Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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below were the words, " I was cheating."

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Dawn was breaking as we left the station on the camels which
had been sent under charge of a native officer to meet us. Sending
our j>ersonal baggage round by the road, and taking only guns, we
started across country through high jungle grass. Presently the sun
rose a glowing mass, and the Indian day had broken : bird life woke
with the sun, partridges calling, countless minahs chattering, green
parrots screeching as they flew past, doves and blue jays fluttering
about in hundreds, whilst an occasional jackal slunk away from the
village where, prowling in search of food, he had made night hideous
with his unmelodious voice.

After a few miles of this jungle we reached cultivated country,
and saw evidence of our proximity to the jheel in large flights of
geese, duck, and other water birds passing to the cornfields for
their morning feed. In rather over an hour we reached our camp,
which had been sent on a day previously with the necessary estab-
lishnnent ; breakfast was awaiting us, not to mention half the
inhabitants of the neighbouring village, fifty pariah dogs, and our
three shikarees.

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Whilst the others are discussing breakfast, getting out shooting
kit, etc., let me introduce the reader to our party. Captain D.,
happy as a schoolboy at getting away for a much-needed rest from
work; B., irresponsible as the usual subaltern, happy-go-lucky and
keen as mustard ; and myself. Our camp was pitched some two
hundred yards from the water's edge, which, nowhere more than
three feet deep, was here so shallow that our punts had to be kept
at the village about half a mile distant; and glad indeed were we
that it was so far ; it is impossible to imagine a more evil-smelling,
filthy place, consisting as it did of grass huts, in which human
beings, donkeys, ponies, sheep, cats, and dogs all lived together.


At the landing-stage wrinkled hags were cleaning last night's catch
of fish, surrounded by herons and cormorants, which walked about
amongst the dogs and people fearlessly picking up the tit-bits.

Each getting into a punt similar in shape to those one finds on the
Thames, and poled by our shikarees with long bamboos, we set out
for the open water, and were soon in the thick of the duck, which
were literally in thousands, but rising at long ranges. Getting a bird
here and there whilst crossing this open water we reached some
large patches of withered lotus leaves; here the birds rose ver\'
much closer, giving beautiful shots. It was stealing along through
these lotus patches, the gunner crouching in the bow, and the shikaree

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squatting in the stern poling quietly along, that we bagged most
of our geese, mallards, and pintails, which in the open would never
allow one to approach sufficiently close to get in a shot. But the
prettiest shooting of all was the driving. If we reached an open
piece of water where the duck were more than usually plentiful, we
ran the punts under cover of the clumps of reeds growing in the
jheel, and sent one or more larger boats to drive the birds over the
guns ; then indeed the fun began, fast and furious, and we really
wanted two guns each, which we unfortunately had not got.

The shikarees knew all the birds by their English names and
were at times most useful owing to their wonderful eyesight ; if one
were going to fire at a gadwell (the commonest species of duck on


the Munchur jheel), they would hurriedly say, ** Do not fire, sahib,
a mallard is coming after him," and one reserved one's shot for the
better bird. It is very hard to distinguish one duck from another
at any distance when flying straight at you, but the shikarees seemed
to have no difficulty whatever in the matter, and could almost
always tell you that such and such was a mallard, shoveller, red-
headed pochard, cotton teal, or whatever it might happen to be.
Great emulation of course existed as to who should shoot the
greatest number of geese, but D. established a good lead the first
day, which he managed to maintain throughout. His shikaree, an
excellent man, who knew all the best places for mallard and geese,
having poled him to within thirty yards of a big flock in some

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rushes, as they rose D. let fly into them with a right and left oi
No. 5's and slew four. These were bar- headed geese; we got f^rey-
lags on other occasions.

