W3C More on Tommy Dobson GARN YAM



Tommy Dobson

“La’al Tommy” has featured before on this site and attracts a lot of hits; here is one of his obituaries from a newspaper at the time together with the memories of three people (one who knew him).

Death Of Tommy Dobson

A Veteran Master Of Foxhounds

We regret to announce the death of Tommy Dobson M.F.H, of the Eskdale and Ennerdale Foxhounds for 53 seasons. He was known throughout England for his marvellous success as M.F.H in a country bristling with difficulties at every turn. He was in fact almost as celebrated as the noted John Peel. Dobson died at “The Tourists Rest”, Langdale, on Saturday night in his 85th year. Death was due to an attack of acute pneumonia. Tommy left Eskdale-his home–on March 24th to join the huntsman, W. Porter, at Langdale, where the pack had been enjoying good sport. He was taken ill on Good Friday. His favourites were the game little terriers, which he bred with success. These terriers are necessary for bolting a fox once it gets to ground in the scree and boulders, which cover the fell side. He has persevered and hunted all this season, though only in poor health. An all round sportsman and wonderful walker, he has been known to climb Scafell three times in one day while hunting. Recently he heard of some otters in a beck near the kennels, and at once got hounds out and enjoyed a good hunt and a kill, in spite of ice on the water. He came to Eskdale as a bobbin turner when 21, and started to hunt with a couple of hounds, often leaving his bed at 2 am to hunt, then to work at six am to six pm. He will be sorely missed by his numerous friends and admirers far and near. An only sister survives him. Tommy for three or four years was whipper in to the Kendal Otter Hounds under Robert Troughton. The funeral took place on Tuesday in the churchyard of St Catherine, Eskdale, which stands quite alone by the riverside, a fitting-resting place, for here the bark of the fox can often be heard, the sound of the horn as hounds work in the crags above. Seldom has the little church being crowded as it was for Tommy’s funeral, many having to remain in the churchyard outside, whilst the first portion of the burial service was being read inside the church. The body was brought from Langdale over Wrynose and Hard Knott in very inclement weather, for on top of Hard Knott Hause a gale was blowing and sleet falling. When the valley was reached however, the rain cleared off and the wind dropped. At Brook House (Gainford’s) corner, the coffin was removed from the dogcart on which it had been brought from Langdale, and was carried to the church on the shoulders of members of the Hunt Committee. It was a very handsome one of polished oak, mounted with brass, and was covered with flowers. At the gate of the churchyard the procession was met by the churchwarden and the vicar of Eskdale (the Rev. T. Wilson Fair), also the Rev J. Neal, the rector of Bootle in Cumberland, who preceded it into the church, where the first portion of the burial service was read, an address given by the vicar, in which he referred to the sterling character of Mr. Dobson, and the esteem and affection in which he was held. He went on to say that Mr. Dobson died, as he would have wished, in harness, for he had taken his hounds over to Langdale to hunt that district when death snatched him from our midst. His last journey over the fells was in keeping with his sturdy active life, for when he came back for the last time over the two passes he had traversed so often in life, brought by those who felt for him affection and respect, shared by many others who were unable to be present at the graveside. After the address a hymn was sung, and the coffin, preceded as before by the churchwardens was borne to the grave, where the service was concluded and Tommy’s body lowered to its last resting place. It is said to be the intention of the hunt to raise a handsome stone to his memory, for which subscriptions from all friends and admirers

Westmorland Gazette 9th April 1910

Tommy's Funeral Cortege

Memories of May Bowness, born 1901

I. What about sport, there would be hunting?

R. Yes there was hunting, the Eskdale and Ennerdale - the old huntsmen of old - Tommy Dobson, he died with us at the Three Shires; he came over with Porter to hunt, Little Langdale was the Eskdale and Ennerdale pack and Great Langdale of course. He first started that pack. He stole a hound from Newby Bridge, and he started that pack, and it was a famous pack by the time he died; and then this boy he took under his wing, it went on to him and then on to his son, but it was all hunting by road, there was no horses.

I. Do you remember Tommy Dobson?

R. Oh yes, I do remember. I got a good hiding. I was sitting up with him when he was dying and I fell off the chair, and mother thought something had happened - thought the old fellow had tumbled out of bed.

I. Cos he was taken ill over –

R. Yes he died with us. He was taken over Wrynose in a dogcart.

I. I've seen a picture of it.

R. Yes, he went from our house.

I. I've seen his memorial at Eskdale Church, have you?

R. Yes that's right, and he died with us.

I. When was that, do you remember that - after the First World War?

R. Yes. It was when we were at the Three Shires, and we left in 1919,

Memories of George Braithwaite, born 1910

I. Now I've heard tell that there were packs of hounds not for fox hunting, but for vermin hunting. Have you ever heard of that at all?

R. No I haven't, but you see, when the Eskdale and Ennerdale pack was started up, by Tommy Dobson- the founder of the Pack, he used to hunt the sweetmart and that was his sole job. And all those hounds that old Tommy used to hunt with on a Sunday morning, Saturday afternoon or anytime like that, they were what they called 'Trencher Fed'. That was a farmer would keep two or three hounds - one maybe. And another farmer in the district - he would keep one or two. Well if it was - if old Tommy was going to have a hunt, he would get word round to these farmers that was keeping his hounds, 'meet us at such and such a place on Sunday morning, and we'll have a bit of a hunt.' Well he used to go with the hounds you see, and then when the hunt had finished, they used to have a harvel at nearest pub, which was a pint of beer and a bit of bread and cheese, and then they used to off away back home. And as the job got more prevalent, and people got keener on it, the Eskdale and Ennerdale hounds were 'founded' that way and old Tommy he was the huntsman.

