Richard (Dicky) Drew-Smythe was born at Clifton in Bristol, England on July 23rd 1920. He was the elder of two brothers. His father had only recently ceased his army duties and post-war commitments and was then 'Medical Practitioner of Morningside in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire' where his father and mother then lived and where he had obtained a first practice after World War 1. Not long afterwards, the family moved to Eaton Crescent, Clifton where Dicky grew up.
In his day, he could claim to be an 'old-boy' of Clifton Girls' High School since he attended the school as a pre-schooler. He then went to Clifton Pre. and afterwards to Marlborough College in Wiltshire.
At home from Marlborough, during the school holidays, he spent a great deal of time (before, during and after hours) at Bristol Zoo. He was on friendly terms with most of the keepers and would often be allowed behind the scenes with the keeper of the big cats - the name Tom Fishlock (Photograph courtesy of Paul Fishlock of Perthshire) echoes in current family memory. In later years, one lioness in particular, called Bess, became a special favourite. She was used to his visits and was more than willing to let him share her space. At the age of 17, in 1937, Dicky took a series of photographs which he turned into postcards. These now provide an interesting record of some of the zoo characters of the day including the famous male gorilla, Alfred. So beloved by the public was Alfred that after he died he was preserved and displayed in the Bristol Museum.
Dicky's rapport with animals was evident from an early age. It is therefore no surprise that he chose to study veterinary medicine. He started at The Royal Veterinary College, Edinburgh but changed almost at once to military training as war threatened. He joined the Indian Army, posted in Calcutta, serving in India and in Burma with the 1st KGVO Gurkha Rifles and later with 43 ARD - Advanced Remount Division. Here, again, he was able to use his skills with animals and knowledge of animal welfare. He ended the war with the rank of Captain.
He remained in India/Burma for some months after the war and followed a strenuous sporting and party programme - interspersed with some military duties - becoming well known as a race jockey and polo player. One particular race event landed him in hospital after which he had to rely on just the strenuous party circuit for a while.
After an interminable wait for passage home from India, he resumed study at The Royal Veterinary College, Edinburgh where he met his future wife, Jean Anstruther. He did not complete his degree.
He and Jean were married in 1949 and he began farming in Wiltshire. During this time, his two children were born, the elder spending a lot of time with Dicky's parents in Bristol while he and Jean tried to make a going concern of the farm and of her veterinary career. The farming venture was not particularly successful. Her career was.
Eventually, the farm was sold and the family moved to Herefordshire where Dicky took over the North Hereford Hunt as Master of Foxhounds. Jean, too, became a hunt servant as well as continuing as a Ministry of Agriculture vet for the area. They lived first at Green Park, the home farm of Hampton Court, Bodenham and then at Tankard Walls.
Throughout this period of their lives, they became much loved members of the rural Herefordshire community and Jean's reputation as a strong horsewoman and respected vet was further underscored by the esteem in which she was held. They made and kept many friends in the area and both their children began their primary schooling at the little village school at Hope-under-Dinmore, on the Leominster side of the fast-running River Lugg. In 1959, Dicky found an opportunity to re-establish the Tivyside Hunt (near Cardigan in Wales) with Major C. C. Hilton-Green and thus the family moved again.
In an open reference at the time, (dated March 9th 1959) Bay de Courcy-Parry (C. N. de Courcy-Parry, M.F.H. - "Dalesman" of 'Horse and Hound' magazine) wrote from Llandefalle, his Talgarth home, as follows:-
" ... I have known Dick since he came to hunt the North Hereford Hounds. I have never heard anything but praise for him. He has been a first-class friend and neighbour to me and I am, like so many more, very sorry indeed to see both him and his wife leave this district where they are both so deservedly popular ..."
In an accompanying personal letter to Dicky, he wrote - "Dear Dick, I am too old and lazy to present medals or give bouquets ... so this is to say that I liked the way you hunted your hounds. A keen bloke makes his hounds keen and a man who cheers 'em on gets 'em with a good cry. You have that little extra bit about you which distinguishes the amateur from the professional. You have the touch of the latter and don't mess about with "which-waying" and "what-nowing" like these dreary Jimmies you so often see ... I was impressed and I take some impressing. What a tragedy that you are going ..."