Dotted all over the jheel were boats occupied by natives em-
ployed in fishing in a most primitive fashion. A man armedwiflna
long bamboo on one end of which was nailed a piece of flat board
propels the bo it by an occasional stroke, and then raising the pole
above his head brings the board down with a tremendous splash on
the water ; should a fish happen to be lying near where the splash
has occurred he darts from his weedy cover to another spot nearby,


whereupon the fisherman, picking up from beside him a conical-
shaped net, plunges it down over the fish. They catch about forty
fish a day in this manner, weighing from three-quarters up to two
pounds each, though occasionally very much larger ones are taken
in the seine nets, and make about a rupee a day by selling them.
The seine net is used with great effect. Having laid one out in a
large semi-circle, its joint owners advance in line, driving the fish
towards it by splashing the water, sounding drums, cymbals, and
conches. When the line has advanced close to the net the ends ot
the latter are drawn round to close the circle ; this movement being

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completed, the fishermen jump inside the ring of the net, and the
terrified fish rushing round are caught in the meshes ; the men then
dive, remove and bring up one in each hand, throwing them to
their women-folk in the boats, who kill and store them.

The duck are also taken in thousands as follows : — A net about
half a mile long is suspended on poles some ten feet high, the lower
portion of it being looped up at intervals so as to form bags; and
during the day the duck are gradually driven away from other places
to the vicinity of the net. When it is quite dark several boats
coming behind the birds make them swim towards the trap. As soon


as the main portion ot the flock is about a hundred yards from the
meshes the natives light and swing about torches of pine-wood. The
duck, terrified, rise, fly into the net, and striking it, fall into the
looped-up pockets. In a good drive two hundred or more birds are
taken. These are disposed of to the local bunniah (who rents the
netting) for a halfpenny apiece. The netters are allowed to retain
about 40 per cent, of such birds, the bunniah buying the remainder
at this nominal rate. Curiously enough the natives prefer coot to
duck, and were always saying to us if we got within range of abic
bunch of these birds, ** Arhi maro, sahib, arhi maro ! " (Shoot coot,

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sahifc, shoot coot !) If the bird was shot dead it was useless, as
good Mussulmans will not eat anything in which life has been unless
its throat has been cut and blood has flown. In this respect I do
not think our shikarees were very particular if no one saw them. I
noticed several coot whose throats, after cutting operations had been
performed, appeared singularly dry. It is a curious fact that even a
second after death has taken place not a drop of blood will flow.
Imnnediately the operation had occurred the bird was plucked,
rent asunder, and cast into the cooking-pot in the large boat which


accompanied us. This large boat was a great institution. Originally

intended to carry spare cartridges, lunch baskets, and drinks for us,

it actually carried a huqqah and the cooking-pot of enormous r

dimensions in which a stew of arhis, rice, and other foodstuffs

simmered all day. Round this were assembled the shikarees, when

off duty, and at all times a vast concourse of their relations, who,

like children at a bran-pie, plunged their hands into the pot for

what they might get. I was the only one who went after snipe, and

pn that day had capital sport. The snipe lay in osier beds about


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five feet high ; two beaters went through these whilst I walked along
a bank at the edge, and took the birds as they topped the osiers; one
found them also lying out in the long grass round the edge of the

We always came back to camp for lunch, after which we
counted out the bag, had the birds tied up, labelled, and loaded on
camels for dispatch to Quetta. I say we, but it is perhaps incorrect,
as B. was a confirmed offender in this respect, even from the first
day, when he came back at 5.30 p.m. When we asked where he
had been, he said he had met three other men shooting. Had he


shot with them ? Oh, yes, they had had one drive . . . but they
had a splendid lunch . . . cold partridges, snipe, duck, beer, limes,
hock, and salad . . . three kinds of salad ; the salads were splendid.
We could get no further information out of him on this subject.
After tea we generally went out for a shoot in a large stretch of reeds
opposite our camp, and had an hour when birds were flighting. We
got chiefly teal, and by snap shooting at that, too, as they went in
and out amongst the rushes. The bags in the evening were hardly
commensurate to the amount of powder burnt.

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In addition to the kinds of duck already mentioned, we shot
widgeon, cotton-teal, blue-winged teal, white-eyed, red-crested,
and black-headed pochards, plover, pigeon, and quail, as well as
several coarse kinds of water birds for our shikarees. The total bag
was 631 duck, 25 geese, 82 snipe, 119 others.

