BANBRIDGE man Jason Diamond pays tribute to his long-time friend, the late Albert Uprichard:
Many years ago as a young child traveling from Tandragee to Banbridge to see my grandparents my dad would always point to a big old house called Millpark which sat on a height across the river from Gilberry Fayre and say “That’s where Master Albert used to live.”
In my imagination Master Albert was some old Victorian gentleman, living a Miss Havisham-like existence from “Great Expectations” in this crumbling old mansion.
Little did I think then that when I grew up Master Albert would become a great friend and one of the most fascinating people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
Brought up to a life of great privilege at Elmfield, a castle just outside Gilford, Albert’s life could have come straight from the novels of Somerville and Ross, even down to the eccentric butler, Bobby Dawson and the head housemaid Hannah Maria Vaughan.
Yet Albert’s life was one of contradictions – from a background of wealth and social standing, Albert was something of a socialist.
From a staunchly Unionist family (there are two Orange Halls in the vicinity named after members of his family) Albert leant more towards Nationalism. One of his favourite songs was the Rebel song, “Boolavogue”
Yet despite his Nationalist leanings one of his best friends in life was the last Unionist Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Lord Faulkner of Downpatrick, who loved nothing more than to come to Millpark after a day’s hunting with the Iveagh Harriers of which Albert was Master.
Faulkner mentioned in his autobiography that Albert Uprichard “taught me all I ever learned about hounds.” I also learned a lot from Albert. He and another of his hunting friends, Vera Stevenson, would talk about the “pleased to meet you mif’s.”
When I asked Albert what this meant he told me, “When you are first introduced to a person you never say ‘pleased to meet you’; it should always be ‘how do you do’ as you might not be pleased to meet them. And you never put your milk in first!” Another lesson I learnt quickly was never to refer to hounds as ‘dogs’ which, in Albert’s words was a phrase “which grates on the ear of any true huntsman.” One of his other dislikes was white hounds as they were too easily seen when out on the hunting field.
With Albert’s death comes the end of an era, both in terms of hunting and boxing and above all, in the history of the linen industry in County Down. With his passing comes the end of some 300 years of Uprichards in this area; he was the last of his line.
Albert leaves behind an older sister, Mrs Maureen Hill, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, a nephew and two nieces. I like to think that, rather than having “gone to ground” he has gone to join his mother and father and his other hunting friends who included his groom and huntsman, John Michael Feeney and one of the best horsewomen ever to have lived, Mrs Diana Cowdy for whom he had a special affection, in that great hunting field in the sky.