As a final of act those who have lost the confidence of both their peers and those that they purport to lead as perhaps a failed Chief Officer, Chairman or Prime Minister, it is now apparently vitally important that you are able to leave something called your ‘legacy’ – a tangible thing that you can point to and say ‘I did that’. In an ideal world it should be a positive and constructive event and history is built upon those. But the footnotes of history are also littered with negative legacies. Negative legacy events are largely a result of ego triumphing over good governance and due diligence – in summary ‘failing to plan’ combined with being unable or unwilling to take advice which might have avoided, or at least mitigated, the impact of the negative outcome.
Recent high profile negative legacies would include those at the helm of a holiday firm that built a business model which led to billions of pounds in corporate debt. Or an aircraft designer building and failing to correct an aircraft with inherent faults. Such terminal events are the legacy of those who had the opportunity to do ‘something’ but failed either through ineptitude or a lack of understanding of the issues at hand. To blame anyone else or ‘circumstances’ is not good enough and demonstrates a deficiency in the key leadership skills that were required in that role, at that time.
Closer to home, legacy events in the world of hunting with hounds can be identified asking ‘What have the ‘leadership’ of ‘The X’ done in this ever-changing world, to keep the best of the old whilst adopting the best of the new?’ Disappointingly the answer is often ‘very little’ even when with better leadership, or a bit more effort a more positive outcome could have been achieved. More often than not the it is ego and the apparent need above all things for ‘self-presentation and self-aggrandisement’ that is at the root of this failure. This is not a new phenomenon and is much like the alleged actions of Nero as the flames took hold in ancient Rome. This strange ‘management’ affliction can be sub categorised as: ‘being too important to fail’; ‘taking your eye off the ball’; or ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. Whatever you call it, the failing could, and should, have been avoided.
Will the rapid approach of a new ‘ Hunting Newcomers week’ it is imperative to remember hunting with hounds is bigger that any one person or any one pack. Throughout history packs of hounds have always changed, adapted, merged, folded or new ones started. It is nothing new and these changes can be seen as a positive response in challenging and constantly changing circumstances. However new people who turn up during ‘newcomers’ are not aware of and do not care about the latest gossip surrounding the pack they have come to follow, and it is a burden that they neither need nor want. New folks, often from non-rural backgrounds, will have come because they either want to follow hounds and see how they work or more likely they have been invited by their friends who have similar interests and they are there because they want to enjoy all aspects of the hunting day; it is imperative then that the hunt as a collective body extend the ‘welcome mat’ to these visitors whether they end up coming regularly or are on ‘tour’ visiting packs away from home.
Hunting NEEDS the support of non-traditional people, not just ‘people like us’. You might not like it, but for your activity to survive and for hounds of all types to continue to play a vital role in the utility and management of the rural environment that new interest is imperative. It may be that visitors have previously only been involved in ball sports – but a number of international sports people have kept fit during their downtime ‘out of season’ by following hounds on foot or mounted. We have in previous Editorials suggested that foot packs and clean boot packs reach out to running, rugby or hockey clubs to give their members a different more challenging environment in which to train and once your invitation has been taken up then it is vital that their questions are answered honestly by those used to hosting guests and that no guest on foot or mounted feels that they are being ignored or are an afterthought; e.g. the promised hireling not being available or no transport from the meet being thought of until the very last minute or not being invited back for hunt tea. If you want positive PR to come to your activity from new people looking at it with fresh eyes, then now as never before put the required effort in to achieve it. In doing so we have no doubt that you will have the unstinting support of those charged with the responsibility of giving hunting some new much needed direction and governance. Building upon this foundation, hunting people can, regardless of what type of hounds you follow, look forward rather than constantly looking backwards. Most importantly you can contribute to a real legacy built upon animal welfare and conservation.