By Stephane Lambert
MR BARCLAY, who died at the age of 62, was steeped in hunting and his promotion. Coming from the fourth generation of this famous family of hunters and son of Captain Charlie Barclay, co-master of the Puckeridge for 55 years, it was inevitable that Mr Barclay would go hunting. As a child, he kept a pack of bobbers, the Brent Pelhams and Rickling Rabbit Hounds, and spent many happy hours keeping the rabbit population down.
After school, Mr Barclay traveled to North Tipperary in Ireland as a countryman, then in the mid-1970s he assisted Stephen Lambert, then co-master of Warwickshire, in the administration of the country with particular emphasis on relations with the agricultural community. When Stephen went to Heythrop in the early 1980s, James stayed with him in a similar role.
At this time many train conductors who covered the Moreton-Oxford rail service came to the Earthstoppers’ supper. James knew them all personally and was once seen by a prominent Heythrop subscriber in the driver’s seat as the train pulled into Charlbury station. The shock was such that the subscriber fainted and had to be rehabilitated by railway personnel.
James moved to co-Master and Essex and Suffolk Hunter in 1983, where he remained for four seasons, then joined Lady Hastings in Mastering the Fitzwilliam for 12 happy years, based in the Stable Flat in Milton .
He had enormous affection and respect for the farming community wherever he worked, which became reciprocated, often initiated in farm kitchens, where his appetite became legendary. The strong relationships he has forged have allowed him to open up new countries and skillfully handle any hunting incident.
He continued this work with the Masters of Cottesmore (1999-2002), South Wold (2002-2003) and Grove and Rufford (2010-2012).
Through the friendships he made over many years, James realized the need to demonstrate across the country the message that the hunting world was inclusive and not exclusive.
In 2017 he set up This is Hunting UK, an online forum that shared news from hunting communities across the country, as well as reports on charity events.
One of his last articles for Hounds magazine was titled “If We Don’t Wake Up, We’ll Lose Everything”; a call for leadership and action from those responsible for the future of dogs and the hunt.
Mr Barclay has never been afraid of the establishment and he has at times had a difficult relationship with the Foxhounds Association and the Countryside Alliance. He felt that neither succeeded in getting the message across to the public that the hunt was morally defensible, open to all, and improved the lives of those who wished to get involved. His passion and determination did not always translate so easily into action for administrative reasons.
Mr. Barclay was aware of the difficulties. His mother, whom he adored, died when he was 13. His wife Lucy suffered a series of serious accidents, leaving her severely disabled, and he himself suffered from poor health for much of the past decade. He was an emotional man, and the increasing challenges facing the hunt often left him feeling distressed.
He had a number of close friends and he relied on them a lot when life was difficult. Very shortly before his death, he was thrilled to welcome his first grandchild and know that his line would continue.
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