Field Trials – (Part II 1918 - 1939)
Written by George Jenkin and published in The Labrador Retriever Club 1916-1991 ‘A Celebration of 75 Years’
The first year following the end of hostilities in 1918 saw a revival of a few field trials by new and old societies. The newly formed Labrador Retriever Club, through the generosity of one of their committee members, the Earl of Lonsdale, had arranged to hold a meeting at Lowther, in Westmorland. Those enthusiasts who had made the journey north found the" weather so bad that the trial could not begin. The fall of snow was one of the heaviest for years and accentuated the fact that the later a trial is held, the greater the risk, and this converted many to the view that October is the month for retriever trials - a lesson borne in mind by field trial secretaries to this day. In 1920, Mr. Walter Baxendale, Secretary of the I.G.L. reported “that trials were in full swing, and so numerous were the meetings that secretaries found it impossible to prevent overlapping, while owners and dog handlers possessed of county and district qualifications were called upon to do far more travelling than had been the case in any previous season". In fact the number of meetings that year was only twelve, which was less than in 1913, however, the following year it jumped to sixteen with a total entry of 266 dogs, 196 of them being Labradors. From then onwards the number of meetings increased annually, as new clubs and societies were formed until they reached a total of about forty per annum in the late '30's.
Having failed to have a field trial meeting in 1919, the L. R. C. managed to hold its first meeting at Aqualate, Newport, Shropshire on October 12th and 13th, 1920, by kind permission of Sir Robert Boughey, Bart. The judges were Mr. Charles Alington, Lord Sherbourne, and Lord Somerleyton. Two stakes were held - an Open for 10 dogs, and a Junior Stake for dogs or bitches born after January 24th, 1919. This would appear to be the first field trial meeting held by any retriever breed club. The Open Stake was won by Mr. T. W. Twyford's Tag of Whitrnore, who was to go on to win further glory that season, winning five stakes in all including the Retriever Championship: second was Rounton Sea Fret, owned by Col. Bell, which was runner up at the Championship that year. FT. Ch. Tag of Whitmore was a son of FT. Ch. Patron of Faskally; Mr. Twyford had bought Patron from Capt. Butter for £500, a large sum in those days, and he had mated him to his bitch, Tactful of Whitrnore.
Mr. Twyford had been a strong supporter of the Labrador Retriever for many years, and Mr. Mackay Sanderson wrote of him, "after the Banchory Kennel, probably no name is writ larger on the Labrador history than the Whitmore affix, ... Both on the bench and in the trial field the Whitmore Labradors proved themselves capable of holding their own with the best. Throughout its career the Whitmore Kennel was most ably directed by Mr. John Cady, and it was largely through his efforts and unremitting care that the kennel secured and maintained its commanding position in the gundog world."
Mr. Twyford died in 1921, and the kennel was carried on by his son, Major H. Twyford, on a reduced scale. It was dispersed in 1931. During the course of its career inmates of the kennel won at least 36 field trials. It produced one Dual Ch. in Titus of Whitrnore (1919), the only Dual Ch. to win the Retriever Championship, in 1923 and 24, also six Champions, and three FT. Champions. Their subsequent influence on the breed was far reaching.
Dual Ch. Titus of Whitmore was in direct descent from Netherby Boatswain, one of the pivotal dogs of the breed (this line became well developed by Lord Knutsford by his mating of Warwick Collier to Munden Single.). Titus was used extensively at stud, and produced many famous Labradors, including Dual Ch. Flute of Flodden (1927), as well as three full Champions, Thrill of Whitmore, Throne of W. and Stanton Sheelah and two FT. Champions, Tag of Clava and L'ile Titanic.
The Whitmore kennel name was behind many of the dogs bred by Reqgie Corbet of Adderley, whose contribution to working Labradors is reviewed elsewhere, as well as the Liddly prefix of Mr. and Mrs. Saunders, (also reviewed), whose foundation dog Ch. Liddly Jonquil was sired by Ch. Tar of Hamyax (1924), a son of Toi of Whitmore. L. Jonquil in turn sired Ch. Holton Joyful and Shavington Jet, as well as Liddly Geranium, (see reviews for these kennels). Jonquil is also behind the Cookridge and Heatheredge Kennels.
FT Ch. Tag of Whitmore, the winner of that first Open Stake held by the Labrador Retriever Club, was one of the three Field Trial Champions produced by this kennel, and Tag, when put to a bitch Squib of Belvoir, produced a famous matron, Beningbrough Tansy. Tansy was mated to Banchory Corbie and this resulted in a crop of outstanding workers, including a remarkable trio, FT. Ch. Banchory Ben, FT. Ch. Muntham Raven, and FT. Ch. Beningbrough Tanco. In this mating both sire and dam were in direct descent from FT. Ch. Peter of Faskally, he was the GGGS on the male side and GGS on the female. FT. Ch. B. Tanco won the Retriever Championship in 1927, while his litter brother Muntham Raven was 4th equal, (with Duke of Kirkmahoe sire of Ch. Ingleston Ben). The following year Raven moved up into 2nd place and his brother FT. Ch. Banchory Ben was 3rd. Beningbrough Tansy also produced eight other winners of stakes, and was probably the supreme matron of working dogs in this period of review.
FT. Ch. B. Tanco was used extensively at stud, and his mating to Rockstead Swift produced a bitch of outstanding merit in Lady Hill-Wood's Ch. Hiwood Chance: born in 1928, she won the L. R. C. All-Aged Stake in 1931, was 3rd in the Championship in 1931 and 1932, and was the winner of the Championship in 1933 and 1934. Chance was considered to be one of the most outstanding workers in the inter-war years.
The Beningbrough prefix, owned by The Earl of Chesterfield K. G., G.C.V.O., features in the pedigrees of many dogs of this inter-war period. Lord Chesterfield served on the foundation committee of The Labrador Retriever Club and was an active member until 1932. He had been a keen supporter of field trials from the earliest meetings. He judged many trials up until 1928. He was an outstanding shot, and did so with the best in the land. His dogs were handled with outstanding efficiency by Mr. H. Daniels.
Throughout this period something like seventy dogs won the right to their title of FT. Champion. There were many good dogs around and the breeding for quality that had been followed by the established kennels clearly was having an effect. Besides those mentioned already here or in special reviews, the names of Bramshaw, Flodden, Withington, Rockstead, all made their contributions to the development of the breed. But no kennel made a greater contribution than that of Banchory; the position of this kennel in the annals of the club have been covered elsewhere, but its record in trials was second to none. Inmates of this kennel up to 1939 won 57 firsts, 45 seconds, 24 thirds, 13 reserves, and 34 certificates of merit. In the Retriever Championship, inmates won four firsts, seven seconds, and seven thirds. FT. Ch. Balmuto Jock established a record by winning the classic three times, also being placed third three times. This record stood until the 1980' s when it was matched by the Drakeshead Kennel of Mr. and Mrs. Halstead, who have won the Retriever Championship four times in all, with FT. Ch. Westead Shot of Drakeshead in 1979, and with FT. Ch. