Huntsman of Airedale Beagles 1945-83

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THE death of Jack White at the age of 90 marks the end of an era when hunting and its traditions were an integral part of country life.

Indifferent to financial or commercial success, once he found his niche and settled into it, Jack was treasured by a wide circle of friends, his knowledge and love of the country making him a figure of enormous respect.

But while he sometimes remarked that he would have fitted better in an earlier age, he was as up-to-date as he was quick of mind and keen of wit. His anecdotes, jokes and turn of phrase were memorable.

Born in Eldwick, the eldest son of a tenant farmer, he would often sing To be a Farmer’s Boy when he was alone with the hounds.

The tune was played at the end of his funeral service at St Lawrence’s Church, Eldwick. So many attended the service that more than half listened to it relayed outside.

D’ye ken John Peel was sung, with an adapted second verse, replacing “John Peel” with “Jack White”. An honour guard for the cortege was formed by huntsmen and their hounds, and formalities were closed with Gone Away, traditionally played on a horn to signify the end of the day.

In his youth, Jack delivered milk by horse and cart in Shipley. After the outbreak of war, he drove tractors for the war agricultural effort.

In 1942 he married Doris

Orbell, daughter of Bingley’s station master, and aged 30 in 1945, he moved to Eldwick and began his “dream job” as kennel huntsman for the Airedale Beagles where he stayed for the next 38 years.

From then on he was able to pursue his life-long passions – hounds, horses and country life. Besides maintaining a well-conditioned pack of hounds, he used his spare time to develop outstanding skills in horsemanship and leatherwork, and cultivated a wide circle of friends.

Many children honed their riding skills under his critical eye, many a horse buyer sought his advice, many breeders used his succession of beautiful Arab stallions, the UK’s top riders used his hand-made tack and whips, and all the while he provided magnificent beagling to generations of hunt followers.

After retirement in 1983, he continued to follow hunting – he attended meets until a year ago – but he devoted more time to judging horses, and was to be seen at horse shows around the country. His social life was important also, even after the death in 1987 of Doris.

Having started out as a timid, humble working man, in his later years Jack was forthright and confident, at ease with young and old, rich or poor. He grew more flamboyant and charming with age and will long be remembered for his bold attire – complete with cornflower buttonhole, cap and walking stick – and for his optimism, humour and homespun wisdom.

He leaves a son, Roger, and two grandchildren.

Category: Airedale

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