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Gems from the Emerald Isle: A selection of scarce Irish hunt buttons.

For my first post of 2018 I thought I would offer up a selection of rare buttons, all of which come from Ireland, and most of which are the only known examples.  I will give details on them if much is known, and I will be asking for help in identifying some of them.   The buttons themselves are from more than one source, including a private collection in Ireland.  Most references to dates and locations will be taken from Neil McShane’s posthumous book on hunt buttons.  I hope you enjoy looking at them.


No.1 Late 18th century Antrim Hunt.  I have found just one documentary reference to an Antrim Hunt this early (in the Dublin Penny Journal) and it must be noted that this is a fox hunting pack.  This button displays the (almost) entirely Irish tradition of pricking out details in gilt on a solid silver button.  In keeping with the styles at the end of the 1700’s, hunt buttons are either enormous or relatively small.  This little beauty is just 20mm in diameter.


No.2  The Ardee Hunt.  Little is known about this Hare-hunting pack.  Can anyone fill in some details for us?


No.3  The Ards Harriers.  According to references the Ardee were a private pack circa 1911, kennelled at Ballywater Co. Down


No. 4. Armagh Hunt.  Recorded as early as 1835, it became the Tynan & Armagh in 1899.  I believe this button was originally tricked out with gilt, but it has been polished away.


No. 5 The Bishopscourt Hunt.  This very large 33mm button appears to have been either painted or enamelled green over a gilt brass base.  Records of this pack begin around the late 1700’s.  It is believed to have become the Kildare Hunt Club in the early 1800’s.


No. 6  The Boyne Hunt.   Another example of the use of gilt to highlight key elements. This button comes with its own tragic story of destruction.  When a very early hunt coat bearing a full set of  these buttons came up for sale, no one button collector (at the time) wanted to buy it, so the buttons were stripped off and sold individually – in my opinion rendering both the buttons and the coat reduced in value without the provenance.  All that remains of the coat is a set of photographs of it in its original state.  Sadly, this scissor-happy habit continues to this day.


No. 7  Cashelmore Hunt.   More gilt highlights here on this early button dating from between 1764 and 1865.  The Cashelmore was founded by the Beamish family.


No. 8  Castle Martyr Hunt.  This is a very large abalone button, one of a set of twelve that came from Lady Shannons ‘No3’ riding habit circa 1870 to 1880.  The Castle Martyr were also known as Lord Shannon’s.


No. 9 Clonguish Hunt.  Little is known other than this hare-hunting pack existed in Co. Longford.


No. 10  The Coolruss Blazers.  This pack is a mystery to me, but what a superb button!!  Can anyone shed any light?


No. 11  Devil Catch The Hindmost.  Again, little if anything is known of this hare-hunting pack, but the intiials DCH at the bottom suggests this the genuine name for the pack, rather than just a nickname.  There is a similar Irish foxhounds button with ‘Devil take the hindmost‘, but no additional initials.


No. 12  The Doagh Hunt (dress button)  There is a great deal of confusion over the Doagh Hunt’s history and its connection to Lord Donegal’s Down Hunt, but we do know that its original name was The Antrim Hunt (NB Not the one mentioned above) and most likely became The Antrim Harriers or part of its country became the Route.  Documentary references on the Doagh Hunt describes the dress button as being ‘yellow’ (ie brass) bearing a hare and DH and Merry Harriers, so it’s a good bet this is it. There is also a virtually identical button bearing AH, so this could be the next iteration when it became the Antrim.  Confused?  I know I am.


No. 13 The Down Royal Hunt.  Another pack with little if any documentary references.  There is a more simple version that just carries the three initials, and this might be the only known version with a hare.  The workmanship on this button is astounding.


No. 14  The Dublin Harriers.  A good 28mm diameter in Georgian Irish hallmarked silver this is clearly a button for the ‘more comfortable’ of hunting men shall we say?


No. 15 The Duhallow Hunt.  Most collectors will be familiar with the white metal ‘commemorative’ button with the legend ‘Duhallow Hunt Revived 1800‘.  This a rare survivor from the initial founding of the Duhallow Hunt Club in 1800.  The button is hallmarked for 1798 and, similar to the Antrim Hunt (above) is only 20mm across and was tricked out with gilt.


No. 16  ECH Unidentified  This glorious 30mm, old silver plate button comes with a mystery.  The previous owner’s family came from the Meath and Westmeath areas, but some members moved to Cornwall in the early 1800’s.  This button has been called an East Cornwall Hunt button, but I have my doubts.  Why?  Because of its use of gilt on certain sections in the ‘Irish’ tradition.  It is one of only four known examples.


No. 17  Edenduffcarrick Harriers.  This may have a connection to the O’Neill family and Shane’s Castle in Co. Antrim.  That edifice having originally been called Eden-duff-carrick, but I can’t be certain.


No. 18  The Friendly Hunt.   Again, nothing is known about this button other than it carries a very early Irish silver hallmark.  The use of a hound, rather than a quarry animal, places it as very early.


No. 19  Innoshannon.  I don’t have a beginning date for this hunt, but apparently it was acquired by the Muskerry in 1839.


No. 20  Kildallan Hunt  Kildallan is near Killeshandra in Co Cavan.   This particular ‘very high gilt’ button has no discernible backmark, but a private collector in Ireland has one with the backmark:  MURPHY 110 BRIDE St DUBLIN below a Georgian crown. This is datable to c1815.


No. 21  Londonderry Harriers.  The discovery of this button was quite a shock to many, that assumed the owner was referring to the very well-known Londonderry Garrison pack.  Unfortunately, the button carries no backmark to help date it, but rest easy that it is not an athletics club!!


No. 21  The Newry Hunt.  Another example where the gilt detailing has been almost polished away.


No. 22  OH Unidentified.    Can anyone help us identify this button please?

All of us here at BHD hope you have enjoyed this article.  If you would like more in a similar vein please add your comments in the box below.




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