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Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
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The Montreal Hunt Club

AROUND THIS TIME of year we like to remind our dear readers that out there in the countryside the fox-hunting season has commenced. Charles Moore reports in the Spectator that “there have now been several convictions under the Hunting Act,” the Quantock Staghounds being the most recent victims. “This week, the wretched Ann Widdecombe held a meeting in the House of Commons in which she showed police officers and others a film about how the ban is, in her view, being flouted. Politics has only to change a bit,” Moore continues, “for the police to turn nasty. If politics changes the other way, and there is a Conservative government (no Widdecombe, thank God: she is retiring), the promise of repeal must be cashed in straightaway.” Don’t hold your breath, Mr. Moore!

Of course, the season has begun in earnest not only in Great Britain & Ireland but also here in the New World. The Montreal Hunt Club is the oldest hunt in existence on these shores, having been founded back in 1826. (The same year as the Old Guard of the City of New York). For many years, the club lead a triple life as a social organization, a hunt, and even as a military unit, the Royal Montreal Cavalry. The guidon of the Royal Montreal Calvary was presented by the Earl of Dalhousie in 1828 and is the oldest in Canada. (It is currently housed in the armory of the Royal Canadian Hussars, the successor unit to the Royal Montreal Cavalry).

Whilst perambulating the internet the other day I stumbled upon this 1880s evening coat of the Montreal Hunt Club, amongst the collection of the McCord Museum. The accompanying notes, of course, get quite anthropological:

The specialized clothing required for participation in élite activities presented barriers to social climbers and reinforced existing social hierarchies. Any man could buy a frock coat, either ready-made from a mail-order house or custom-made by the finest tailor, and thereby challenge the status quo, but only those men who already had access to the right social clubs wore the clothing associated with them.

Uniforms and ceremonial dress like this Montreal Hunt Club evening dress coat played a dual role. They not only reinforced hierarchy and group membership, they also provided élite men with opportunities for overt displays of fashion.

In The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century: Its Progress and Expansion at Home and Abroad, Comprising a Description and History of the British Colonies and Dendencies (1898), Edgar Sanderson writes in his entry on Quebec that “the Montreal Hunt Club affords the best sport of its kind in America.” Happily, the Montreal Hunt Club carries on its activities to this very day. While it originally drew its members from the Anglophone portion of the city’s elite, French speakers began to dominate the club from the post-war period onwards. (Accordingly, its official legal names is “Le Club de Chasse à Courre de Montréal”). We hope and pray that as the Montreal Hunt has carried on from centuries past, it will continue to carry on into the future.

This post was published on Wednesday, November 7th, 2007 8:16 pm. It has been categorised under Canada History Hunting Quebec and been tagged under .
Comments
  1. Mrs. Peperium
    9 November 2007
    6:26 pm

    Lovely photos Andrew and post. There was once a marvelous Range Rover commercial where the fox escapes in a Range Rover and blows raspberries at the hounds….

    As for you James II post, it appears you’ve closed the comments, I just wanted to add per:

    Some bloke: “I believe, in fact, it was orthodoxy in the CofE that actuated a huge number of the nobles to side against JII.”

    Andrew:But the Protestant orthodoxy of the Church of England was never under threat!…

    Mrs. P “The Protestant orthodoxy of the Church of England was never coherent…

  2. Andrew Heath
    17 November 2007
    11:37 pm

    Dear Mr. Cusack,I took the liberty of passing your report on the Montreal Hunt to Alan Bolt, who was a much appreciated school master at my school in Surrey back in 1949. Now living in England’s north-west, he taught me English among other things. As you will see, he is stlll an active huntsman at 88 year of age. He hunts under somewhat greater duresse than do our Canadian neighbours, but was obviously glad to hear of their successes.
    Shoud any of your readers think all hunts are like those of Montreal, Alan’s note will clarify. He writes:

    Dear Andrew

    Many thanks for the interesting article on the Montreal Hunt. I looked them up in Baileys (the annual encyclopedia of the hunting world) and all the members and officials have French names, confirming what it said in the report. Their evening dress still has blue lapels, and ladies wear a royal blue collar on their scarlet coats (in England ladies hunt in black coats!).

    I am in my 20th season as Master of the North Lonsdale Foxhounds, relatively fit at 88 except for a troublesome arthritic knee. After hunting on a horse with the Surrey Union for many years, it was a bit of a culture shock when I came to Cumbria. Here we hunt on foot (the high fells are no good for horses) and the uniform dress does not apply. The huntsman does have a scarlet coat – but does not often wear it – and the rest of us wear whatever is warm and waterproof! We are of course struggling to keep hounds working within the ridiculous restrictions of the Hunting Act, but we shall survive until it is eventually repealed.

    Great to hear from you – keep me informed.

