one is used to telling people what to do, etc.

The hounds were much more even in type this time I thought, a lot of dark hounds which I like, unfortunately several had nasty light eyes which of course show up more in dark hounds. There were a good many big hounds with lots of bone, and some young ones that I thought might end up a bit cloddy. On the whole I thought the standard good, without any absolutely super ones. The most obvious fault, apart from the light eyes, were some really dreadful tails, held high and curled. I saw even worse ones later on my travels – a very ugly fault in my opinion. Feet I thought were improved from last time, and once again many hounds had lovely small fine ears – remarkable that this trait should persist.

The Best in Show was BALLINCREA INVERNESS, owned and bred by Paul Wilson.

Runner up was ATLAS DAPHNE, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Davidson and bred by Mr. Venables.

The following day was much improved and Mrs. Thomson had open house and lunch for the members. We were able to sit outside to eat and talk which was relaxing and fun.

After that it was north to New South Wales, firstly for 3 days camping and hunting, tremendous fun and very interesting seeing the hounds working. We camped in the old shearer’s sheds at a sheep station. These had been quite well appointed, but through disuse – teams now come in cars daily – are fairly rugged, but adequate.

Myself and Charlie Venables, the other veteran and doyen of hound hunting, and breeder of the Atlas hounds and various other livestock, were allocated beds – luxury – there was much banter, stories, and fun.

We started early 5.30 – 6.00 to avoid the heat and were out till about 11.30. Driving in Utes over vast areas and seeing large numbers of ‘roos. When suitable ones were spotted, and/or separated, the hounds were loosed and the hunt was on, driving flat out across country is quite exciting without a hunt on! Before loosing the hounds get wildly excited, and though the Utes are less work than following horses as in the old days, keeping their balance and being thrown around is quite taxing. They are very keen and with people like Mr. Venables non-workers get short shift.

We had a good hunt after a curiously light coloured fox which got away. The smaller ‘roos are very fast and difficult to catch, but the larger ones not so much so, but more dangerous when they ‘bale up’, if the hounds are not careful they are easily torn and sometimes killed, either with the arms and claws or the immensely powerful hind legs. If not killed by the hounds they are dispatched by the owner.

Some take the whole animal for dog meal, others only the hind legs. None of the people I met use it for human consumption, but it is used and there is talk of farming for that purpose.

As in many countries there is controversy about hunting, the town-based usually having a more sentimental atttude than the countrymen, who have to suffer the depredation of various wildlife and are generally much less sentimental and more down to earth. ln my opinion the anti’s in Australia would be better to oppose the government-supported random shooting of Brumbies (wild horses) from helicopters and some of their livestock traveling conditions, etc., however that is all another matter.

On this occasion I did not see many emus or feral pigs. The emu also do a lot of damage and can be dangerous, with a very fierce kick,one of Mr. Venables’ good hounds was killed last year with such a kick. They are also used for dog meat and human consumption. All the hounds I saw were fed the meat raw in large pieces. Animals shot or killed by hounds are all used and frozen for future use.

Whilst we were there the sheep were being clipped and l watched a bit and saw them herded by motorbike riders and the kelpies riding on the pillions at times. Later on my way north I saw herders on horseback herding sheep along the herding roads.

After 3 days I motored north with Kevin and Virginia Hawkes, from there I went to stay with the son and daughter-in-law of old pen friends, and then to Mr. and Mrs. Webber, near Camberra, where I did some sightseeing and met various dog people. On to Mr. and Mrs. Stead near Sydney for an afternoon of dog people and dog talk, and the next morning walking around the farm, where he is manager, with their hounds. Finally, they took me to Sydney to get the train to Perth. Unfortunately, owing to a derailment, we had to do the first part by bus – 15 hours – not very comfortable or well organized, but eventually at 6.30 a.m. the next day we got to Broken Hill and the train. One bus broke down and the relief one couldn’t find it, another had some other problem, but mine had nothing, just boring.

The train on the other hand was fun and a great way to get a feel of the vastness of the country. We were rather organized as to meal times and sittings, but otherwise comfortable and easy.

Food good, and a lot of it, three full meals and big helpings, which the Australians cleaned up every time! in spite of doing nothing all day. We had an hour or so at Adelaide where it was very hot, a brief stop at Cook in the Nulabor Plain, which goes on and on, is dull, really but fascinating in a way.

Another stop at Kalgoorlie, the gold-mining town, although it was dark we went on a bus ride around it. The two mines are in the middle of town – most of it pleasantly old style, but some to me, ugly modern hotels, etc.

Then on to Perth, where we arrived at 7.00 a.m. and I found Tracey Reid there to meet me. I spent the day with her and her family, saw a little of Perth, and bet on the Melbourne Cup – my horse was 4th, hers nowhere. Walked with their hounds, one of which, ATLAS BARNABAS, was Best in Show under Mr. Cassels. I liked him and wondered how I would have placed him had he been under me, but Tracey could not get to the Breed Show this year. It is about 7 hours flying time and a week or so by car, so no wonder such a journey cannot often be done. I asked if their Breed show could be moved around to make it easier for people, but this is not allowed unless there is a club in that state. Every state has its own K.C. and rules with an overall ruling body, which seems to me very complicated, but I gather there are moves afoot to alter things.

That evening I went to Mrs. Rochefort for the night and next morning as Tracey had to go back to her veterinary practice and her parents to work. lt was marvelous the way I was looked after and passed from person to person. Mrs. Rochefort took me to see the new Dog Centre in Perth, still being added to, looking very pleasant and apparently doing well.

Stupidly I did not think till too late to ask if we could see the quarantine kennel there, said to be the best in the world! They are government-run and not many of them.

Then to the airport for the flight home.

So ended another wonderful visit and it was back to “porridge and old clothes” again and the rain.

An easy journey, and all went well at home, thanks to Elaine Fayermann who held the fort while I was away.