Having moved from London to Dorset and begun to settle down in our new house and village I began to get to know the neighbours and the local personalities. Jeremy Brown was, what could only be called,the local squire. Well, at least, his father had been in a former era. Father, Captain Brown had built up a large holding of land, been a keen local church supporter and master of the local foxhounds. When he passed on Jeremy took over the land and continued to be a church warden and play a central part of local life. As far as I am aware he was never a Master of Hounds. Living in the Dower House, in a dead end coombe, at the top of the village Jeremy farmed the land and tended large areas of his woodlands. He was an upright man of considerable bearing, dark haired and charming to a fault. As time went by the land held by Jeremy decreased as properties and bits of land were sold off. Jeremy's son took over the running of the farm and things went downhill fairly rapidly. The son seemed to prefer spending most of his time playing computer games and spent little time looking after the farm and its stock. All sorts of initiatives were embarked upon, including renovation of the old stables and installation of new horsey facilities in an attempt to create a livery business and, no doubt, make some money. Of course, these things need work and attention, they don’t happen by themselves or overnight. A lesson which son seemed not to have learned. To cut a long story short things went into terminal decline resulting in the sale of most of the property and Jeremy and his wife moving out into a bungalow in a local village and son and his wife departing for London, no doubt, in pursuit of fortune elsewhere.
But during happier days I got to know Jeremy quite well as he was a keen shooting man and I took up an offer from his game keeper to join the beating team. The land which formed the shoot was very beautiful as it was composed of old woodlands and deep coombes. It provided very high and difficult birds. In the early days I referred to Jeremy as Mr. Brown but after a couple of weeks he decided I was ok and could, therefore, call him Jeremy. What it is to be one of the boys !!! In any event I enjoyed the shoot greatly, Harrold the keeper, part time, did a good job and the shoot was well run and friendly. Harold was also Jeremy’s neighbour having bought one of the farms cottages.
Soon after I joined the beating team I got a new lurcher puppy, Toby, and a year later Toby joined me on beating days. It was Jeremy's custom to pay the beaters himself rather than the usual situation where the keeper does the job of handing out the pay. It was also the case that people with a dog got an extra pound. This again was paid in person by Jeremy and each dog handler was handed the pound coin, cash in hand, and not in the usual little brown envelope used for the rest of the beaters pay. On the first occasion I took Toby with me and when Jeremy came to pay me he looked at Toby and asked "Larcher isn’t it ?". People like Jeremy have their own form of the language you understand, for example, a bird is a bard and yes is ya, and that is why the locals in these parts refer to such people as ya ya’s. Anyway, having confirmed that Toby was indeed a Lurcher, Jeremy nodded looked deeply at him and then said, "not claiming a dog are you". What this meant, was of course, not claiming an extra pound. I was very tempted to tell Jeremy that clearly his need was greater than mine but decided upon discretion! So it was that this ritual continued for the best part of that particular season and each time I affirmed that I was not claiming a dog I was told by Jeremy that I was "a good chap"! This little charade at the end of the day appeared to annoy my neighbour and fellow beater much more than it did me. He would come out with the most ungentlemanly comments regarding this matter and in terms that I couldn’t possibly repeat here !! When, towards the end of the season, and Toby had completed a particularly good day, having flushed large numbers of pheasants my neighbour approached me and said "you tell the tight old sod that you are claiming a dog today". As usual Jeremy arrived to pay us and as usual I was addressed with, "not claiming a dog are you?" I replied that actually I was since Toby had worked every bit as well as any of the other dogs present. I received a wry smile and was handed my pound coin. Thereafter I was never asked again and the extra pound was always forthcoming without comment. Happy days.
On another occasion at the end of the morning session I was approached by Jeremy and the conversation went something like this, "Ah, Derek, did you lose the Larcher on the second drive"? He smiled and looked at me for a response before continuing, "chased a deer you know, right through the line, grabbed it at the bottom fence." Fortunately it got over the fence. Oh God, there are sometimes when you wish the ground will swallow you up. I apologised claiming to have missed Toby’s departure and believed him to have been in pursuit of a rabbit. I was treated to another one of Jeremy's grins and the reply, "Oh well, one of those things, nasty business." The matter was never mentioned again and neither was it repeated. By the next season Toby would stop on command even if he was tempted to think about chasing a deer.
When we moved from that village to our present home we did so in order to buy some land, soon after our relocation I heard that Jeremy was selling of parcels of land. Not long after that I heard of his departure from the village. Great days, good memories but, as they say, nothing stays the same for ever.