with Horse and Hound

Blue Bird’s-Eye Stock Tie: Don’t We All Have One?

robardsHugh Robards in a blue bird’s-eye stockI have a confession to make. Hugh Robards, as I hope you know, is a distinguished member of Foxhunting Life’s Panel of Experts. He is a brilliant huntsman, author, and student of the noble art. For twenty-seven seasons he hunted the County Limerick Foxhounds in Ireland for Lord Daresbury and showed world-class sport.

Yet each time I publish his photo with one of his “Ask the Experts” contributions, I cringe a little. What will my readers think of an “expert” that ignores the precepts of “correct” turnout? What could he have been thinking of that morning as he dressed himself to hunt hounds?

Well, the shoe finally dropped. A very knowledgeable reader (and a friend to both of us) took Hugh and FHL to task for his outlandish costume. She wrote the following in the Comments field of a recent “Ask the Experts” article:

“Please ask Hugh,” demanded Jo Schreck, “what in the world that is around his neck in this photo….some irregularity seems to have occurred and hence the foulard?”

I forwarded Jo’s comment to Hugh to see what he had to say for himself. His answer proved once again that we are never through learning, so I decided to pass it on as yet another of those seemingly infinite number of arcane practices of the Compleat Foxhunter.

“Jo must know,” wrote Hugh, “that the late Lord Toby Daresbury, MFH and I wore blue bird’s-eye hunting ties during Autumn Hunting. I continued the practice at Rolling Rock as seen in the photograph.”

Hugh continues: “On this subject, Willy Poole in his Hunting: An Introductory Handbook states, ‘A white tie is normal, although you will see some aged toffs who still wear a blue bird’s-eye stock tie. These went out of general wear before World War I, but they are still correct if you have the style to carry them off’.’ Whether I have style or not is for you to judge!!”

Hugh’s response sounded convincing, but I, never having heard of such an accouterment in my forty-odd years of hunting, wondered if he was pulling my leg! No, says he, and he wrote the following:

“If you look at hunting scenes painted by Ferneley, Leech, and Herring you will notice that several riders in these works of art can be seen to be sporting blue hunting ties. The Earl of Wilton hunting with the Quorn is shown wearing a blue bird’s eye hunting tie in Nimrod’s *Hunting Reminiscences.* Mr. Thomas Assheton Smith, when Master of the Tedworth, wore one. John Peel has been drawn wearing one. ”Nimrod” Charles James Appleby also had a liking for this type of neck wear.

“I am not saying it is the correct apparel for hunt servants during formal hunting, but during autumn hunting I think a hunting tie is better than a collar and tie. It must be remembered that one of the reasons for wearing a hunting tie is to help support the neck if the person wearing it has a fall.”

Hugh closed by saying, “I will be wearing my blue bird’s-eye hunting tie on Saturday as will my wife and daughter!”

So, there you have it. Where can I find one?

Posted August 3, 2011