Monday, 17 February 2020

RIP: Harry Gregg, a great man in my view

Harry Gregg’s death has let me feeling quite sad as he was a man who was always happy to be contacted for comment when I was writing an article about events to which he was connected. I was also delighted to meet him on 6 September 2018 when he made the long trip by car from Northern Ireland to Blackpool to unveil the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) plaque to goalkeeping great Frank Swift, who was tragically killed on 6 February 1958 in the Munich tragedy at which Harry was a hero who went back into the burning plane to rescue a number of passengers. 

I had asked Harry to do the unveiling as when I wrote a biography of Frank Swift he had been happy to be interviewed over the phone. By the time of his death, Frank was a journalist with the News of the World. He had criticised Harry, just recently arrived at Old Trafford for a world record fee of £23,500 from Doncaster Rovers, for spending too much time on his goalline. Frank had also criticised Harry’s failure to save the final goal in the Manchester United match against Red Star Belgrade that ended 3-3 on the day before Munich.

None of which mattered when Big Frank, possibly England’s greatest ever keeper, a giant of a man both on and off the field, was later laid to rest. Harry was there and he told me “when I say Frank was a wonderful character it is not because he always wrote nice things about me. It is easy to be a character and not have the ability, but Big Swiftie had ability and character. Put these two things together, what more could you want.” Harry could, of course, easily have been describing himself! 

After the funeral, Harry later made a trip out of respect to Frank to purchase a pair of goalkeeping gloves that the former Manchester City keeper had recommended. Sixty years later he made the trip to Blackpool to further honour Frank by unveiling a plaque on Revoe library that is close to where Frank Swift was born. Harry spoke with great passion with his strong accent often causing some confusion amongst the watching audience amongst which were a group of half a dozen Leeds fans. 

Prior to the ceremony at the library there had been a series of mural unveilings to Frank Swift and Jimmy Armfield at the Revoe Primary School they both attended at one time. The Armfield family unveiled a plaque to Jimmy. 



Before this part of the day started I was slightly thrown when one of the Leeds fans said who his group supported. Generally there is not a lot of love lost between Manchester and Leeds United. On enquiring why they were there I was told a few of them had met Harry on holiday a while back and he had totally enthralled them. They were big fans of Harry. The PFA had published some beautiful posters for the events in Blackpool on 6 September and these lads, and other fans, quickly took one or two to get them autographed. Frank was interviewed by Simon Mullock of the Sunday Mirror and the pair got on very well.

I had many years previously benefitted from Harry’s willingness to talk about his United appearances against Liverpool for a book I co-wrote on the history of matches between these two great Lancashire rivals. One game stood out; Manchester United 0 Liverpool 1 in November 1963. Harry had had his collar bone broken and in an era when there were no substitutes he pulled on a top and went back out to play centre forward. “I later got the biggest rollicking of my career.” He had defied the pleading of the orthopaedic surgeon Mr Glass and was afterwards told his collar bone could have pierced his neck or lung. He described how the on-field animosities in these games counted for nothing off it. He also described to me how goalkeeping was different in his days with much fewer punches and a general willingness to dive at the attacking forwards’ feet in an attempt to gather the ball. Today ‘keepers try to spread themselves in a star shape.

Harry also told me about his own battles to have his autobiography published and he, naturally, recommended I bought it. It was sound advice as for years I have told football fans that Harry’s Game: an autobiography is one of the best football books you’ll ever read. RIP Harry Gregg. 








Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Will Yorkshire Water finally flush away the grouse shooters?

This was an article written late last year for the Landworker magazine and which was not published due to a lack of space. Hopefully a follow piece can be sorted out in 2020.

All photographs are copyright Mark Harvey of ID Photography, Sheffield. Many thanks to Mark for allowing me to use them. 

Yorkshire Water (YW), the biggest landowner in Yorkshire, faces pressure from local environmental and wildlife campaigners to stop leasing land for grouse shooting. Eleven parcels of land are  leased for the paltry annual sum of £70,000. If YW acts they will follow two large local landowners that have recently thrown grouse shooters off their land. 

Copyright Mark Harvey 


Grouse shooting is a barbaric activity where wealthy individuals defenceless birds. The practice facilitates wildlife destruction. And when wet, peaty blanket bog is burnt to create ideal conditions for grouse breeding then the water supply is polluted. There is also environmental degradation due to carbon loss plus increased chances of flooding downstream. Many Yorkshire close to grouse shooting estates have experienced severe flooding in recent times. 

Established five years ago, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors is a voluntary group that believes the ‘moors are the jewel in our region’s crown and must be preserved in a way beneficial to wildlife, education, its users and the local economy.’ 

Spokesperson Luke Steele from Leeds has been active in the group from the start. “I grew up walking the local moors. I am sick of seeing the wildlife persecuted, the environment damaged and local communities suffering flooding and air pollution. Plus why should YW customers subsidise grouse shooters who by burning the moors are releasing pollutants that end up in the water supply and need removing at a considerable cost to make the water clean to drink. The costs must dwarf the £70,000 YW receive in return.”

Copyright Mark Harvey 

Visiting Haworth Moor, where a gamekeeper has been interviewed for animal cruelty after he was caught on camera tending to deadly traps where a young rabbit was discovered killed, it was apparent that much of its moorland had been burnt as the ground is black. Smoke plumes were frequently seen by local residents earlier this year. 

The leaseholders of YW’s land on Haworth Moor are the Walshaw Moor Estate (WME), who have not signed the voluntary agreements that former environment secretary Michael Gove was encouraging landowners to sign last year to promise not to burn the moors. 

WME, which is under EU investigation for damaging protected habitats on sites of special scientific investigation, belongs to wealthy retail owner Richard Bannister. 

In 2012 Bannister obtained £2.5 million of public money towards his estate where he charges a lot for a days shooting. “Depending on the shoot it can cost between two to ten thousand pounds per gun a day. City bankers and aristocrats use the moors as a playground, get sick pleasure from killing the grouse. They put nothing back into the local economy,” explains Steele. 

In fact, grouse shooting can cost some local communities. Research by Leeds University on the effects of moorland burning on ten Pennine Moors revealed it lowers the water table. Where burning takes place there are higher peak flows during heavy rain. Situated in the Upper Calder Valley and downstream of the WME, both Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd have suffered heavy flooding in recent years. Businesses were destroyed and jobs lost. Millions are being spent to bolster local flood defences. 

Also not safe when it comes to grouse shooting are wildlife. On a wooded area on Haworth Moor it was easy to find many snares including one containing a dead fox. Branches had been purposely rigged up to funnel animals into an area where food had been laid out close to snares.

Copyright Mark Harvey 

As we left the wood, which we had a legal right to access, we met one of the gamekeepers who was on quad bike at the front of which was his loaded shotgun. He was highly aggressive and sought to intimidate us. We were fine but “imagine if that was a local person out with their dog, I suspect they would have found that very unpleasant,” said Luke who explained that gamekeepers are under pressure to break the law by persecuting badgers and birds of prey, many of which mysteriously go missing when they take up breeding close to grouse shooting areas. 

Natural predators of grouse such as stoats, weasels and foxes are regarded as threats to the grouse shooting businesses and so must be eradicated even if it means mounting snares, legal or not.  “Gamekeepers like to set the moors up like a fortress and want to prevent any wildlife getting on to them,” explained Steele. 

According to Luke, many YW customers have sent postcards from his group asking the company to stop leasing its land for grouse shooting. He believes the company is being forced to take the issue very seriously and he reports, “YW staff, including many Unite members, have told us they are asking management to end the contracts. John Grogan, Labour MP for Keighley and Ilkley, has also written asking YW to act decisively. Bradford Borough Council and NG Bailey have recently terminated leasing contracts for grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor and Denton Moor respectively. We hope to see YW follow suit soon.” 

Luke Steele
Copyright Mark Harvey 


The Labour Party nationally has called for a review into driven grouse shooting with its environment spokeswoman Sue Hayman saying, “the costs of grouse shooting on our environment and wildlife needs to be properly weighed up against the benefit of land owners profiting from shooting parties. There are viable alternatives such as simulated shooting and wildlife tourism.” 

Sheffield Hallam CLP, Unite Community and Sheffield TUC have established an annual moorland walk to protest against the start of the grouse shooting season on August 12 on local moorland. Spokesperson Robert Howarth said, “we seek a ban on grouse shooting and the redirection of ineffective agricultural and land subsidies into a land fund which would help local authorities and other public bodies to become owners of our open spaces, encouraging re-wilding and a more diverse agriculture and husbandry. Young people could be encouraged into arable farming and husbandry.” 





Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Like the keeper and man himself, the Arthur Wharton statue is class














The World's Oldest Football Stand at Great Yarmouth













Not the greatest of views


The friendly match I was at featuring Great Yarmouth v Norwich United was the first time I had seen the sin bin used in a football game where a player was dismissed for ten minutes.

Help find writer of a biography on one of the Black Country’s heroines, Emma Sproson

Help needed to find the writer of a biography on one of the 
Black Country’s heroines,  Emma Sproson 

Known as ‘Red Emma’, Sproson, born 1867, began work in Biltson as a home help when she was aged nine. When she moved to Lancashire and attended a public meeting a politician refused to answer her question because as a women she did not have a vote.

Back in Wolverhampton in 1895 Emma helped organise meetings across the Black Country at which Emmeline Pankhurst spoke. 

In 1907 Emma was twice sent to prison after she joined protests organised at the Houses of Parliament by the Women’s Social and Political Union. Married to local Labour Party secretary, Frank Sproson, the mother-of-three was frequently abused for her political beliefs but never abandoned them. 

She was poplar enough to become the first woman to be elected to Wolverhampton Council in 1921, representing the Labour Party in the Dunstall ward until 1927. She campaigned for low rents, for minimum pay rates for the lowest paid and for keeping council officials pay at reasonable levels. 

Now, Unite the union and the Townswomen’s Guild (TG) are aiming, with the support of the Sproson family, to publish an Emma biography booklet this year.  They are especially keen to locate Susan Pauline Walters, a student at Nene College, University of Leicester whose 1993 dissertation was on Emma Sproson (1867 - 1936): A Black Country Suffragette. 

If you are able to assist then please make contact with either Sara Trayers at the TG on 07521 502846 and sara@the-tg.com or Mark Metcalf on 07392 852561 and mcmetcalf@icloud.com
Mark is the author of a biography on another local suffragette and trade unionist, Julia Varley, and you can download this for free at:- https://markwritecouk.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/6328-julia-varley-booklet.pdf




Monday, 27 January 2020

The first major Holocaust Remembrance Day ever in Britain was held in Manchester on 27 January 2001

Mark Metcalf (@markmetcalf07) Tweeted:
#HolocaustRemembranceDay – the first large event in Britain was held in Manchester Town Hall on 27 January 2001. 500  heard anti-fascist, trades unionist and reps of Jewish and anti-racist groups speak. Here is the speech by delivered by anti-fascist GA. https://t.co/SaBQZjzrID
https://twitter.com/markmetcalf07/status/1221858414134988801?s=20


Holocaust Memorial Meeting

Manchester Town Hall 27 January 2001


1.  Thanks to organisers

2.  Today is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Red Army in 1945 and this event, perhaps more than any other, symbolises the commemoration of the Holocaust.

3.  The Holocaust was not, of course, the first 20th century genocide.  The Turks murdered an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War.  Hitler was familiar with this genocide, and once, pondering his plans for the Jews, even asked the question: “Who will remember the Armenians?”