The shikarees had asked us to keep all the empty cartridge
cases instead of throwing them away, as they wished to take them
to their own villages for their children to play with; but the children
of the local village used to beg so for them that we threw a handful
or two amongst them as the boats approached the landing stage.


Frightful scrambles ensued, and the victorious ones emerged with
** rings on their fingers and bells on their toes," or rather cartridge
cases answering the same purpose, of course dripping from head to
foot with oose and filthy mud, whilst others filled their cases with
the oose and quaffed it as if it were nectar. Fortunately they wear
no clothes, so cannot spoil any, and apparently filth agrees with
thetn internally as well as externally.

A great fund of amusement was B.*s camp equipment. It
consisted of a 21 lb. tent which he was under the impression one
could stand up in inside ; it actually stood 3 ft. at the ridge-pole,
MO. CZXV11I. VOL, XXII. — March i^o§ X

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He was also possessed of an iron truckle-bed weighing about two
hundredweight, which, under ordinary circumstances, we should have
been quite unable to get inside the tent, but which through D.'s
and my united endeavours did get there, together with much other
matter, while B. was eating those wonderful salads on the first day.
A kit bag stuffed with cartridges, gun-case, a tin of shortbread,
and a cup completed his outfit, if one does not also include a fur-
lined coat, which hardly seemed a necessity with the thermometer
standing at 98 in the shade.

The whole arrangements of the camp went like clockwork.
We had merely to give a hint of anything: we required, from a sheep
to an egg, audit promptly appeared. This and our heartiest thanks
were due to a friend of D.'s living in Sind, who had warned the
head-man of the village to look after our requirements, and had
picked out the two best shikarees on the jheel for us.

We were a very despondent trio as our train, leaving behind the
green and fertile country, crawled at snail's pace up the Bolan into
barren Baluchistan, especially as a year is a long time to look across
to a repetition of our week's shoot in Sind.

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On looking over photographs representing horses of the present day,
and comparing them with the old prints of sporting celebrities, one
is forcibly struck by the sameness and lack of character in the modern
work, in which as a rule the horse is standing in a conventional
attitude. Of course, the camera lens draws true to Hfe, although
the photographer can alter that ** truth " considerably, giving pro-
minence to good qualities, and hiding any bad points. I have, for
instance, taken four consecutive snapshots of a horse from various
positions, the result being four totally different animals ; and this is
one reason why I think the old prints, although open to criticism in
some respects, give one a better idea of the horse portrayed than
any modern photograph. It is with the kind assistance of Mr. S. B.
Darby, of Rugby, a well-known connoisseur of old prints, that I
have been able to write this article, as he knows the history of every
horse and jockey down to the more minute details.

X 2

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It is interesting to compare the old type of St. Leger winners
with some of those one sees now contending for our big events, and
to speculate on what the Chifneys, Bill Scott, Ben Smith, and
others would have thought of the fashionable American seat, when
they rode so long that they hardly seemed to rise in the saddle !

Chifney senior, at any rate, had a good opinion of himself, and
at the youthful age of eighteen said that he " could ride horses
in a better manner in a race to beat others than any person I
ever knew in my time," and probably few differed from his opinion.
The jockeys then were apparently not particular in their get-up,
which is described as peg-tops, brown breeches, white stockings, and


short gaiters. Chifney also sported a ruffle and frill whenever he
'* took silk,'* while love-locks hung on each side beneath his jockey's
cap. Are there many men now who could rival Ben Smith's
pluck and loyalty when, a horse having broken his leg with a kick,
he refused to dismount, and won the race, as he deserved, on the Duke
of Hamilton's Ironsides ?

Endless are the anecdotes about these jockeys, their gameness
and endurance. Frank Buckle thought nothing of hacking ninety-
two miles to Newmarket and back to ride trials.

