Tara Harriers Hunt History from 1750

The Tara Harriers are an old established pack who were formed around 1750 by Lord Tara, of the Preston family, when his ancestral home, Bellinter House was built. They were know as the Bellinter Harriers up to 1890 when John Joseph Preston died and left the property to Gustavius Villus Briscoe. On taking over the pack Guissie Briscoe changed the name to the Tara Harriers and the Briscoe family have been associated with the hunt to this day.

Gussie Briscoe was a nephew of Henry Briscoe from Tinvaun, Carrick-on-Suir, who was a famous master of the Kilkenny Hounds and later the Waterfords and was known as the ‘John Peel of Ireland’. The Tara Harriers have really since 1750 had only two families deeply involved , the Prestons and the Brisoces but in the latter era there have been joint masters with them.

The hounds were hunted by the Preston family from their inception until John Joseph gave up the horn in the 1880’s. Gussie Briscoe took over and hunted them until the start of the 20th century when he was joined by Mr. william Dove for a short period. On Gussie’s death in 1908 the were taken over by his son Cecil. He built up a lovely pack of purebred harriers and showed excellent sport. The country hunted at this time was the centre of Meath with Navan, Trim, Duleek and Kilmessan being good places to meet. Unfortunately, Cecil got badly hurt at the beginning of the first world war, in 1914, and with all the turbulence of the time there was no one found to take them on and they went into abeyance.

In 1922 Lord Dunsany put together a small pack and hunted part of the country but they did not really emerge again as a full pack until Senator Bill Quirke in 1935 came to live near Kilmessan and approached Cecil Briscoe about sarting them up again.

The old kennels at Bellinter were, at this stage, in bad repair but local builders put them in good enough shape for the hounds to return. The Senator hunted them with the support of a number of sportsmen until 1942. He was a bery busy man being heavily involved in politics and in his old auctioneering business, Stokes & Quirke in Tipperary. He handed over the horn and the mastership to Cecil’s son, George Briscoe, in 1942. At this time a neighbouring Hunt, the Kill Harriers. Went in to abeyance, and the Taras were asked to take over hunting their country which was in the west side of Meath including Enfield, Longwood, Ballivor and Rathmolyon. Luck Massey who lived near Enfield and was a first cousin of George took over the joint mastership and the horn in that end of the country.

Hunting continued very succesfully and on the retirement of Luke Massey in 1953, Joseph Moorhead came in as joint master, followed by Captain Simon Walord, Leslie Johnson, Commander Collard, Susan Lannigan O’Keefe and Jessica Magnier. In the process George was also joined by his nephew Henry Smith, daughter Lorraine McDowell, David Wilkinson and Abby Cosgrove Hill.

At present, Henry Smith continues to hunt the hounds with David Wilkinson as one of our Masters joined by Catherine Rothwell and Vincent Flood. Many people also know David as he has done much for hunting being chairman of Countryside Ireland and public relations officier for the Hunting Association.

In George’s time the country hunted was greatly extended and the Tara’s now hunt an area from Kilcock in the south to Baileborough in the north and from Duleek in the east to Edenderry in the west:  a large area that enables the hunt to go to many areas only once a season and to others never more than twice. The Hnt has an excellent relationship with the Meath Foxhounds and indeed George has been a committee member since 1944 and was Meath Chairman for 16 years. The history of the Tara Harriers would not be complete without mentioning the Dowdall family. Christy Dowdall came in as kennel huntsman in 1949, a post which he held with great distinction until his death in 1964. His youngest son Terry took over from him and was with us until his untimely death in 2001. He was a wonderful ambassador for the Hunt with the farmers who cam from all over Mearh for his funeral. When George gave up hunting the hounds in 1989, Terry took the horn up to the time of his death. He and his father had been sixth years with the Taras. The great thing is that Terry’s daughter, Sabine, has taken over the running of the kennels and as whip. An excellent lady with houngs and a good horsewoman, we are so luck with the continutiy from the Dowdall family. There is also continuity from George Briscoe who has been Joint Master for (put in number of years here)

With strong support form the farmers in Meath and a healthy membership made up from the rural community, the Tara Harriers have a bright future under the Briscoe family.