By Arthur Bentley BEM - From Australian Deer Magazine, February 2002
On New Year's Day 2002, at the age of 87 years there passed into the wide beyond one of, if not the finest exponent, of falconry that Australia has known - Harold Olney.
Space does not allow a lengthy eulogy worthy of my friend, but his passing is recorded in our magazine as a tribute to his outstanding ability in the practice of this ancient form of hunting.
Harold Only never sought recognition of his extensive knowledge and extraordinary skills in the art of falconry. He was a quiet, gentle man of strong character and a man of incredible patience - foremost requirement of a successful falconer.
In his earlier years he caught and trained both short and long winged birds of prey - peregrines, brown hawks of the Western Plains, goshawks and kestrels. Harold also made the essential 'furniture' of falconry: hoods, jesses, leashes and so on. In themselves, his hoods of soft leather, crowned with cockerel neck hackles were indeed beautiful works of art.
As might be expected, peregrines were his favourites. While many of his falcons were taken as young birds from almost inaccessible eyries, he occasionally trapped and trained adult falcons.
I have known him to take an adult wild peregrine and have it flying free to the lure within four to five weeks. To 'man' that bird took long nights with the falcon on his gauntleted 'fist' in a semi-darkened room, gently stroking its legs and wings with a flight feather. Infinite patience indeed!
In the 'sixties of last century when the VDCC fallow deer herd was located on the Exford Road, Melton, Harold had three falcons 'at hack' flying from one of the deer shelters ('at hack' is the term for rearing young hawks completely free until they make their first kill).
Harold hunted quail with his falcon 'waiting on' above one of his gun dogs before the birds were flushed. Walking up rabbits with his goshawk was also one of his pleasures; ravens too were a worthy quarry.
Unlike the days when Harold Olney flew his hawks, it is illegal now to practice falconry in Australia.
Here we respectfully remember a most skilled exponent of this ancient hunting art.
The early morning mist hung low,
The starling chorus froze mid chord
The heron stayed its dagger blow
At small fry swimming in the ford.
Down through the blanket of the mist
Speeding as a shaft of light -
A falcon lentil of the fist
Altair, or 'My Lord's Delight'