C.V. Horner (1897–1980): Habits and Beliefs

In terms of religion, C.V. Horner’s beliefs are never notably expressed throughout his memoir; in fact, his beliefs as a whole take somewhat of a backseat in his memoir in comparison to the other facets, such as his labour and the people he meets. This seems to be done with the intention of remaining objective as he recounts the events of his life as, towards the end, he says that he hopes he has not ‘offended too much’ (241) in regards to his readers.

Given that the subtitle of his memoir is ‘A Liftetime Spent in the Yorkshire Dales’, it is unsurprising to find that the culture of Yorkshire is present across the memoir. Peppered throughout the nineteen chapters of Horner’s story are numerous folk songs that concern a variety of subjects: in the beginning, we are treated to a hunting song about a foxhound named “Spanker”, which was famous around Teesdale; in the closing chapters, Horner includes a mournful song entitled “Leaving the Dales”, about the life of ‘young dalesfolk.’ (231) About this particular song, Horner remarks that ‘[t]rue born dalesmen are already getting thinner on the ground’, (232) a statement about how the culture that defines him is dwindling.

School House, West Witton.

When Horner was not shooting game birds, he became involved with his local football and horse racing communities. The Wensleydale Football League was formed circa 1920; Horner served as ‘centre half and as vice-captain’ (53) for West Witton. As per Horner’s storytelling ways, he indulges the reader with some anecdotes of his time playing football, before noting that despite a number of changes, ‘the dale still has several village football teams and their activities are still well supported.’ (55) On the other hand, Horner did not participate in horseracing, but became acquainted with that culture through his work (as mentioned in Life and Labour). These two periods, however, are not explored in as great detail as others, particularly in comparison to his favourite form of work and leisure.

Gamekeeping is such a defining part of Horner’s life; it is clear he did not just inherit the sport from his father, but the culture of it as well. In my Life and Labour blog, I included his feelings about people who do not appreciate the hard work of being a gamekeeper; however, his passion about the matter does not end there. Horner steps away from his usual light-hearted writing in order to address what he believes is hypocrisy—gamekeeping being branded ‘inhumane’ (129)—on the part of those who criticise the sport that he loves. He writes that ‘so many of those who oppose it will calmly sit watching violence on television, often where an innocen[t] human is shot in the back in cold blood’. (129) Horner claims that violence is more accepted in today’s world that it ever was in his youth or even the war years, stating that it is an ‘undisputed fact’ (130) that television has contributed to the escalating number of violent crimes. Concluding his feelings on the matter, Horner says:

to those “do-gooders” who seek to condemn a sport which has done little or no harm to any other man, I would say why not try to put the house of the human race in order first? When they have a society totally free from murderers and muggers, then perhaps they might find grounds to criticise the man who shoots game for sport. (130)

In a more pleasant tone, Horner also addresses the conceptions of Yorkshire natives held by those from outside. He writes that people from outside Yorkshire seem to have gained the impression that folk, such as Horner, are ‘stern, dry and lacking in jocundity.’ (165) Horner dismisses all of these assumptions, hoping to prove they are incorrect by way of displaying his ‘Yorkshireman’s wit’ (165) through his tales. He says: ‘[s]ome of my anecdotes are perfectly true, others, as the reader will realise, have to be taken “with a pinch of salt” as we often say of fictitious tales here in the North.’ (165)

Being from Yorkshire and being a gamekeeper mean a great deal to C.V. Horner; they define his identity from the very beginning of the memoir until the very end. Through his homeland, his work, and his other activities, he encounters a countless list of characters. Horner always seems to feel as though he is part of something greater and that very confidence, perhaps, is responsible for the jovial nature he attempts to maintain in his story.

Bibliography

  • Burnett, John, David Vincent and David Mayall. Ed. ‘C.V. Horner.’ The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945. 3 vols. Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989: 2:422.

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