Ladies Kennel Association

Date - 10 December 2017

Author - Diane Stewart-Ritchie

First formed in 1894 by Mrs Alice Stennard Robinson, in defiance of the gentlemen of the Kennel Club, the Ladies Kennel Association is one of our oldest and most respected Championships Shows of the year.  It is the final All Breeds Championship Show of our show calendar and is one that exhibitors enjoy for a variety of reasons regardless of who is judging their chosen breed.  It’s a last opportunity to buy those special doggie gifts, the gift for a special friend who is also as crazy about dogs as oneself, the opportunity to hand deliver the majority of Christmas cards to our doggie friends, and of course the most important part, it’s the last opportunity to all get together and enjoy the warmth and definite pleasure that the Christmas season bestows upon us.  Christmas jumpers in abundance, Christmas cakes, mince pies, sweets galore and everything from flasks of mulled wine to champagne, prosecco and a variety of red and white wines we’ve got it covered at LKA!

I think for me personally, and I’m sure I speak for the majority here, there’s something different about LKA.  Is it that the year is over and we’re all tired both physically and mentally? Is it the general great atmosphere around the festive season that allows us to embrace one another in a more positive light? Perhaps its just as simple as ‘the pressure is off’ – we can stop running up and down the country chasing the dream.  The dream of a card, whether red, or blue or yellow or green or in some cases, big with green edging and ultimately then big with red edging – the dream is over for this year anyway, giving us time to get back to reality and all that everyone else holds dear.  Family, friends, loved ones alike, I think the Christmas period does bring out the best in most people even if they don’t care to admit it.

Membership of the Ladies Kennel Association is only open to Ladies, and what a well respected and experienced team is currently in place.  Our own Linda King of Kirkavagh fame is a serving Committee member.  Linda is relatively new on Committee but she brings to the panel a wealth of knowledge, experience and professionalism.  Linda, with husband Steve have produced 14 Irish Setter Champions in this country alone and amassed over 85 Challenge Certificates and a similar number of Reserves, during their 44 years of involvement with the breed. The first Show Champion was Fearnley Fire Heather at Kirkavagh, in 1985. The Kirkavagh Irish Setters have given much pleasure to new owners and exhibitors alike. Always fiercely proud and supportive of her stock, Linda encouraged and helped bring fun, enjoyment and new champions for some who bought into the Kirkavagh line.  The following come to mind – Sylvia Stocker with her Sh Ch’s Kalaglow & Bikala, Linda Richardson with Sh Ch Fidalgo and the late Andy Begg with his treasured girl Sh Ch Kandy who also became a Champion in South Africa, when Andy and then partner, Susan Morris moved there. I always admired Sh Ch Kirkavagh Kooyonga, eventual winner of 16 CC’s.  She was a thorn in my side when I was showing Klassique and how different they were – Klassique not the biggest girl in the world and petite and so feminine and then lovely Kooyonga, built on bigger lines and as is still very typical of Linda’s girls, with such a super topline and frame. I’d always arrive at the show in those days and first thing I’d do was check if Kooyonga was entered – such was her impression on the bitches at that time. I know Linda’s proudest moment was with her beloved Topsy, (Kooyonga) when she won Best in Show at Setter & Pointer for the second consecutive year in 2002. Linda has been a serving Committee member and more recently Treasurer of the Irish Setter Association, England for over 16 years. After 9 years in office as Secretary of South of England Gundog Society Linda has since retired from this Post and has now taken up the position as Vice President. She also spent around a decade on the Committee of South of England Irish Setter Club, 8 years as Show Secretary and 3 as Vice Chairman. A real asset to LKA Committee Linda, I’m sure, has become. The last Irish Setter enthusiast serving as a Committee member of LKA was in fact Marjorie Jarosz who remained in post until her death.  Until Linda there have been no others from our fancy.

Sh.Ch. Kirkavagh Kooyoga

Looking through the history of the LKA and viewing the Clubs Roll of Honour I found a very interesting point.  Did you know that there has only ever been one Irish Setter recorded as having reached the dizzy heights of Best In Show at LKA?  Yes – only one, EVER! What’s more astonishing is that it was in 1927. A full one hundred years ago, Ch Ravenhill Phil, owned by Dorothy Whitwell, (whelped on 13.02.1921), won this prestigious award aged 6 years old and to date we still have not added the name of any of our many stars to that Best In Show list.  So come on exhibitors and breeders - there’s a task and a half for you!


