To Hunt with the Quorn

(I shared the following this time last year with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula, a community that joins the individual in the collective search for truth and meaning and where we commit ourselves daily to honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all people.)

A number of years ago, Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley became one of the most famous rare books in Great Britain.  Thanks to a single television advert, millions of Britons know of the book, though very few have actually read it.  So, what they don’t know is that the book is a travelogue of sorts, primarily intended to detail the author’s ramblings around the British countryside, taking note of good fishing spots along the way, but with extensive footnotes on other subjects — unrelated to fly fishing — that Hartley found of interest.  Indeed, while the book runs at about forty thousand words, well over thirty thousand of them are to be found in the footnotes.

For example, of the River Soar in Leicestershire, J. R. Hartley merely says this: “I found the shallower bends of the Soar between Quorndon to the west and Barrow-on-Soar to the east to be satisfactory.”  However, there’s a rather longer footnote that accompanies that sentence, as follows.

“Quorndon is, of course, most famous for the fox hunt known as the Quorn which goes out during the Autumn and Winter.  Stopping for lunch in the village, I happened to notice a rather old letter, framed under glass in one of the public houses.  I asked the barman what it was and, taking it off the wall, he showed it to me.  It appeared to be a letter of apology, returning some item to its owner after it had been stolen by someone else.  I didn’t know any of the names, but through conversation with the barman I was able to piece together the story.

“Many years before, the vicar of the church near Quorndon Hall was one Reverend Wirth.  His given name was Claude, but he rarely used it because, as a child, a school-teacher had mispronounced it ‘cloddy’ which led to teasing by the other children.  So, he chose to go by the initial ‘C’ and his middle name.  Now according to Wirth family tradition, middle names were chosen from Bible verses.  In Rev. Wirth’s case, the verse was Matthew 5:5 — ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’ — and his middle name was ‘Inherit’.  And so he was known to everyone in the parish as C. Inherit Wirth.

“On the other side of the village there was another church, and its vicar was the Reverend Joshua Digny.  Now the two vicars were amply cordial as colleagues, but there was one area where they simply could not make peace with one another.  For Rev. Digny believed that fox hunting was a cruel sport and should be banned, while Rev. Wirth enjoyed every chance he could to hunt with the Quorn.  Failing to sway anyone beyond his part of the parish, Rev. Digny took to playing tricks on the hunters in an effort to dissuade them from their pastime.  These practical jokes took many forms but most of them involved his late grandfather’s false teeth.

“For Digny senior had been a rather stern man, and often disapproved of his grandson’s seemingly foolish behavior, vocally and at length, so in his will he bequeathed his teeth to young Joshua.  Of course, this merely gave the now Rev. Digny a tool for his mischief.  For example, the hunters learnt to reach carefully into their saddlebags given the chance of being bitten by the spring-loaded teeth.  Still, they would always return Digny’s teeth, though some, such as Rev. Wirth, would grumble at the foolishness.

“One Winter, however, the late Digny senior’s false teeth disappeared.  Joshua asked everyone in the village if they had been seen, to no avail; come the Spring, he stopped asking.  Then, the next year, in the middle of a hunt, the Rev. Wirth was thrown from his horse and, striking his head, he died.  Soon after Claude Inherit Wirth had been laid to rest, his church sexton was clearing out the vicar’s desk, and there, at the back of one of the drawers, were Digny’s false teeth.  As the letter he wrote to accompany their return explained it, ‘Of all people, I would not have expected Rev. Wirth to have stolen your late grandfather’s teeth, but here they are, just as I found them.  I still cannot believe it: C. Inherit Wirth had Digny’s teeth, of all people!’”

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2 Comments »

  1. Milyn King said

    I can’t figure out how to post a comment on your blog – so am replying here instead.

    I missed that Sunday – we were spending Easter with Mom.  He sounds a very good candidate for membership in UU; even though he had those teeth he’s obviously a very principled person.  Maybe he found them and was sparing others future grief in the Spring. I can think of at least 6 reasons to admire him – just from reading this well prepared item!

    We are gone again – returning in May sometime.

    Happy Spring!

    Milyn

    Smilyn’ Milyn   Hot Glass, Cool Stuff at: http://www.sheglass.com

    • acmillard said

      In an earlier version of this I had Wirth as a Unitarian and Digny as a Universalist…

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