Roy Frock, William MacBride, William Mattox,
Lou Woyce, Mike and Karen Yates
Hawk Chalk, Vol. X, 1971
Cornelius F. McFadden (1911-1971)
An Appreciation
— by William G. Mattox December 1971
One of America’s outstanding falconry gures
is gone. Cornelius (Corny) McFadden died on
19 July at the young age of 59. I met Corny 23
years ago, but know little about his early life--we
never seemed to reminisce beyond World War II!
Hence this essay is more a personal appreciation
than a necrology. I may not have known Corny
as well as some falconers, but we trapped the
eastern beaches together and endured the rigors
and thrills of a trip to Greenland for gyrfalcons,
experiences which make up for not having years
of daily contact.
I met Corny rst in 1948, but soon thereafter I
went away to college and we hawked together
only during holidays and in the summer. We
kept contact by numerous letters throughout
the 13 years I was in Quebec-Labrador and
Europe. Corny’s letters were unique, includ-
ing cryptic comments translatable only by using
one’s knowledge of the man, exciting hawking
tales, and what his close friends called “shop-
ping lists”--a long enumeration of items which
he wanted you to acquire for him and which he
deemed essential to his life-style. His exhuberant
personality always shone through in his colorful
prose, whether it expressed his perennial hopes
of “getting back to Greenland and don’t tell Mary
a word” or his desire to acquire enough wolf pelts
to have a fur coat made for his daughter Crissy.
Here was a man whose unique type will never
be known again in our sport Corny was a col-
orful gure who cut a wide swath. Everything
was done with his own personal pizzazz, which
showed him to be a man of courage and air.
The mark of a man is the inuence he has upon
others. Corny’s inuence was great. He was the
very essence of a man’s-man with a magnetic
personality. His “army” included young men who
hawked with him and went on to become suc-
cessful in many elds. There are salesmen, ex-
ecutives, mechanics, PhD’s and surgeons who
got the encouragement, inspiration, and ofttimes
harsh words they needed from the “Big Man”.
No one who had the colorful and unique person-
ality of Corny could possibly go through life with-
out antagonizing some. There may have been
men jealous of Corny’s casual and grand style.
Others may have used the word “gall” on more
than one occasion, but these people could not
possibly have known Corny well, for all who did
know him took Corny’s idiosyncracies and man-
nerisms for what they were—the excusable traits
of a man who was different.
For here was a man many lesser men would like
to have been. Here was a man who said, “I’ll do
it.” And he did. Indeed, some of his accomplish-
ments, like the Greenland trip, seem impossible
in retrospect. He approached things in a singu-
larly energetic way, exemplifying the thought that
“you only go around once in life”, and lived life
to the fullest—an approach bound to dismay the
more timid.
This might lead the reader to think that Corny
led a high, racy, and tenuous existence. The key
to the man was just the opposite. Corny was al-
most puritanical in his life-style. If there was a
family man, a church-goer, an idol for growing
youth, and a one-man crusade for not wasting a
moment of precious life, Corny exemplied that
Though a holder of the puritan ethic, Corny was
no tin-pot saint, no zealot out to convert others.
As an athlete and a clean-liver, he considered
smoking messy and, of course, an insult to the
body. But he pressed his point only half-heart-
edly, not wishing to offend. (He was never able to
convince Lou Woyce to kick the habit, and regret-
ted the fact.) Nor did he do more than snort a few
times when the rest of us opened the beer after a
long day of running the beaches of Assateague.
I guess Corny preferred friends to have a beer or
two rather than to threaten his ubiquitous orange
juice and milk supply. And beer never did go well
with ginger snaps, or with his famous “dirty cook-
An honest appreciation of Corny McFadden must
include facets of the man which he himself made
no attempt to hide. Corny spoke often of “con-
ning” someone, usually involving extensive use
of his well known “gift of gab”. Most everyone
was powerless to resist the golden tongue of
Irish blarney, the probing wit, the poking nger in
chest, the “con” at its most rened, honest, and
harmless level. Whether it was sanding the sail-
boat or cleaning the hawkhouse, the young men
who frequented Corny’s home in Chestnut Hill
were put to work on a variety of tasks considered
a fair quid pro quo for just being around the man.
The jobs were attacked with vigor, for it was a
pleasure to please the master. Everyone seemed
to develop a specialty as part of the “army” from
printing up photos, taking jeeps apart down to the
last bolt, or stitching hoods. Everyone was eager
to please Corny, because his close friends knew
he had a heart of gold and that he always gave
more than he received. In short, Corny would do
anything for those he knew, and the attitude was
It might have been “conning”, but it was a most
benevolent kind.
This all leads to an attempt to sum up Corny
McFadden as a man, a friend, and a falconer.