4.  If we are properly to remember the Holocaust, it is very important that we understand its specific motives: the implementation of racial theories, which proclaimed the inferiority of non-Germanic, non-Nordic peoples, in particular the Jews, the Roma and Sinti, the Poles and other Slavic peoples.

5.  At Auschwitz and other death camps and in the killing fields of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, these people were murdered in their millions: an estimated 6 million Jews, an estimated 20 million Slavs and as many as half a million Roma and Sinti.  In these same locations, others…political opponents, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically handicapped… were also done to death, irrespective of their alleged race.

6.  What made these vile acts of brutality and murder absolutely unique was that their Nazi perpetrators used the most modern industrial techniques of production and accounting for the barbaric purpose of the destruction of human life.

7.  It does no honour whatsoever to those slaughtered by the Nazi hordes to portray them merely as hapless victims because, horrific though the scale of fascist crimes was, they did not go ahead without resistance.  

8. Indeed, having perceived the brutality of the Nazi dictatorship, those who grasped its intentions fought Hitler and his cohorts with appropriate ferocity under the most adverse conditions imaginable.

9.  It would be less than fitting, then, if at least some of those courageous resistance fighters were not mentioned  here today: 

  the Baum Group, composed of Jewish and non-Jewish factory workers who organised sabotage and inspired active wartime opposition in Berlin, the very heart of Hitler’s Reich

  the fighters in the Warsaw ghetto and the Jewish partisan formations, in cities like Vilnius, who delivered armed resistance to the SS and Wehrmacht.

  other partisan groups, frequently composed of both Jews and non-Jews and mainly led by communists, who organised similar armed resistance it should be noted here that, for the Nazis, these resistance fighters were termed “Jewish-Bolshevik” and were to be “liquidated” wherever they were found.

  the dockers and factory workers of Rotterdam, who organised and general strike to oppose the deportation of the Dutch Jews, and the immigrant MOI movement in Paris, led by Armenians – whose nation had experienced genocide – who assassinated Nazi officers and heavily sabotaged German military transport

  and, finally, the biggest battalions of all: the Red Army, which turned the tide at Stalingrad and which, throughout the whole military conflict, never engaged less than 75% of the entire German armed forces.

To these must be added, of course, the Western allied forces whose invasion of Europe in June 1944 spelled final doom for the Nazis.

10.  Could the Holocaust have been avoided? 

We do not know but had the other European powers challenged Hitler’s march into the Rhineland in 1936 or not actively hindered the fight of the International Brigades against Franco fascism in Spain, Hitler might not have felt so confident to launch his aggression and the mass exterminations which followed.  

11.  It would also be less than honest on this important anniversary, however, if no reference was made to the failure of the United States and the European powers to provide anything like an adequate refuge for Jews fleeing from fascism.  

Those who today like to bandy about figures about immigrants and asylum seekers and publicly congratulate themselves today for their “tough policies” might do well to remember the tragedy that ensued from the tough policies displayed by their governmental forerunners in the 1930s.

12.  If we cannot change the past we are, surely, at least obliged to learn from it and perhaps the biggest lesson of all – at a time when in some European countries, fascism has broken out of its postwar marginalisation – is that fascism has to be opposed and destroyed, root and branch, as soon as it appears…a lesson that was well understood by Hitler himself.

13.  Thus, the crimes of fascism must not be abstracted from the need to struggle against it.  The crimes are the very reason to struggle against it.  

14. And, if we draw these conclusions and have the will to act on them,  what confidence does it inspire for the future when one learns, according to recent revelations, that an SS mass killer was able to escape prosecution in the UK because he was working as an informer for the security services? What confidence does it inspire when a murderer like the Chilean fascist Pinochet – one of whose role models was Hitler – is able to leave the country without being brought to justice? 

And…what are we to make of the fact that in the early days after the war, at the same time as life was being made difficult by our own authorities for survivors of the Holocaust both in Britain and Palestine, an entire division of the murderous Waffen SS was given refuge in this country by the British government? 

