Legendary Massereene Hound ‘lives again’ at Shanes Castle’s Game Fair
HISTORY will be in the making at Antrim this year, with the Shane’s Castle’s Game Fair marking the organisers’ 50th Irish Game Fair in an unbroken run lasting 30 years.
And with it also being the 400th anniversary of the guardian of the old Antrim Castle – the Massereene Hound - the Game Fair organisers decided to help mark that milestone by commissioning a special oil painting of the legendary hound.
Game Fair Director Albert Titterington explained: “Over the years, through my interest in history, especially that of famous animals, I have helped rekindle interest in legendary animals such as the Byerly Turk racehorse and the best known greyhound of all time, Master McGrath, by commissioning iconic paintings to be used in our game fair promotional themes.
“However the thought of delving even deeper into the past with the Massereene Hound really intrigued me, especially as the legend took place ‘just down the road’ from our Game Fair site at Shane’s Castle.”
And it was this research that led Albert Titterington to commission a fine oil painting of a Wolfhound by the renowned artist John R Moore.
This painting of a Wolfhound called Aramis captures on canvas a likeness that could well have been that of the Massereene Hound itself, as it rests outside the Castle.
Now as with all good Irish legends, many of them featuring hounds both animate and ghostly, there are variations to the story but places and people in the story are completely factual and so obviously is the statue which for 400 years has guarded either Antrim Castle or Antrim town.
One version takes us back to Antrim Castle and its beautiful woodland estate, the idyllic home for Sir Hugh Clotworthy in the early 1600s, as Albert added: “Sir Hugh’s young bride, Lady Marion Clotworthy found life at Antrim Castle a lonely and miserable existence. Her husband was often absent on military business and she pined for the excitement and glamour of her girlhood days at Carrickfergus Castle.
“Marian whiled away long hours wandering through the woodlands of the castle grounds. On one of her solitary strolls, she was confronted by a huge, savage wolf. At once the beast sprang at her. Marian screamed and collapsed in a faint.
“Upon awakening, her gaze fell upon an incredible sight. The wolf lay dead, badly savaged. Standing guard by her side was an Irish Wolfhound, itself badly injured. Together they made there way back to the castle where she tended her protector. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The shaggy guardian escorted Lady Marian on her daily rambles. The close companionship was set to save many lives.
“One stormy night, armed enemies crept stealthily towards the castle. Just as they were about to attack, A wild barking alerted those asleep within the castle. In the midst of fierce firing, an agonised howl - as if from a beast - was heard. The castle was saved but daylight revealed a trail of blood that led to the wolfhound’s corpse.
“By encasing the hound in stone and mounting it upon one of the castle’s front towers, Sir Hugh shrewdly calculated the effigy’s potential to ward off hostile but superstitious enemies. An added insurance, he propagated a belief that if ever the statue should be removed, the Massereene family would ‘speedily decay’.”
Later alterations to the castle caused the statue to be taken down, initially to a wall of the estate and subsequently to the leisure centre’s lawn and now back into the new gardens of Clotworthy House. The castle quickly decayed after a fire in 1922 and the Massereene family has removed itself to England.”
Fast forward to 2012 and the Massereene Hound is caotured on canvas for future generations to admire and marvel at the legend with a painting of a Wolfhound called Aramis.
Albert said: “I read widely on the wolfhound’s history and consulted with the artist John Moore, a keen sporting dog enthusiast and with Tim and Marion Finney renowned international breeders of quality wolfhounds. We were looking for a hound of the type that would have been the model for the Massereene stature. A large powerful hound standing near to the ideal ‘yard at the shoulder’ that one could imagine capable of overpowering a wolf; a dog that one could imagine being fast and agile enough to be a ‘hound of the chase ‘ and noble enough in appearance to be representative of the famous Irish hounds that were so sought after internationally throughout history.
“Aramis is just 21 months old and was chosen for his size, big like all Wolfhounds but standing just a yard high at the shoulder he is above average. He portrays many of the essential elements - long legs, a deep chest, a comparatively long back with an arched loin and powerful hindquarters, altogether showing a nice balance between gracefulness and power. He has the typical Wolfhound head - long but strong - and a gentle expression, somewhat wistful.”
After many visits to Clotworthy House and many photographs taken of house, grounds and Aramis, County Antrim artist John R. Moore has produced a very fitting tribute to mark the anniversary of the carving of the Massereene Hound, as it has been moved to its current and hopefully final location, serenely guarding the fine new gardens at Clotworthy House.
The painting of the Massereene Hound will be unveiled at the Game Fair at Shanes Castle and then, hang on loan, in the gallery at Clotworthy House.
As part of the celebration of the Massereene Hound’s 40th anniversary special classes for Irish Wolfhounds sponsored by Chudleys is taking place at the Pedigree Dog Show organised by the Northern Ireland Field & Show Society at the fair on Sunday, July 8 and you will be able to see up to 20 or more of these fine animals in the flesh.
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Weather for Antrim
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 14 C
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