Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pakuranga Hunt lives on

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Pakuranga Hunt in Bells Road, Pakuranga c1950.

As Howick and districts count down to the 175th anniversary in 2022, the Times continues its series by ALAN LA ROCHE giving readers a glimpse of life as it used to be. The countdown began at the 170th in 2017

The Pakuranga Hunt is the oldest Hunt in New Zealand and the largest in Auckland, which for many years was the most significant club in this area.

Hares could easily outrun horses which many considered “a fair sport”. Hares are nimble, highly intelligent, athletic and would scamper through farmers’ vegetable or flower gardens that the hounds knew were no-go areas for them.

The hounds have super-sensitive noses and ears as loyal servants of their master huntsman hearing every command.

Hunt breakfasts were either before or after the meet and sometimes were lavish occasions, more than just a small glass of port and a meat pie. A glass of port was given before the meet started.

Pakuranga Hunt was established in 1872 and is still active today. The first formal meet was in 1874. Sir George Grey imported some hounds which he sold to William McLaughlin of Puhi Nui farm, Papatoetoe.

The first Hunt kennels were on Robert and Every MacLean’s “Bleak House” farm. They also liberated hares in 1868 which multiplied and spread throughout the region. The settler-farmers were excited by seeing the thrill of a pack of hounds, hearing the hunting horn, the pounding of horses’ hooves and the comradeship after a hunt.

Pakuranga Hunt operated down to the Waikato River in the south up to Riverhead in the north. Many hunters left their farms very early morning, riding to the meet. Howick was well-known for its geese, goats, gorse and hares.

Founding members included Alfred Buckland, William McLaughlin, William Percival, Every and Robert MacLean, Albyn Martin, the Morrin brothers, Alf Harris and Tom Brown.

In the evening following a hunt there used to be a dinner at a local hotel. Early Governors and their wives were active members of the hunt. Some women rode side-saddle.

The Pakuranga Hunt Balls were one of Auckland’s largest and grandest social events of the year. Point to Point steeplechases were held on members’ farms or at the Ellerslie Racecourse. Pony gymkhanas were popular with children and included a bun on a string or musical chairs. Sometimes Howick buses were used to transport eager followers.

There was a strong bond of friendship and tolerance between the hunt and farmers who allowed them to cross their farm paddocks, jump over gates, and through planted crops and a Hunt ball was held to thank them. There were always Hunt ‘followers’ who enjoyed the spectacle without owning a horse.

On one occasion the hares were screaming down Bells Road, Pakuranga, with hounds following. They crossed over Pakuranga Creek, then up to De Quincey’s Cottage where the front door onto the veranda was open as well as the back door. The farmer who was having lunch in the kitchen watched amazed to see the hare shoot through the house leaving the hounds far away, bounding to safety.

In 1969 the Pakuranga Hunt held its last hunt in Pakuranga and moved to Waiuku due to expanding suburbia. Membership at that time was about 600 members and up to 100 followers. The name Pakuranga Hunt continues today but is now based in Waiuku.

  • Alan La Roche MBE
    Howick Historian

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