15. If we are genuinely to remember the torment suffered by millions at the hands of the Nazis, it is incumbent upon us to recognise the evils of racism and antisemitism on which those sufferings were founded and actively to combat those evils without fear and without favour.

16. Those who failed to act or looked the other way in the 1930s could genuinely claim that they had not known what the results would be.  

We, on the other hand, do know what happened and, therefore, do not have that luxury or excuse today.

Thank you…





Wednesday, 22 January 2020

‘OLD STUFF WILL OUTLAST THE NEW’ THREKELD QUARRY AND MINING MUSEUM, THREKELD

‘OLD STUFF WILL OUTLAST THE NEW’

THREKELD QUARRY AND MINING MUSEUM, THREKELD 

“We keep alive the dark side of the Lake District,” explains assistant engineer Dicken Chaplin-Brice. (photographed) “Without heavy industry, mines and quarries there would have been no local railway network that subsequently helped develop the tourism industry such that today millions visit the area to witness its Natural Beauty.”

Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum lies five miles east of Keswick, the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District. The Museum is home to the Vintage Excavator Trust, whose 200-strong membership chairman is quarry owner Ian Hartland, which closed in 1982. 

“It was a shame as I knew a lot of people who remembered it pre-war. There were numerous stories connected to the place. I did not want them to be forgotten as they are just as important as the tales of how beautiful the Lake District is. ” 

Having bought other quarries, Hartland, purchased Threlkeld as he wanted to “keep bits of things going. Old stuff will outlast the new. You can’t beat something that the driver is in charge of. We must preserve historical skills as it means we can mend things.” 

A Trust was established in 1992 to develop an onsite museum and its members worked hard repairing buildings and reconstructing the site. The railway was brought back to life. It’s one of Chaplin-Brice’s many tasks to keep it functioning. “I enjoy very much working in the original locomotive shed,” he said. 

In 1995 the Trust was wound up with the Museum handed over to the Museum Company, which now runs the site and had in July over 2,000 visitors. 

Callers can enjoy the two substantial indoor display rooms that highlight the links between geology, quarrying and the 400 year history of local metal ore, including lead mining. The displays feature many photographs of quarrymen. “We get many school children visiting as learning about rocks is part of the school curriculum. We also run a special minerals panning stream that is very popular with younger people,” said educational co- ordinator Jane Dickins. 

Visiting for the first time, Jim Fox felt Threlkeld fulfilled an “important role as what is often forgotten is that this area was a working one long before it became a tourist region or a place where people buy second homes. Keeping the old machines running means that the workers’ contributions to the development of the Lake District is recognised. “ 


Hopefully more people will visit in 2020 when the museum, which is entirely self- supporting from the amount it collects through the door, will reopen at Easter time and run until the end of the October half term.




This is the unedited article on the Museum. 

“We keep alive the dark side of the Lake District,” explains assistant engineer Dicken Chaplin-Brice. “Without heavy industry, mines and quarries there would have been no local railway network that subsequently helped develop the tourism industry such that today millions visit the area to witness its Natural Beauty.” 

Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum lies 5 miles east of Keswick, the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District. The granite quarry was opened in the 1860s to supply railway ballast to the Penrith-Keswick line and its stone was later used for the Thirlmere 96 mile-long water works aqueduct scheme that still supplies water to the Manchester area. 

Fuelled by demands for concrete flagstones, used in many Northern towns, road stone and kerbing saw production rise to 80,000 tons annually by 1894 and following which more quarry faces were opened. At the start of the twentieth century around 200 men, including some from Aberdeen and the Midlands, specially imported to improve local people’s skills in an area best known for slate, worked on site. Some stayed in specially constructed primitive houses and a local shop, pub and reading room were opened. 

As granite is massive, hard, and tough then digging it out is a problem. “The quarrymen used a long metal pole which was driven into the rock and the subsequent hole was then filled with a mixture of fertiliser and oil to make a powerful explosive. Accidents would have been common,” explained Martin Sams, a local volunteer from Keswick. 

