he Last Hunt is a compelling seventy-five minute documentary film about the Ryan family of Ireland. Focused around the fascinating figure of Thaddeus F. Ryan, who for forty years acted as "Master" of the legendary and world renown "Scarteen Hunt", it is a story of fierce dedication to traditional values, of the atavistic bond of man and animals to the land and the lyric and romantic spirit of Ireland. It is also a warm and human story of a way of life.

For three hundred years the Ryan family has kept Hounds, from the time of Oliver Cromwell, through the potato famines in the 1840's, through the "troubles" after the first World War and the depression years, the legendary Scarteen hounds have been passed down through generations of Ryan family.

Our small film crew had the unique privilege of entering into the world of Thady Ryan to explore that world through his eyes. This lent an authenticity and intimacy to our documentary that we could not have achieved in any other way. With our cameras we explored, not only the hunt, but the countryside, the little Irish towns, the pubs, the social fabric and the mood and vagaries of the Irish character. Because Thady's story is a microcosm of a much larger story, it was inevitable that we encountered all of the moral, political and economic turmoil that wracks modern Ireland. The Ryan family uniquely reflects all of these conflicts in a very human and understandable way. It is this, we feel, that will allow the film to enlighten an audience to its larger significance.

Thady Ryan

Although this film is focused around Thady Ryan, he is surrounded by a remarkable family. His wife, his sons, Christopher, Hugh, John, and Mark, and his daughter Rachel. Each contributes to a family principle whose strength comes from religious faith, tradition, and a sense of continuity.

We were drawn to this story because of the fact that after acting as "Master" for forty years in which he raised the Scarteen hunt to world prominence, Thady suffered a severe heart attack which forced him to "pass the horn" to his son Christopher Ryan. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another. So it was, we arrived at a poignant time of transition in which a whole way of life was thrown into relief. This became the dramatic emphasis of our film.

The events affecting the Ryan family, by extension, mark a transitional moment in modern Ireland when traditional moral, social and economic values are being called into question.

Through exploration of the "world of the hunt" the country, the towns, the pubs, along with the family interviews, reminiscences, interviews with friends, villagers, and farmers, we have drawn an intimate and very human portrait of the Ryan family.

Beyond all of that, this is a story of an obsession; of a man, who for all his life, has played the age old game of pitting his human intelligence against the instinct of an animal. It is the game of equals: an ancient game. It is the story of bonding between man, an animal, and the land.

Even as we watch this gracious and elegant man sit in the drawing room, we sense that some part of him is out there in the ancient Irish night wandering the hills in pursuit of the fox.

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