Tragedy of a much-loved character

The hunting fraternity is shocked at Tony's death.
The hunting fraternity is shocked at Tony's death.
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When I was a toddler my parents had a crazy Springer Spaniel named Holly. She was extremely lovable but caused no end of havoc, testing tempers on a regular basis.

She would regularly run off with a shoe (usually one of my mother’s best) and bury it in a field, never to be found again.

If this wasn’t aggravating enough her most enjoyable pastime seemed to be finding freshly steaming cow pats and rolling in them before sneaking in the house when no one was looking and finding herself a suitably laundered bed to wipe her slimy fur all over in ecstasy.

I can still recall the screams when my mother had uncovered yet another white duvet blathered in muck.

We had a very jolly milkman in those days called Tony Reynolds. Tony would always stop to chat to my father at milking time or wish a good morning to Ted, our round bellied, crude farmhand. Ted would return Tony’s pleasantries with a loud belch or passing some low blowing wind in the way only he could muster on demand.

The milkman would just laugh it off. Tony seemed to enjoy his deliveries to the farm, he loved animals and always made a huge fuss of Holly. She in turn adored him.

My mother, noticing the affection between them, offered our little Springer to the milkman. Tony jumped at the chance, much to my mother’s relief. He and his wife Sue lived just up the road and gave Holly a wonderful home for the rest of her years.

Tony delivered our milk for the next 30 years before the family sold up and moved to the farm they had always dreamed of owning at Chopgate near Helmsley in 2006.

The Reynolds family soon became an integral part of the local hunting and farming community, lambing ewes and calving their cows. They kept horses and Sue became secretary to the oldest hunt in England, the Bilsdale, where she and Tony enjoyed hunting together regularly. They quickly adapted to life in the depths of the moors.

Last Thursday the Bilsdale hunt had a bye-meet near Osmotherly. They were trailing across a large estate and enjoying a fabulous day in the countryside. Tony had jumped plenty of fences without a problem earlier in the day when he came to a small set of rails, at one side of it was a solid gatepost and small gap.

Following the other’s jumping ahead of him Tony aimed for the rails. At the last moment his horse ducked towards the gap and smashed in to the gatepost, chest on. Tony was catapulted out of the saddle. He hit the ground and broke his neck instantly.

The air ambulance was called as hunt members performed CPR and Tony was taken to hospital and placed on a ventilator but it was too late. The fall had killed him instantly.

He leaves behind Sue and three grown-up sons. Sue explained how the news has still not sunk in. She has ewes to lamb and cows to calve but cannot manage the farm alone.

“The hunting people and the farmers have been wonderful,” she told me. “They have just rallied round and are helping with everything. It’s so kind.”

Next year was to be their 42nd wedding anniversary.

I probably see them just a few times a year at a point to point or the Yorkshire Show but my lasting image of Tony will still always be from childhood, his hearty welcomes given with a broad grin despite the unearthly morning hour or his guffawing laughter in the dairy from one of Ted’s rude jokes.