Getting the granite off site to market was undertaken at first by horse and cart before a narrow gauge railway was constructed, running at the time down to the adjoining Threlkeld railway station, with a train hauling capacity of 22 tons a time. The 1 in 20 gradient on site railway still works today and visitors can enjoy a five to six minute half mile journey up to the quarry rock face. Extending the trip by another 550 yards will take place in 2020. On special days the train is hauled by a steam locomotive. “I love acting as a guard on those days,” smiled Sams. 

When steam diggers/excavators were introduced into Threlkeld this helped raise production levels to a peak of 150,000 tons annually. 

The quarry was though closed in 1937 but following WWII demand for granite rose considerably and it was re-opened in 1949 after undergoing compete modernisation. 

New products included tarmac. Dumper trucks and diesel diggers were introduced and today the latter form an important part of the visiting attraction as there are eighty on site. The vast majority are working thanks to the huge efforts played by volunteers such as Motherwell’s George Chambers, who travels south each month to repair the machines. “As a boy I grew up with these magnificent machines and playing a role in bringing them back to life is a real thrill.” 

The Museum is home to the Vintage Excavator Trust, whose 200 strong membership chairman is Ian Hartland, who owns the quarry, which closed in 1982.  “I felt it was a shame as I knew a lot of people who remembered it pre war. There were numerous stories connected to the place. I did not want them to be forgotten as they are just as important as the tales of how beautiful the Lake District is. ” 

Having bought other quarries, Hartland, whose a character, purchased Threlkeld as he wanted to “keep bits of things going. Old stuff will outlast the new. You can’t beat something that the driver is in charge of. We must preserve historical skills as it  means we can mend things.”

A Trust was established in 1992 to develop an onsite museum and its members worked hard repairing buildings and reconstructing the site. The railway was brought back to life. It is one of Chaplin-Brice’s many tasks to keep it functioning. “I enjoy very much working in the original locomotive shed.” Brice is one of small number who are employed full-time. 

In 1995 the Trust was wound up with the Museum handed over to the Museum Company, which now runs the site and had in July over 2,000 visitors. 

Callers can enjoy the two substantial indoor display rooms that highlight the links between geology, quarrying and the 400 year history of local metal ore, including lead mining. The displays feature many photographs of quarrymen. “We get many school children visiting as learning about rocks is part of the school curriculum. We also run a special minerals panning stream that is very popular with younger people,” said educational co-ordinator Jane Dickins. 

Within a mile of the quarry, lead and zinc was mined between 1661 and 1928 and it was backbreaking work. A forty-five minute guided tour through a reconstructed lead/copper mine can be enjoyed. 

Visiting for the first time, Jim Fox felt that Threlkeld fulfilled an “important role as what is often forgotten is that this area was a working one long before it became a tourist region or a place where people buy second homes. Keeping the old machines running means that the workers’ contributions to the development of the Lake District is recognised. “

As a worker in the Keswick tourist information service, Fox felt he could now speak fondly to anyone who asks him about Threlkeld. Hopefully more people will visit in 2020 when the museum, which is entirely self supporting from the amount it collects through the door, will reopen at Easter time and run until the end of the October half term. 

















Anti-hunt activists are still having to cry ‘Hounds Off’ our wildlife

CRUEL AND UNNECESSARY 

Anti-hunt activists are still having to cry ‘Hounds Off’ our wildlife

Landworker magazine, Winter 2019/2020 


While Scottish animal welfare campaigners are stepping up their efforts to block loopholes in fox hunting legislation their English and Welsh colleagues are reaching out to help farmers, landowners and rural residents being badly affected by hunt trespasses.

Foxhunting with dogs was outlawed by Scotland’s parliament in 2002. Hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate took place before England and Wales followed suit in 2005 when the Labour government was forced to use the Parliament Act after Tory peers in the Lords repeatedly rejected the legislation.

