For Jonathan Irby, his cap is a long-standing friend. The first thing packed and the last thing checked for when leaving, he dreads entering the field without it
You will not find Jonathan Irby in the field without his cap. Worn whatever the weather all around the world, his fear of losing it has resulted in the team at Audley House developing a new cap, and the prototypes are showing promise.
Find out what writer Amelia Northbrook would never be without in the field, read my favourite bit of kit: Amelia Northbrook.
I feel utterly naked if I go shooting without my cap. I wear it whatever the weather and everywhere I go. It is a long-standing friend, bought in Scotland more than 20 years ago. As it is so large (size 64), it is theft-proof – anyone putting it on being instantly blinded and looking as if they are wearing the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter.
This much-cherished piece of kit is decorated with two mementoes. The first is the remains of the fly with which I caught my first salmon on the River Glass at Fasnakyle. It was the first time I’d worn the cap and I managed to shoot a brace of grouse before, later that evening, while standing on the river playing “dodge-the-midges”, by some miracle I caught a fish. The cap had magic powers… The second addition is the annual Purdey Awards Badge. Typically, I tend not to have this come the end of the season as it is often admired and I end up giving it away.
The hat is much loved and has developed its own shape with distinctive creases. It has a long brim and is ideal on windy, wet days when, as a glasses wearer, I need all the help I can get to keep the rain off.
It has been everywhere with me, even shooting driven pheasant on the Nugent shoot in Tasmania with my uncle. It is the first thing I pack and the last thing I check for when leaving anywhere. I have to confess to feeling a bit like Billy from Billy’s Boots and Roy of the Rovers. If I don’t have my cap I fear a poor performance (and before any of my smart-alec so-called friends say anything, wearing it is no guarantee of accuracy but not wearing it…)
The hat also reminds me of the late John Pickering, a great and much-missed family friend. He always wore big caps when shooting and, growing up, I wanted to emulate him. I was thrilled when he commented on it one day, saying how smart it looked. He advised me to give the inside brim a good clean every now and then to help avoid what he described as “Cappyitis”.
I live in perpetual fear of losing my talismanic cap. Two years ago I lost my “spare cap”. I had been patiently breaking it in for the previous eight years. I spent the next morning searching the hill for it with two willing (?) volunteers. No sign. However, all is not lost. I have been working with the team here at Audley House to design and develop a new cap and the prototypes are showing promise. They are long in the peak and we have been sampling tweeds looking for one that is tough yet soft. The new cap will be suitably deep to keep it in place on windy days. And the lining? We are having fun with that. Am I sounding obsessed?
Jonathan Irby is head of sales at James Purdey & Sons.