    All the best,
    Alan

  3. Annette Laroche
    2 December 2007
    6:44 pm

    Hello Andrew,

    I am a member of the Montreal Hunt Club, and have hunted on the lovely white mare pictured on your site. She’s a extraordinary mare for hunting.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm about the sport, and invite to to come visit us at the Club. Just e-mail me.

    I am very much impressed by Mr. Alan Bolt’s comments. Hunting at 88 – what an inspiration!

    By the way, for Mr. Bolt’s information, our gentlemen hunters wear red jackets with red collars, and the ladies, black jackets with a royal blue collar. The jacket pictured on your site is indeed the formal jacket worn by our members at the Hunt’s yearly Ball.

    Regards,

    Annette

  4. nessunno x niente
    23 December 2009
    8:21 pm

    I came across a silver-plated porringer in a thrift store a while back engraved with the date October 11th 1925 and also engraved on it are the names of the Masters of Fox Hounds. The date 1826 is also on it (the date the Montreal Hunt Club was founded).The engraved names are: Harold Hampsun, Maj. A.E. Ogilvie,Maj. Hartland B. Macdougall,Col.George R. Hooper, Colin Campbell,F.N. Beardmore, and Gertrude Elaine Ross. An odd thing to come across here in Toronto and it took a while for me to figure out it was from the Montreal Hunt Club.

  5. Charles James (lrs)
    7 June 2011
    1:48 pm

    I beg your pardon, my fox hunting confreres(or, as they say in parts of my territory, ”Yo, yo, yo, my homies!”)

    The Montreal Hunt certainly may be, as their own website claims ”…the oldest North American hunt club IN CONTINUOUS EXISTENCE,” (emphasis added,) but it is certainly not the oldest organized hunt club on this side of the Atlantic.

    The Gloucester Fox Hunting Club was a subscription pack founded in Philadelphia by 30 business and political leaders of that city in 1766, a solid half century before Montreal. Their founding document sets forth their initial subscription as ”… the sum of five pounds current money…”

    They hunted across the Delaware River in Gloucester County, New Jersey, and contributed much to the early history of the U.S. Twenty-two of their members were the core of the First Troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry, which they formed in 1774. This unit fought in major Revolutionary War battles in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, often riding as personal body guard to fellow fox hunter General George Washington.

    One of their first Huntsmen, an African slave named Natt that belonged to the club’s president, eventually bought his freedom with the money he was paid to maintain his hunt livery.

    All props to the Montreal Hunt, but our Philadelphian brethren deserve the credit to which their half century earlier start entitled them.

    While the Gloucester no longer exists, it is very likely that descendents of some of it’s founders have play important roles in the life of the Radnor Hunt, in existence since 1883 and home to the highly prestigious Bryn Mawr Hound Show.

  6. Andrew Cusack
    7 June 2011
    11:53 pm

    Disagree.

    To “be” the oldest necessitates that something exists currently. The Gloucester may have been the first, but since it doesn’t exist anymore, it can’t be the oldest. Similarly, if the MHC ceased to exist, the next-oldest club would inherit the title of oldest.

  7. Michael Ogilvie
    12 November 2011
    9:52 pm

    My Ogilvie forefathers were all horselovers. They had been in Scotland before their arrival in Canada in 1800 and once here continued to exercise their passion for horses first with the Montreal Cavalry in its various forms and then with the Cavalry and the Hunt and finally with the hunt. As a child i visited my grandfather’s (A.E.Ogilvie) house in Cartierville (Saraguay) and although he no longer rode there were horses in the barn and a groomsman into the early years of the war. My father, Bartlett McLennan Ogilvie, was a fine horseman but early in the depression he went to his father’s house,mentioned above, with a gun and shot his five horses and never rode again. I asked him once why he did that and he replied that at that time there was no market for horses and had he sold them for very little or given them away that they would have been very badly treated; the kindest thing to do was to shoot them. I believe that lived with him all his days. Hunting and Polo died out in the thirties and my father lived and worked in Montreal and did not have the time nor the means for keeping a stable of horses. In those days one must also remember that the work week didn’t end till noon on Saturday

    I have several trophies from the Montreal Hunt and other hunts as well as a field officers map of the Seat of War in Lower Canada published by order of the Provincal Government, strangely in Philadelphia, a fact that I find fascinating as it confirms that early on the American quest for commerce was’t going to let a minor matter like a war interfere with busines! Somewhat tongue in cheek) It belonged to my great great grandfather Alexander Ogilvie who came to Canada with his father in 1800 and was a cornet in the Lachine Cavalry, a militia regiment. A brother and two of his sons commanded or were prominent in the Montreal Cavalry as it then became

    The family photograph albums show a life around horses and riding that it is hard to concieve of today. It was limited to the few with considerable means. Today the broader base is fairer in that the many can partake of leisure sport.

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