RevenHill Ped

The majority of the conversations and topics of interest around LKA emanated from the inclement weather.  Yes of course we want the romantic, picturesque white Christmas but not as early as 8th, 9th, or 10th December! and certainly not having folk stranded in their cars, flights delayed or cancelled, runways shut down, and judges having to abandon the task of getting to the NEC to fulfil their long anticipated appointments.  In fact, the Best In Show judge never made it home to Sweden until 4 days later! Those who did brave the elements – well done you!  It wasn’t actually as bad as many had anticipated.  I had travelled from Northern Ireland and on Sunday alone I’m sure I saw at least a dozen others too from my neck of the woods – crazy? Yes!  but us Paddys are made of strong stuff! In fairness most of us had already landed in England the night before and then the heavens opened at 5 am and it never stopped snowing all day.  A gorgeous sight to wake up to from the warmth of a hotel room just 2 minutes from the NEC but certainly not one to relish coming from further afield and leaving that morning.  As we donned the very cosy warm halls at the venue, announcements were made delaying judging.  Yes, anticipated but the Committee where obviously walking a tight line as to finding the balance between that element of fairness towards exhibitors trying to make their way to the show and of course the fact that there were three Groups and a Best In Show to be completed within a sensible time scale to allow everyone to get home safely and in good time.  Throughout the day various announcements were broadcast keeping everyone informed of what was going on, as well as the thought process towards exhibitors safety. The day before, Secretary Jane Valentine had posted a live video of the proposed journey from the car parks to the halls, complete with running commentary.  What a clever way to use social media to keep exhibitors abreast of the current conditions at the venue.  Unfortunately Jane was likely otherwise occupied to do the same thing on the Sunday morning when the snow landed but by this point we had all heard the radio, TV and weather app warnings, knowing what to expect should we decide to tackle the journey.

Slowly the halls radiated from the sound of dogs barking, exhibitors chatting and the familiar hum drum of a show in action albeit, on a much smaller and quieter scale.  There were many empty benches across various breeds however, slowly but surely things got underway and we all settled in for the long haul.  I think it was a case of ‘we’ve made it here now let’s just get on with it, enjoy ourselves and worry about the return journey later.’  Our judge elect was Miss Becky Box (Fernstart).  Becky first judged her beloved breed at Manchester in 2010.  She has awarded Challenge Certificates 4 times in total, with her other appointments being Border Union in 2013, Three Counties in 2015 and now LKA.  Becky’s ‘Fernstart’ kennel has been developed over the past 20 years. Pat & Barry Rhodes were great mentors to Becky and helped develop her eye, and her knowledge of her chosen breed. Becky grew up with Irish Setters as her parents had been showing and breeding before she even came along! They had their first Irish Setter as a wedding present, almost 50 years ago now.  Starting off with a Joanma’s bitch from Marjorie Jarosz, they mated her to Wendover dogs.  Eventually they used Sh Ch Sowerhill Satyr of Fearnley and so the friendship with Pat & Barry developed. Becky partook in Childrens Handling classes with her Blackborough Jade, which her parents had produced.  She won moderately for the family. In 1994 Becky was old enough to go it alone and purchased her first Fearnley girl in her own right.  Fearnley Fire Melody was to become Becky’s base, all of her home bred girls descending directly from her. Becky’s hopes of having a litter from her dearest Fernstart Lovesong were dashed when, mated later in her life, she didn’t conceive.  Now to return to the drawing board.  This time luck was definitely on her side.  Becky purchased Bailey, Bardonhill Afternoon D’Lite at Fernstart from Marita Bott.  She was to realise one of Becky’s dreams…..winning both her and Becky’s first CC in 2016 at Southern Counties under Julie Wilkins.  A further Reserve CC was achieved this year at East of England under Anthony Allen. Juggling a full time job with erratic hours alongside a young daughter and family certainly has its challenges for Becky but she still finds time to give back to the breed she loves. For over 15 years, she has been a Committee member, Treasurer and since 2005, the Secretary of the ISAE. Regardless of time constraints Becky is still as passionate today as the day she started showing Irish Setters. She’s in it for the duration, totally enthusiastic and gets great pleasure having the dogs as part of her family. These red ones are almost part of her DNA – perhaps her daughter will join her in years to come, making it a fine family affair with three generations of the family on board.  That would be the fairytale alongside making up her lovely Bailey. Dreams do come true Becky!