It would be a lengthy proceeding to give an account of all
Herring's works. He was at one time a well-known coachman of
the London and York Highflyer, but he gave up the reins for the

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paint brush, and his first study in anatomy was the fractured leg
of Spartan. His series of St. Leger winners began in 1815, but they
were copied with slight alteration from other artists' paintings. Thus
his portrait of Filho da Puta was evidently taken from Ben Marshall's
fine mezzotint of this horse and Sir Joshua on Newmarket Heath
before the great match.

Filho is described as 16 hands, fine-tempered, leggy, and near-
sighted, and he is depicted with coarse hocks, which a noted
veterinary surgeon once told Mr. Darby were inherited in the shape
of spavins by nearly all his stock, which in those times meant good


business for the firing irons. Filho's St. Leger was a remarkable one,
from the fact that at the close of the betting the first four horses
were exactly placed. Croft was very confident of winning, and his
owner. Sir William Maxwell, in the exuberance of his spirits
smashed all the pier glasses at the " Reindeer," and "longed in his
rapture for more." An amusing story is also related about the colt's
name, which was a puzzler to two youths, one of whom backed
Filler, and the other Pewter, and when the winner's name was
shouted there ensued a battle royal, each claiming to have won, until
the police interfered and explained.

Before the match with Sir Joshua, Croft, owing to ill- health,
asked John Scott to take charge of the Northern crack, and the

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latter, true to his methods, wanted to run the horse rather above
himself. Unfortunately Croft, when he came to Newmarket,
thought the colt had not done enough work, and sent him along
again, which, as John remarked, ** cooked him." The horse lost
some lengths at the start by rearing up, and could never quite
catch Sir Joshua ; but the match was the making of Scott, as
Mr. Houldsworth bought Filho for 3,000 guineas, and took the
young trainer with him to Mansfield.

The first horse that Herring painted from life was Jack Spigot,
winner of the St. Leger in 1821. He was a grand foal, but his dam
took to galloping in the paddock, so Mr. Powlett got a tenant to
allow his mare to bring up the colt, and wanted to christen it
"Jack Faucet," after the farmer. The latter objected, however,
on the ground that it was certain to win the Leger. **Well,
John," said Mr. Powlett, " a Faucet's nothing without a Spigot," so
Jack Spigot the colt became. After the race the colt took such a
dislike to Bill Scott that he would never let him come near him again,
and went quite mad even if he heard his voice. The first ten horses
that Herring painted, from Filho to Jerry, in 1824, were published by
Sheardown & Son, of Doncaster, and the artist is supposed to
have superintended the colouring. Only a limited number were
printed for subscribers, and they were brought out in atlas folio,
engraved by Sutherland.

From 1825 Herring painted the winners of the Derby and
St. Leger for Fuller & Son, who pubHshed them each year down to
the middle of the forties. The subscribers' prints have a Miner\'as
head stamped on the margin. Herring also painted a series of stud
horses, Lord Egremont's Gohanna being the first ; and a few Oaks
winners by the same artist were published by Moore. At a later
period Fores published some prints of racers and stud horses.

Unfortunately, many of the old prints have lost some of their
value by having been mounted on linen and varnished in the days
when glass, I believe, was expensive.

Herring never flattered his horses, and, if anything, rather
exaggerated their faults. In his pictures. Barefoot and Ebor are
too long in the back ; Reveller looks more the type of a harness
horse; Launcelot, Bill Scott up, with a strong double bridle, is
more the style of a Leicestershire weight-carrier than a St. Leger
winner. This horse had enormous speed, and pulled even harder
than his brother Touchstone, with his head right into bis chest, and
hardly anyone could hold him. Jerry and Matilda resemble polo
ponies ; and, as a matter of fact, the latter was only 14.1^ when she
was taken up as a yearling. John Day described her when first
foaled as looking ** about the size of a buck rabbit, with a black-list

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stripe down its back." She was the first of Mr. Petre's memorable
St. Leger trio.

