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Well Worth Watching

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I’m sure many of you will have come across the various short newsreels of dog shows and other events from days gone by, produced by Pathe and available on YouTube.

There are some wonderful period pieces there, film of Crufts and other major shows (including quite a number from Irish shows) and they are fun to watch, not least for comparing the costumes and hairstyles of the exhibitors to those of today! Sometimes you can see people and dogs you can put a name to.

Of course, these were produced for the general public, not the specialist enthusiasts, and inevitably if they find a cute looking child, or someone who looks like their dog, they will focus on that rather than the breeds and the winners.

So it made a change to have my attention drawn by Jillian Knight-Messenger to a fascinating 12-minute cine clip of Blackpool dog show in 1961 on the British Film Institute website. (Incidentally the title says 1960 but a quick look at the relevant Stud Books prove conclusively that it is actually the following year’s show).

It appears this was put together by Bill Hall, whom many of you interested in Afghans will remember. Bill and his sister lived in Preston where they ran a pet store, and he had been involved in the breed since the 1940s. His affix was Barbille and he made up one champion, Houri, from the famous Carloway kennel.

For several decades Bill wrote Afghan notes in Dog World and very interesting they were. If he felt strongly about something he was like a terrier and wouldn’t let go. One such topic was correct front construction in the breed and he campaigned vigorously, and eventually successfully, for the correct upper arm position and angulation to be clarified in the Standard.

He also wrote a book on the breed and was quite a character, as I remember well from years of sub-editing his notes, and I recall vividly how upset he was when Affenpinschers gained CC status so his Afghan notes were no longer the first ones you read in the paper each week.

In due course he was joined as breed correspondent by Jillian, dividing the news North and South, and after Bill’s death she continued to write – I think that at the time of the paper’s demise she was its longest standing breed notes writer – and I’m pleased to say she carries on producing notes on Facebook.

Bill was a keen cine enthusiast and produced many wonderful films of breed clubs events. I think this invaluable resource was been preserved for posterity, hope so anyway.

Anyway Bill’s Blackpool film somehow found its way onto the BFI site and you can view it free on…/watch-blackpool-outdoor-dog-sho…

It’s certainly not the greatest quality filming but for me and (I’m sure) you its historical interest overcomes that. It starts with the Miniature Poodle ring (a breed Bill and his mother were also interested in) where the judge is famous Northern all-rounder Lily Turner. Nice to see a variety of colours being shown. Miniatures were one of the numerically strongest breeds in the show ring in those days.

Blackpool was one of the prestige shows of the year and the ringsides were packed, in some cases two deep.

On to the non-sporting group judged by the great May Pacey and there is Vivien Watkins with the Frenchie Ch Bomlitz Edwardbear and Joan Kelly with one of her many harlequin Great Dane champions, Surcelle of Leesthorphill. There’s a Tavey Dobermann, an Old English Sheepdog, an Albermar Bulldog, a Smooth Collie, the Chow Ch Minhow Gem of Ukwong with Frank Watkinson and the Alsatian – is that Ch Ulele of Silverlands who caused a sensation by winning her title in ten days? Sorry I can’t always be more specific with the names, the Stud Book doesn’t give the BOB and it’s not always clear if it’s a dog or bitch. If only I had the DW archives to check against!

On to the Afghan ring and of course Bill spends plenty of time here – indeed I think he himself can be seen showing a dog. I’m sure senior Afghan people can recognise many of the exhibitors. I certainly spotted Dennis McCarthy, in those days the Angry Young Man of the Afghan scene. Judge was the unforgettable Bill Siggers and the steward – none other than our old friend from South Wales, John Fothergill.

By modern standards presentation and handling of many of the Afghans lacks a little finesse (but some super heads and tails), but one dog stands out for deportment, style, coat quantity and glamour, and Bill’s camera lingers on him – this is Marna Dods’ Ch Horningsea Khanabad Suvaraj, and he was duly declared BOB.