His little quirks of tardiness, his overbearing per-
sonality, his monopoly of most situations—these
all were but a minor part of the man. More to the
point was Corny’s genuine interest in people, his
complete dedication to the ideals he held, and
In the Poconos around 1940. Corny
with gun, sidearm and buckskin.
L–R: famed arctic explorer and author Peter Freuchen,
Bill Turner, Corny, and Bill Mattox, in New York at The
Adventurers’ Club where McFadden spoke on the Green-
land Gyrfalcon Expedition (December 1951).
the multi-faceted personality of an utterly kind
and thoughtful person. Corny would do anything
for his friends, and he expected the same in kind.
As his brother John remarked following the funer-
al in July, “Corny would give you the shirt off his
back, but he’d have your trousers in return.”
Corny showed interest in a variety of subjects.
He was knowledgeable in the diverse ways of
wildlife, and although he was no scholar he had
keen powers of observation and an astounding
memory of past events.
Corny had a passion for clothes, the more the
better. Fabrics of Cheviot and Shetland wool
for his jackets, handmade shoes and Icelandic
sweaters all went Into his wardrobe, which he
planned with care. Being particular about his
clothing carried over into falconry equipment.
He disdained Indian hoods because he felt they
didn’t have the classic looks of the Dutch style.
He ridiculed those of us who didn’t have proper
hawking bags and who used Army satchels
instead. He was correct, of course, for he felt
strongly that falconers should look their best in
the eld in an attempt to dispel the accurate ob-
servation of outsiders that here was a real rag-
tag group of fanatics.
Though he placed a premium on looking good in
the sport, Corny always had ne-ying falcons as
well, despite the lack of suitable game country
near his home. His peregrines were always reli-
able and waited-on well. He seemed to prefer
tiercels above all birds, despite occasional pro-
blems in hooding them.
Corny always had a goshawk, but seldom the
same bird for long. He preferred his hawks well-
manned (“tame as stink”, he’d say), and he
loved tramping the brush for bunnies, partly as a
means of keeping t.
Corny was a big man (“ve feet sixteen and
a half in my stockings”) forever trying to peel
weight off his massive frame. He’d been an out-
standing athlete: football and boxing, not unusual
pursuits for a large man. But he also excelled at
tennis and squash because he had exceptional
grace and agility for his size. He hunted deer an-
nually and relished the prospect of a few days of
isolation in a mountain cabin as much as the gre-
gariousness of autumn trapping sojourns on the
Corny was a good companion, always evoking a
laugh as he sought humor out of even the most
miserable situation. The 1951 Greenland trip
was, of course, one of the highlights of his life.
His booming laugh and ashing smile captured
the hearts of the Danes and Greenlanders we
met along the way. People liked him immediately,
despite not being able to understand everything
he said. The scene of Corny giving the quick-
course, 15-minute lecture on falconry to a Danish
schoolteacher who had an eagle in a cage was
worth the trip to Greenland in itself.
His talking ability and charm combined to spell
success in both his advertising sales business
and in lecturing. He was one of the best sales-
men for Brown and Bigelow. In his lectures he
could keep an audience spellbound by colorful
anecdotes which only occasionally wandered
into fantasy. These little embellishments were
designed to spruce up a tale, without intention-
ally departing from a strictly factual accounting.
I was surprising to learn during one talk that we
had survived on whale blubber in Greenland,
but it did sound better that way! Of course, the
truth was that we had very little to eat at all dur-
ing some periods. I guess the whale blubber was
more credible than eating nothing. Corny got on
well with Peter Freuchen. Both were great racon-
teurs, large men with a zest for life and people,
hunting, and the out-of-doors.
In Corny’s passing we have all been deprived of
a certain richness in our lives. The hearty laugh,
the warm smile, the overpowering presence of
the man are gone. But we are left with memo-
ries of these, and much, much more. Corny left
us with an appreciation of a ne way of life. We
know now what friendship and kindness can re-
ally mean and we realize that this man himself
was a poignant example of what Americans once
were before the soft life crept in.
For some of us a close, father-like man has gone
who cannot be replaced. And for me, person-
ally, to have lost two friends like Hans Pieters
and Corny McFadden within the space of a few
months is almost unbearable.
God rest you, Corny, we will honor your name
and try to continue your good works.
NAFA/GLFA Field Meet 1967, Wilmington, IL
Corny and Jim Gerlach at rangers cabin on As-
sateague. Notice Corny’s spiced wafers and Jim
holding one of Corny’s famous steaks. 1964
1951 Greenland Trip
Mrs. Brian McDonald, Halter Cunningham, Artie Do-
nahue watch Corny release Peregrine on Assateague