Tankard Walls was sold and, with some additional help from Jean's mother, they bought a property in West Wales, near Cardigan, on the Pembroke border.
Whilst The Captain and The Major set about reconstituting the Tivyside, Jean continued with her veterinary career as well as serving on the Hunt Staff. However, during the latter months of 1960, she experienced a serious road accident whilst on the way to a veterinary visit. She never fully recovered from this mishap but was eventually able to resume her work as a vet and to hunt. Early in the following year, she contracted chicken pox which then developed into pneumonia and she was admitted to hospital. After further nursing complications she fell victim to 'acute post infectious encephalitis' and died at Hill House Hospital, Sketty (Swansea) early in the morning of April 6th., 1961. She was aged just 33 and - Dicky revealed in later life - probably pregnant.
Discounting Jean's car accident, the year 1960 seems to have been one of promise for them both and it is believed that they spent one of the happiest years of their married life together. They were not known for their harmonious relationship; both were single-minded, neither was particularly a 'home-maker' either for the children or themselves and Dicky was, by all accounts, an infuriating man to live with - described once by someone who was close to him as 'rather like chocolate: addictive but variable'. Neither was Jean known for her patience.
Both were, however, excellent hosts; their parties were lively and they enjoyed entertaining. Either one of them could have represented the country, at Olympic level no less, in the art of flirting - although there is nothing to suggest that either one of them took the sport further than to the level of serious training. They were both 'good with people' - and animals; except that Jean had the more detached approach of a veterinarian whilst Dicky was inclined to be emotionally involved with each and every animal - of which there were many - on the property.
There was a side to Dicky which suggested he was owed something out of life. This may well have been a post-war phenomenon and not restricted to him in particular; but he expected everything to fall into place without too much effort being expended on his part. There was an air of "I've done my bit ... now it's time to collect". When things didn't turn out the way they were planned, he tended to ignore the situation and expect it to right itself of its own accord or to be remedied through the timely intervention of someone else. This rang true from the smallest action of emptying an overflowing ash-tray to the bigger issues of finance and budgeting.
The financial aspect may have been a reaction to his upbringing. His father always ran a tight financial régime and placed strict controls on what was spent on what and by whom. Everything had to go through him for approval first. Dicky's mother was in awe of this and seldom went against him. Dicky always said that of the two brothers, he inherited his mother's character and his father's physique whilst his brother, John, was more like his father in temperament and inherited his mother's metabolism. On one occasion, his mother, brimming with obvious pleasure in being able to help, slipped Dicky a ten shilling note - acting as if she'd unlocked the vault of the Bank of England - with the caveat that he should not mention it to his father. For Dicky, most likely on a 'top-up money' run from Hereford to Bristol it would have paid for two gallons of petrol and got him no more than a third of the way home; which, in its way, sums up his approach to, and the fruits of, his financial planning for the majority of his life.
It is just conceivable that had Jean lived, their marriage would have eventually foundered; yet if their marriage had been viewed from the outside, at work and play, in 1960 they would have been seen as a close and fortunate couple; a mansion, eighty acres of land, horses in the stable, dogs alseep in front of a blazing log fire and a couple of healthy brats in the yard; a new venture beginning and a degree of harmony in shaping the direction in which they were headed; and there is no doubt that when she died, he still loved and was in love with Jean no matter what external influences may have taken place during the eleven years of their marriage. In the back of his 1946 diary - one of the few he did not throw away - are written, in a more recent ink, the words "Tune: As long as I live. Find record: Laughing on the outside." A close inspection of the lyric will indicate his intent.
Both children attended boarding schools near to where Dicky's parents lived - in those days before the Severn Bridge a mammoth trek away. It was hard for him over the next couple of years to build the kind of emotional bridges - both for and with them - that needed to be built after such a traumatic event. There was a sense of fragmentation and three isolated lives struggled on with their own particular realities. Dicky's worries were further increased because Major Hilton-Green, who had already been ailing, died soon afterwards, leaving him with a number of responsibilities that he found impossible to meet.
