Over the stable door: Gripping tale of the ginger beagle with a mind of his own

Tomorrow's point-to-point meeting at Sheriff Hutton is likely to provide some scorching races, although some noted Yorkshire victories were celebrated outside the county last weekend.

Sam Drake and Jack Greenall scored at Alnwick in the Ladies' and Men's Open respectively. Sam, from Guiseley, was aboard her own Queenies Girl, a 25-1 shot.

Her groom, Joe Cockerham, won 250 as the bookie wouldn't take less than a 10 bet.

Jack, 22, won on the classy ex-Henderson horse, Oepide. It's owned by his father, the Hon Johnnie Greenall, who was the Champion Amateur Jockey in 1993-4.

It was encouraging to see that the Prime Minister and his family enjoyed a day at the Heythrop point-to-point last weekend.

David Cameron (who hunted with the pack while at school) watched the races with his children. He's recently promised that a free vote is to be held on hunting in 2012. Not enough parliamentary time for it to happen this year, apparently.

I enjoyed a trip to west Ireland with several amateur jockeys a few seasons ago; we had been booked to ride in a race over there.

Before leaving, we took up a friend's invitation to stay on his mystical 14-acre island, complete with derelict monastery. The monks were said to still inhabit it, in a spiritual sense.

We arrived there with fishing rods and with dogs in tow – one a gentle whippet, called Daisy, and my ginger part- beagle, called Gripper.

The dogs adored roaming the island but refused to venture beyond the edge of a wood which hid the dark remains of the monastery.

They would stand howling eerily into the trees at nightfall. A losing card during after-dinner games was invariably followed with a dare to go outside and fetch the dogs. This task was fearfully accomplished after one jockey, dressed in black, took to jumping – wailing – from behind a tree.

To reach the mainland, we had a small motor boat on which, each morning, we would head out with mackerel lines to catch breakfast.

As time went by, the bustle of daily life was forgotten and when it came to leaving, none of us wanted to go.

As the boat was small, we ferried our belongings ashore in two journeys.

I was in the first trip embarking with animals and suitcases. Realising I'd forgotten the car keys, I tied the dogs to the jetty, hid suitcases under the car and returned to collect the equipment.

Saying goodbye to the island, we were ferried ashore again where Daisy the whippet was waiting obediently. Beside her was a chewed lead. There was no Gripper in sight.

Our schedule was tight. We had to get back that afternoon for a puppy show. The ferry across the Irish Sea was four hours away.

Gripper liked his hunting. Our luggage discarded on the jetty in a hasty mound, we set off in pursuit, cursing as we heard the occasional far-off yelp as Gripper picked up a new scent.

Equipped with a large fishing net to swipe him, we trudged across ditches, bogs, through overgrown hedgerows. Eventually, we saw the dog dart into a crofter's house. We scrambled up to the front door. It opened, and out ran a piglet.

I apologised to the weatherworn woman who answered, and inquired after my dog. She beckoned us inside.

It was home to more farm animals than a barn, including hens perched on the kitchen rafters. In the back garden, Gripper was barking at an unimpressed cat. I grabbed his collar before he jinked away, thanked the crofter and ran.

With his foot flat to the floor, my friend hurled abuse – and his shoes – across the car in anger. The ginger tearaway sat panting happily.

We missed the ferry, arriving at the puppy show late with mud-stained, torn clothes and an overheated engine.

It was then I remembered the suitcases, still piled on the jetty.

CW 29/1/11

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