Blackborough Jade circa 1985 002bailey EoE BCC 070717 0B5A6267.JPbaiG
Becky with Blackborough Jade (Top)  and Bardonhill Afternoon D'Lite at Fernstart (Bottom)

Today’s CC winners can certainly vouch for that statement, each of whom are enjoying the fun of receiving CC’s which they previously had only dreamed about.  Pam Mitchell, whom I’m told nearly gave up her journey to the show due to the weather certainly had an easy car journey home with the CC tucked firmly in her hand!  Jolly good job she kept going!  The winner of Open Dog on the day, Amblin’s Sweet William and Pam put on a good performance to impress the judge and came away with the Dog CC.  This is Williams second CC, adding to his 2 other Reserves now. Fingers crossed that third one isn’t too far away Pam. What a delightful surprise for the Kerryfair girls and handler Tania Gardner when Becky chose their Special Yearling winner, Pawsword Priceless to Kerryfair JW to be the recipient of the Reserve CC.  Already a Junior Warrant winner and a consistent achiever, Jenson is owned by three generations of the one family, Sandra Chorley-Newton, her daughter Kerry Chorley and grand-daughter Emma Flinders.  A highly delighted trio ending a very pleasing year.  As time was on her side Becky took a short lunch break which afforded the rest of us the chance to get into the party spirit.  A number of little celebrations were on the cards for the day, so we all brought our wares together and just embraced the occasion, toasting and enjoying the wins for each of us.  How lovely for Lynn Muir and Gaye O’Connor that they too could now add their Junior Warrant win to the celebrations, having got their last point on the day winning the Junior Dog class with Joe, Gwendariff I’m Comin Out. Lynn, who keeps us all supplied with cakes through the year at our various get togethers, could enjoy her own cakes for her own win – brilliant! Becky resumed judging, culminating with her Bitch CC winner in Debs Armitage’s 9th CC of the year for Elsie, Sh Ch Gwendariff Coco Nut Cream, taking her to the Top Spot of individual CC winners during the year and Top Bitch along the way.  Reserve CC came from Limit for Jane and Roger Mugford’s Abby, Sangarah Skyline over Lynwood JW (imp).  This is her second such award to add to her CC she won earlier in the year at Darlington.  A once around the ring and Becky chose the bitch for Best of Breed.  A very delighted Debs and I, now to wait for the Group allowing time for a few more cakes! What a lovely day too for Jill Holley winning Best Puppy in Breed and Best Veteran in Breed.  The puppy winner was Jill’s new young boy James, Wynjill Snap Dragon, today ably assisted in the winning ways by kennel mate Fizzy, Sh Ch Gwendariff Soda Pop To Wynjill JW.  

lka 2017 bobBest of Breed Sh.Ch. Gwendariff Coco Nut Cream
with Debs Armitage (L)  Diane Stewart-Ritchie (Centre) and Becky Box (R)

Everyone departed at a sensible hour leaving a few hours of daylight an advantage for travelling through the snow lined roads to get home.  We, on the other hand, had time to spare until the Group was called, last on the day to be judged. Oh dear - time for shopping – more new scissors and an empty purse to boot!  A very delighted Debs enjoyed the highlight of watching her girl represent the breed to a very credible second place under judge Renee Sporre-Willis from Sweden. She was beaming from ear to ear when I came out of the ring with Elsie – what a year this has been, topped by a high Group placing.  Another proof that dreams do come true.  Congratulations Debs!

A very joyous part of the day was taking a step back from all the festivities, just watching everyone together, embracing each others wins, having that sense of comradeship together with true and genuine concern that each took care on the roads and arrived home safely. It made me realise that we’re not a bad wee bunch in general, we have our ups and downs like all breeds but ultimately we are a kind lot – I guess it goes UP the lead! 

Wishing each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May you have good health, fun and laughter and many good times with your precious red doggies both in and out of the ring in 2018.

Diane Stewart-Ritchie



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