Donald Summersgill retired at the end of the 2016/17 season after 26 years as the huntsman of the Devon & Somerset Staghounds (DSSH). Also leaving the hunt was Kennelman Pat Jeffery, ending 30 years in hunt service, 25 with the D&S.

Donald went to work with the pack 31 years ago, having worked for two seasons with the East Kent Foxhounds. Donald took over from Dennis Boyles as huntsman in 1991, which makes him the longest serving huntsman the DSSH have ever had.

During this time, and with true professionalism, Donald has shown some fantastic hunting and has coped with all challenges, both on and off the hunting field.

Since 2005 the DSSH have had to deal with a number of attempted prosecutions under the Hunting Act.  All of these prosecutions have failed, largely due to Donald having managed to create a form of hunting that works, whilst still abiding by the law.

Donald has been at the forefront of the Countryside Alliance’s hunting campaign. He was involved in the Human Rights Act challenge to the Hunting Act and also ran the London Marathon to raise funds for the Countryside Alliance.

“The Alliance and the hunting community at large are incredibly grateful for all that Donald has done for hunting during his long and successful career, and wish him happiness in the future,” said Polly Portwin, Head of Hunting at the CA.

Those who have hunted with the DSSH during the last 30 years may want to show their appreciation to Donald and any donations would be welcomed. For details of how to send your donation by bank transfer, please email: [email protected]

Also leaving the hunt at the same time as Donald is Kennelman Pat Jeffery. Pat’s daughter, Jodie, tells us that his “first kennelman job was in 1985 at the High Peak Harriers. He then went on to work at the Grafton, the Fitzwilliam, the Portman and then finally the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. Pat worked there for 25yrs, ending 30yrs in hunt service.

“He would spend his days looking after the hounds, keeping the kennels tidy and would always be out driving to farms picking up livestock that needed to be disposed of.  He would also be on call in case an emergency call came in requesting help regarding an animal with a serious injury.

Jodie continues: “Dad has a strong love for the hounds and also the horses and this part of the job he will truly miss. One hound in particular used to jump the kennel wall and walk into dad’s kitchen to sit by the Rayburn!! In the last few months he has been helping out at the hunt stables some mornings before heading back to the kennels to start work.

“Working in the background of the hunts, he has helped many horse and dog owners come to terms with the loss of their animals when the time has come to say
goodbye. He has long been very respected in this part of his job, which has certainly been shown by all the best wishes and personal visits he has received in his last few weeks at the D&S. Dad is well known for his good sense of humour which I think makes him such a likeable character! Some have even elevated him to legend status!!

“During his time at the D&S he lived next door to huntsman Donald Summersgill who has sadly finished after 31yrs at the D&S. They developed a fantastic friendship, evident from the photograph which was taken after their final day in late April. You would find them both on many an evening after work in my dad’s kitchen with a copy of Racing Post, discussing racing results of that day!

Jodie finishes by saying “My sister and I have been overwhelmed by all the best wishes and visits our dad has received and we are two very very proud daughters! I hope this can give him the recognition he deserves!”