Next comes the Borzoi ring with specialist Harry Hawkin judging. There is Edgar Sayer with one of his Reyas dogs and then a superb self black who went on to win the CC, the great Ch Zomahli Chernila. Who’s the handler – a very young Keith Prior who co-owned him with his aunt Lillie Pearson. In later years Keith emigrated to Australia where he is still going strong – a familiar figure to many as curator of the super dog museum at the Melbourne showground. Jillian thinks she can also spot a young Marilyn Willis (later so famous for her Poodles) in the Borzoi line-up.

Next comes the hound group and a very athletic Florence Nagle is striding round with her Wolfhound Ch Sulhamstead Remus. Then there’s the Borzoi BOB, not Chernila but the bitch Ch Zia of Carradale, bred by the breed judge and shown by Fred Curnow – as well as their unbeatable Tavey Dobermanns, Fred and Julia had a very successful Borzoi kennel using a different affix, Woodcourt. There’s a brief glimpse of the Beagle BOB, Ch Wendover Billy (model for the Beswick Beagle), with L C James – Beagles were a successful sideline for the famous Irish Setter kennel.

The Afghan proved victorious.

Next Mrs Pacey does the gundog group. There’s a gorgeous English Setter Sh Ch Engsett Elect, followed by Gwen Broadley in her famous cream coat with her Labrador Sandylands Sam. Both these are beautifully athletic free moving animals.

Famous Lancashire all-rounder Violet Yates can be seen with one of her Seedhill Irish Water Spaniels which were virtually keeping the breed going in those days (it was so rare it had just two sets of CCs that year). The English Springer is Sh Ch O’Mally’s Tango of Glenbervie with Arthur Badenach Nicolson. But the group goes to the Pointer, the Seamans’ Crookrise Danny of Muick. He later went to the US where he had a great career including a Westminster group win.

Bill now moves to the Cairn ring and there’s the unforgettable figure of ‘Mr Cairn’ Walter Bradshaw in his three-piece suit plus trilby hat with the ring number stuck in it. He won both CCs with Chs Redletter Master Mac and Miss Madame and we see his main rival Diana Hamilton handling the RBCC Oudenarde Rambling Rose. And yes, there’s Diana’s daughter Ferelith (now Somerfield) handling a Cairn – she by then had been working for four years at Dog World, based at Idle in Yorkshire.

Next stop is the Wire Fox Terrier ring and here are pro handlers Tommy Brampton and Billy Mitchell. The judge, giving a very thorough examination, is tall, slim and very handsome – yes it’s young Australian David Roche, a regular visitor to the UK in those days where he would scoop up top class examples of his favourite terrier breeds and take quite a team back on the boat with him.

In the terrier group a gorgeous Bedlington catches the eye – is that the famous bitch Ch Northcote Lucky Strike? Even more so a quite stunning Sealyham of tremendous substance and activity. This turned out to be Thomas Dickinson with Ch Alcide of Axe, one of the top winners of the era (he did indeed win BIS at the very next show). He reminds me very much of the amazing dog from across the Atlantic, ‘Charmin’, who won Crufts a few years ago.

Also pictured is the next year’s Crufts winner in the Wire Ch Crackwyn Cockspur, handled by one of the greatest ever dog men, bow-tied Bobby Barlow.

Then we see a super wolf sable Hadleigh Pom, an attractive Yorkie, and a Peke with a mind of his own, Ch Ping Yang of Coughton, owned by Lady Isabel Throckmorton, daughter of the Duke of Rutland and chatelaine of Coughton Court. He was the group winner.

On to BIS and the only group winner we hadn’t previously seen is the Miniature Poodle Russetways Graypike Simon. I can imagine the cameraman’s excitement when Mrs Pacey chose the Afghan Suvaraj for the top spot and he is last seen receiving the trophy from secretary Harold Roberts and the mayor, Clifford Cross, sporting his chain of office.

A super glance back to the old days and well worth 12 minutes of your time.

‘Reproduced by permission from Simon Parsons’ Facebook group, Beyond The Dog House.’

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