Outwardly he demonstrated a positive and controlled manner which commanded respect and often admiration. He threw himself into the work with the Tivyside, extended the horse breeding programme and developed a dog-breeding business with some success, selling the progeny nationally and internationally, some passing through Harrods in Knightsbridge, known for accepting animals from only the highest quality sources. As an amusing aside, a decade or so later, Dicky was also responsible for supplying hedgehogs to Harrods and featured in a couple of press articles on the subject, one in the Sunday Times (September 12th 1971) and the other, a little whimsical, tongue-in-cheek exposé (linked above) which appeared in Reveille of July 22nd-28th 1972. For a while it seemed that he was Britain's expert on the topic. Hedgehogs were in great demand in London's upper-echelon gardens. He also provided a tame grey squirrel as one half of a display-pair housed in the pet department. They hated the barking of the puppies. The squirrels themselves, apparently, caused quite a sensation as both were so cheeky and friendly. They were supposed to be part of a 'pest-awareness' campaign. They were later released somewhere near Llandovery in Wales and terrorised the local dog population; sweet revenge.
For all this, however, the next few years saw capital used as income and holes begin to appear in his pockets. By 1964 matters were quite serious; he was facing bankruptcy. With additional financial support from family members, he struggled on a while longer and made the most of what had become quite a difficult life; but it was a lifestyle that he was loathe to give up. The ten-bob note syndrome still prevailed.
He was surrounded by many people who cared about him, about his children and about the future of all of them. Several people rallied round to help with the horses and the dogs. He was very popular in the district and commanded a respect from the local farmers that was remarkable for one who was first of all not from a Welsh family and secondly was a new-comer to the area. Cardigan was, and continued to be (and still is) a centre of Welsh Nationalism whilst some neighbouring counties were less ferverent in their alliegance. Pembrokeshire, for example, carried the sobriquet of 'Little England' and was hardly regarded as Wales at all. English money was beginning to infiltrate the local property market and the notion of holiday homes and week-end cottages was starting to attract families from England. With the attendant rise in house prices, young locals found it increasingly difficult to afford what had until then been a foregone conclusion: a place of their own.
One of Dicky's strengths was his ability to be at ease in any company. In this respect he was something of a chameleon. On the one hand he could walk and talk in comfort with nobility - he was invited, for example, in 1973 to the wedding of Princess Anne and knew the Phillips family well enough. At the same time he was just as comfortable and successful sitting in the kitchen of some mountain farm cottage drinking home brew and telling jokes as blue and rough as the Prescelli peaks themselves.
Perhaps the most enduring of family friendships from that era was with the long-established Humfrey family of Bridell - who had originally worked closely with Jean to encourage young riders - and with Elaine and E.J. Jones of Tanygroes. These latter were much respected, older and wise members of the equestrian community. E.J. died during the 1970s but Elaine Jones lived on to a fine old age, eventually moving to Windsor, quite near to where Dicky lived in his final years. Elaine kept Shetland ponies, often drove a pony and trap in Windsor Great Park with Dicky and was still alive in 1988 more than a year after he succumbed to cancer, at the age of 67.
Dicky was always a man of enormous charm - a Peter Pan figure who attracted the opposite sex without effort. Women found him both sensitive and sophisticated and yet seemingly in need of a degree of mothering - which in itself was, for many, an additional challenge and attraction. A series of opportunities arose for new relationships but none went further than a few months at most. Instead he relied on the collective company of friends in his equestrian and hunting circles. He took over Jean's rôle as District Commissioner of the fledgling Pony Club and, with the stud and kennels in capable hands was able to spend the occasional few days away from the ties of the animals.
In 1965 Dicky re-married. For the children and the loyal men and women who had stayed with him and stood by him and the family after the death of his wife, the whole process came as something of a shock since it happened so quickly. On hindsight, Dicky always said, he might have done things differently. However, within a short space of time, the house near Cilgerran was sold and amidst no small amount of heartbreak everything and everyone went a different way.
It was many, many years before Dicky returned to Cardigan - not so much out of any sense of guilt (which existed to some degree) but more because it was actually a place in which he had been so supremely happy; happy to the extent that he requested his ashes be scattered there, perhaps in the hope of picking up the pieces - in some other world at least - from where they'd fallen some 26 years before.
Married secondly 1965 Mary Georgiana Lewes (née Glyn) div. 1982 d.1992