Almost every group or organisation which has existed for any length of time establishes certain customs or traditions. The South East Branch, which has been around for over forty years, is no exception.
It occurred to me that many new members, of whom we thankfully have many, may be either unaware, or even confused, by some of the things that take place within the Branch.
Here is an explanation of how a few of them came about:
The South East Branch was started in the 1960’s by an architect and devoted Basset Hound man, Norman Burgis. Both he and his wife, Winifred, were very keen on hunting with their hounds and had established their own pack called the Burgonet in the late 1950’s.
These hounds, which at times numbered fifteen couple (thirty hounds), were kept in purpose-built kennels at their home in Ringmer, East Sussex.
By the mid-sixties the pack, together with its followers and supporters, was hunting every week during the season in an area between Uckfield and Seaford and also held ‘meets’ at Stanmer Park, Brighton.
The Burgonet had a dedicated staff to help with the management of the pack - our own esteemed Treasurer, Michael Errey, being one of the whippers-in. Other local Basset Hound owners would also attend the meets and would sometimes be invited to augment the pack. In the seasons when hunting did not take place, followers would descend upon the Burgonet kennels with their vehicles and take the hounds for exercise on Ashdown Forest.
When we hold one of our monthly walks on the Forest, I think that it is inspirational to remember as we trek across the picturesque landscape there that we are following in the footsteps of these enthusiasts and their hounds. At our Branch Christmas lunch, the Branch Walks Trophy is awarded to the owner of the hound that has completed the most walks over the previous twelve months - committee members’ hounds excepted.
Norman’s wife, Winnie, from all accounts was a formidable and very practical woman. Certainly, she was a huntswoman who was not afraid of rolling her shirt sleeves up and getting stuck in.
Apparently, she would push her wheelbarrow from the kennels at her home to the nearby abattoir, and return with it piled high with meat carcasses for the hounds. This must have looked quite a sight.
To remember and celebrate this admirable lady, Lowdown has an occasional section called, Winnie’s Wheelbarrow. Appropriately, it contains all the bits and pieces that don’t fit comfortably in the rest of the newsletter.
Winnie’s Wheelbarrow Trophy - an engraved glass vase - is awarded annually by the editor to the best contributor to the newsletter.
Anyone who has attended either a walk or other Branch event will be aware of the customary ringing of Dusty’s Bell by our Chairman before the event begins. It is also rung at the start and end of our committee meetings (often to the consternation of fellow drinkers in The White Horse, or other committee venue, who sometimes mistake its clanging as calling ‘time’).
Dusty Miller was long-time member of the South East Branch and served on the committee for many years. He was a great supporter and Basset Hound enthusiast and, together with Jean, loved showing them. Dusty also judged. Jean and Dusty held an annual picnic after the Friston Forest walk and the Branch continues this tradition. Dusty was a sweet man who was ever eager to talk Bassets, and always willing to pass on his knowledge to others, especially those new to the breed. His passing in 2009 saddened all who knew him. The Branch was all the richer for him being part of it. The brilliant idea of a brass memorial bell was conceived by member, Roy Drew.
editor Tony Roberts