Now Tommy Dobson was a bobbin turner by trade, and he worked at Santon Bridge Bobbin Mill; which was owned by the Graves'. And then Willy Porter, he took the job on because Willy Porter was a weakly sort of a lad, and old Tommy took him under his wing and he said 'I'll take Willy hunting, it'll be 't making on him'. So Willy Porter's mother condescended to let Tommy take him hunting, and then when old Tommy finished, the hounds were handed over - well sort of handed over, and yet they were a subscription pack you see. Nobody was ever 'the owner' of the Eskdale and Ennerdale hounds. They were a subscription pack kept up by the public, and Willy Porter, Tommy Dobson, Arthur Irvine; he was huntsman for a long time. Of course he was whipper-in for Billy Porter you see, and he used to go out hunting when old Bill was like getting …………………………….

I. So the first huntsman was Tommy Dobson?

R. The founder was Tommy Dobson.

I. And then when he died he died over here didn't he in Little Langdale.

R. He died at li'le Langdale aye.
I. And then Porter took over, and then Irvine took over....

R. Well Irvine was hunting with Willy Porter at same time. He would start as a lad as Whipper-In for Willy Porter you see, and he grew up and grew up with 't hounds, and Willy Porter. I don't know, maybe he was huntsman for a year or two you see, but I'm not so sure of that.

I. But they started off you said for the sweetmart, was it just for sport?

R. Nothing else.

I. When did they switch over to foxes then?

R. Well I think they would switch over to foxes as they got a bigger pack. And it had become more common. People got keen on hunting, and I think that would be when they switched over to fox hunting.

Whitehaven Gazette – January 21st 1897



The Eskdale foxhounds were located in the dale during two days of last week. On Friday morning "Laal Tommy" started from the hotel about eight o'clock, took a drag at the intake at Mosel Bottom, dragged away up Mosel, and put it off in a crag. It came right down to the bottom of Mosel, turned up by way of Red Pike, then came down under Black Crag by Door Head, through Stirrup Crag to the Brock Stone, where it ran into a field. The terriers were put in, and it was soon worried. It was afterwards dug out, and proved to be a vixen of about ten pounds weight.

Memories of Irene Barton, born 1904

The hounds you see used to come to Little Langdale from Eskdale - Tommy Dobson, it was old Tommy Dobson who started. He died at my grandma's, and Bill Porter who was always with him used to run away from school when he and Tommy were coming to Little Langdale, used to run away from school, he was nearly like a brother to mother, he wouldn't miss coming to Langdale. And I remember the night that Tommy Dobson died at the 'Tourist Rest'.

I. Have you ever seen Tommy Dobson's grave over in Eskdale?

R. No I haven't.

I. There's a beautiful picture of him in stone on it.

R. Yes, I believe so. But May and Fred used to have two pictures, and they were taken when Tommy was taken over to Eskdale to be buried, and it was a dreadful day, storm, and it was a beautiful big picture - I've often wondered where they went. They would be worth a bomb now. I have a turnip masher and a rolling pin that Tommy Dobson made and I think I may have one or two eggcups that he made, he used to be a joiner I don't know what.

I. Yes you're right, he started life, he came up from Lancashire I think as a pattern maker into Eskdale and started the pack didn't he there?

R. Yes, well I have a turnip masher and a rolling pin and I had some eggcups but I may have given them away, I don't know.

I. Well that's a bit of history isn't it?

R. But these pictures that May had, the big one, framed showing them going over Wrynose . . .

I. You were telling me about Tommy Dobson who was the Eskdale huntsman.

R. Do you know how he started his hounds?

I. No.

R. He gave one some cheese, and it followed him and that's how he started his pack, pinched 'em. Yes. They always say he started his pack from one, and I don't know how he got the others, but that was how he got his first hound.

I. Did they often come to hunt over into Little Langdale?

R. Oh yes, and my grandma then was living up at Birch House, and it was a pub then you see, not the 'Tourist Rest', and when the hounds were coming, in what we call the stable there were two great big cans over sticks, wood fire, mainly with porridge, thick porridge, you could cut it out, ready for the dogs coming you see, and they used to come up there to feed.

I. Did they stay overnight in Little Langdale?

R. Oh probably a week.

I. Oh I see, they hunted Little Langdale.

R. Yes.

I. I thought that was in Coniston hounds lot, but it wasn't?

R. No, not the Coniston, 'tis all Eskdale was Little Langdale.

I. So did the Coniston hunt in Great Langdale?

R. They used to go to Chapel Stile.

I. But you were really in Eskdale country.

R. We liked the Eskdale hounds and we always had a dance when they came in the schoolroom, and of course the huntsmen were there with their big boots on, you know.

I. What happened to Tommy Dobson in the end, was he hunting when he died?

R. Well he was taken ill, yes, and he was kept in bed at the 'Tourist Rest' as it was then and he died and that was it. But I wonder where those pictures are, do you know?

I. No, I don't know the originals. I have seen copies: there's a big bend on Hard Knott and that was just where he was going over with the coffin on the cart.

R. Yes there were two carriages. Funny this should crop up because I have a daughter lives over in Grizedale, and her son was hunting mad, and she was saying she knew of these pictures that May had, and she said I wonder where they are, and I said I'd like to know myself.

I. Well I should think they are still at Freddy's house, has he not got them?

R. I don't think so.

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