Over the stable door: Curious tale of visiting guests

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I HAD a visit from an old friend this week. Catherine and her husband James joined my Yorkshire Point to Point Club many years ago and since I disbanded it we have continued to stay in touch.

They hadn’t been to the farm for many years so it gave me a chance to show them the new yard, stable block and the barn conversion, halfway through development.

I introduced them to the horses and Johnny the nosey Swaledale lamb who, after getting a few strokes, followed us round braying noisily. When we went inside for tea, Catherine told me the amazing story which had led to their visit.

This spring she’d received an unexpected phone call regarding her cousin Bryan who she had last seen in the 1950s. He lived at their grandmother’s pub in Surrey with Catherine’s aunt and uncle, a place they visited every Christmas. Bryan was 10 years older than her but the cousins got on well.

Catherine explained how Bryan had introduced her to hunting, taking her out for her first days’ foot following with the Old Surrey and Burstow; a pack which met regularly at the family’s pub. Catherine hadn’t experienced anything like it before and loved being part of the hunt.

When Bryan’s mother had died, his father moved away, taking Bryan with him. Catherine never saw them again.

“At 12 years old, at a time before mobiles or the internet, it wasn’t easy to keep in touch with people,” Catherine said. “It wasn’t long after the war and families didn’t talk as openly as they do now so I never knew where he went. When the call came it surprised me.”

She’d been contacted by an heir hunters firm and their agent explained that her cousin Bryan had recently passed away. As he had failed to leave a will, she’d been tracked down as his closest surviving relative.

Catherine learned her cousin had settled in Kent, his wife had passed away and the couple never had children, so she agreed to meet the agent.

Barely two hours later, he was at her front door with a contract to sign.

Her cousin had left a reasonably sized estate to which, so far, she was the only relative with a claim. My friend was struggling to believe the revelations of the day when she went to bed that evening but the next day she allowed herself to imagine what might be.

“I had always dreamt of owning a racehorse. Then the firm rang back to say the children of three deceased half cousins had come forward. There was 24 children in total. Suddenly there were 25 of us to share his estate,” Catherine laughed as I listened to her tale.

“So I can afford a few nose whiskers in a racehorse now, in Bryan’s memory.”