Long time foxhunter, Pickering Hunt field master and honorary whipper-in at Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, Ramsay S. Buchanan, VMD, one of the most self-effacing, gentle and kindest of men, died on November 20, 2012 of cancer at the age of 87, at his home, Mercer Hill Farm in Coatesville, PA, surrounded by his family.
In his 60 year riding career, Dr. Buchanan hunted with Whitelands Hunt, spent five years as field master at Pickering Hunt and also served as a member of the Pickering Hunt Board and later, when he retired from his veterinary practice, hunted with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Fox Hounds where he became an indispensable friend and supporter of the late and legendary Mrs. John B. Hannum, MFH.
His love for horses began when his father moved his family to Long Lane Farm in eastern Chester County, PA during the depression in order to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency, a standard of behavior that Buchanan maintained throughout his life. Horses might have been a passion for the young man but their primary function was work and he was very involved with their training and with their agricultural duties. Eventually the lure of the hunt attracted his attention and so, mounted on one of his father’s draft horses, he began a lifelong affair with the sport of foxhunting.
Buchanan was drafted into the Army when he was just 18 and assigned to the 94th Infantry where he spent the end of WWII on the front lines in Germany and Czechoslovakia. After the war, he attended Penn State University and then the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, graduating in the class of 1954 in only the second class to go through Penn’s then new large animal facility at New Bolton.
His veterinary career began in Sunbury, Pa., Northumberland County, in a mixed large and small animal practice but there were no foxhunting opportunities there so he returned to Chester County. He took a position with Merck Sharp and Dohme in 1958 to work with monkeys and polio vaccine. It was while he was with Merck that he had a harrowing experience on a trip to Ethiopia to collect green monkeys. One three-week trip to Africa stretched to several months as the coup d’etat that toppled Haile Selassie struck while he was camping in the bush. Merck eventually negotiated his return with a plane full of monkeys out of Addis Ababa despite martial law.
In what must have seemed tame by comparison, in 1961, Buchanan went into partnership with Dr. John Church at the King of Prussia Veterinary Hospital. He married his wife, Susie, a professional horsewoman, in 1963 and raised two sons, John, who died in 2002, and Richard, an architect and partner in the well-known firm, Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.
His generosity to those with whom he hunted was legendary, none more so than to Pickering huntsman, Wes Bennett, who counted on Buchanan for help when a hound was sick or injured. “It didn’t matter how late it was, if I called him, he’d tell me to bring the hound in,” said Bennett. “When I’d get to the clinic, he’d be waiting for me. If I had to take a hound to see him during regular office hours, he’d take them in ahead of anyone waiting.”
Buchanan retired from foxhunting when he was 75, not because he couldn’t ride but because he was so considerate of his family that he didn’t want to have an accident in the field and be what he described as a ‘nuisance’ to people. Little did he realize that he would be going down a new and rewarding path as the car follower field master leading dozens and dozens of Cheshire Hunt aficionados all over the finest hunting country in the mid-Atlantic region.
A memorial service was held at Mercer Hill Farm on Nov. 29. Contributions in his name may be made to the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy Land Preservation Fund, P.O. Box 528, Unionville, PA 19375-0528