Lord Jersey watched Herring painting Bay Middleton's portrait,
and remarked on the length of the horse's head. ** Yes, my lord,"
replied Herring, " if he hadn't had so long a head, you would not
have had so long a horse." In Bay Middleton three heads exactly
measured his length, and according to this artist the rule of three
heads worked out 99 times out of 100; but as far as I can remember
from my student days in Paris, a horse's length generally worked out
at about 2 J heads, and a well-made horse would stand in a square,


i.e. equal height and length. Perhaps of all his portraits his chef
d*ceuvre is The Duchess, a beautiful bay mare with black points.
Ben Smith is up in Sir B. Graham's colours — yellow, blue sleeves,
blue and yellow striped cap. This mare won the St. Leger in 1816.
Almost equally fine are some of his Derby winners, and Queen of
Trumps and Crucifix, the latter described as very narrow in the
chest, and suffering perpetually from speedy cut. The harlequin
colours of Mr. Watts were frequently to the fore; amongst others
he owned Altisidore, Blacklock, Barefoot, and Rockingham.

One of the rarest coloured mezzotints is of the celebrated
Doctor Syntax, who won for his owner, Mr. Riddell, over twenty

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^old cups and plates. The " Doctor," as they called him in the
North, was barely 15 h., mouse-coloured, with such a velvety coat
that people used to say he had no hair except on his mane and tail.
A slight canter would bring out the veins in a network. From a
two-year-old he never would stand the touch of whip or spur, but
Bob Johnson could get every ounce out of him by merely stroking
and talking to him. Like his daughter Beeswing, he did not care
to carry more than 8 st. 11 lb. He won the Gold Cup at Preston
for seven years in succession, and the Guild made so certain that he
would win it the eighth time that they had prepared gilt shoes and


a procession in his honour. Unluckily he was only able to divide
Reveller and Jack Spigot.

Bill Scott bought Sir Tatton Sykes as a yearling for jf 100, and
the colt was described as one of the ugliest and coarsest little
creatures that ever breathed Yorkshire air. On the real Sir Tatton
coming over to inspect him, he said: " Dear me, Mr. Scott; how
his head grows ! '* Bill fervently asked him to " Look at his hocks!
these will take him up the hill on the Surrey side ! " The colt was
trained by his father and William Gates, and despite the latter's
recollections of Lottery he said he had never ridden anything like
him. Of course he should have won the Derby, but Scott lost his
temper, and, while he was swearing at the starter, the other horses
slipped away before he realised it. He rode him later to victory

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in the St. Leger, but he was so weak from wasting that half-way
up the distance he dropped forward on to his neck fairly exhausted,
and it was a wonder that the colt, who wanted plenty of riding,
got home at all. After the race he made an appointment with
Mr. Herring to be painted at ** five to-morrow morning, sir."

Mr. Robertson was, I think, unique in one respect, for the ^rs^
horse he ever owned, Little Wonder, won the Derby in 1840, a rank
outsider. Macdonald was up, and Bill Scott, who had backed
his own mount heavily, called out in the race: *' One hundred to


Stop him, Mac ! *' But the latter only replied : ** It is too late
now, Mr. Scott; you should have spoken before."

These illustrations are copied from some of the old prints that
are occasionally passing through Mr. Darby's hands. Unfortunately
they give no idea of the colouring, which in the originals is wonder-
fully fine and clear and very true to detail ; the tints are a harmony
in tone, mellowed with age, whereas the reproductions are crude
in colour, and of course the old plates are very much worn, and the
reproductions have not the same finished detail.

The old coloured prints in good preservation are worth from
-£7 to £\o each, and the uncoloured prints from £'^ to ;f 4 ; this, of
course, means on Whatman's paper with watermark and date,
untrimmed margins and full reading titles.

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There are many kinds of fishing stories, and people who do not
fish are always ready to believe none of them. For instance, an
angler hooks a perch by the eye, and catches the eye only, but on
casting into the same place with this very eye as a bait he actually
catches the fish with its own eye. Now comes the cross-questioning.
Where did the worm which was on the hook go ? Why did the fish
seize a bait the like of which it could never have seen before, and
could only see now with its one remaining eye ? Fishermen, how-
ever, get beyond disbelief in anything, for they see so many un-
accountable things that they are surprised at nothing. Some of the

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 23 of 52)