In 2006, legal attempts by hunters to reverse the ban on grounds that it breached human rights were dismissed by the High Court. Hunters also predicted that the law would be unenforceable and threatened defiance.

There were few early prosecutions but the figures have steadily increased each year.

Nevertheless, animal welfare campaigners have assembled overwhelming evidence that hunts are exploiting legal loopholes to still hunt in a manner which is very similar to pre- ban traditional hunting. A person will be deemed to be hunting by participating in the pursuit of a wild mammal where one or more dogs are employed in that pursuit.

Hunts across the UK can though exploit an exemption called “flushing to guns” that means letting hounds chase foxes out from cover such as woods into the open, to be shot by a marksman.

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACs) monitors hunts. According to its Scottish Field Investigator “we have filmed hounds running across open countryside in pursuit of foxes, hunts entering their dogs into cover when there is clearly no intention to shoot any foxes that may be flushed...”

The Investigator said fox hunters were organising on a need to know basis, making it difficult to collect evidence that can stand up in court. LACs field research officers have been on the sharp end of considerable harassment and intimidation by those who engaging in a cruel and unnecessary practice that has little effect on reducing fox numbers.

LACs and other Scottish animal welfare activists have organised a high profile campaign to strengthen the law. After a lengthy process led by Lord Bonomy the SNP government promised a Bill to outline steps to close loopholes in the 2002 legislation.

Time limits for prosecutions were to be extended, a code of practice introduced and independent hunt monitors were to be considered.

The SNP has now failed to keep its pledge by dropping the bill from its 2020 programme for government. A letter has since emerged from the SNP rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing to a hunt sympathiser. Ewing backs “current exemptions which have enabled pest control to be carried out using dogs.” He states there was “no intention to ban that activity.”

LACs Scottish director, Robbie Marsland has expressed his “deep disappointment” at the SNP’s inaction. LACs will now support a fox and hare bill by the Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone “to close loopholes in the current legislation and really ban hunting in Scotland.”

In England and Wales the voluntary group Hounds Off (HO), established in 2010 after the then Conservative opposition leader David Cameron had promised if elected to repeal the Hunting Act, seeks to create hunt-free zones.

Cameron was unable to repeal the Act, which according to HO founder Joe Hashman, “HO seeks to complement by getting farmers, landowners and rural residents to declare their homesteads as hunt free zones. We want to unite a compassionate uprising in support of the Hunting Act and against killing for sport.

‘We have built a nationwide network, including livestock farmers, tenants and estate managers, of people who are shocked and infuriated by the arrogance and lawfulness of hunts and their followers...who are fed up with disruption caused by dogs and hunters going wherever they like as it they own the place – which often they don’t.”

The advice provided by HO has been drawn up by legal professionals. It includes getting to know your property rights, warning off the local hunt and erecting no hunting signs. The group, which also backs the work of organisations such as LACs, has helped many people prevent attacks on their animals, the killing of foxes on their land and general harassment by hunters.

JC, who lives in Kent, praised the “wonderful support and advice of Hounds Off. We repeatedly suffer from the arrogant and bullying behaviour of our local hunt. We plan to use all available means to put an end to this harassment.”

Whilst Hashman, who hopes a future Labour Government would strengthen the law on fox hunting, is “buoyed by these successes” he also wants to develop new forms of hunting that do not involve killing wild animals. He cites drag hunting and Dry Booting that involves using “a small pack of bloodhounds to hunt human runners by their scent along...... which if developed could create a whole gamut of rural recreational possibilities and business opportunities.”


Hounds Off has no regular income and so the group seeks to raise its profile message via social media and word of mouth. Hashman, who is a regular annual visitor to the Toldpuddle Martyrs Festival, would welcome trade union support. He is especially keen to see trade unionists in the railway sector speak out as “hunt trespass is a common occurrence and it’s a danger to railway workers and passengers. It needs to be stopped.”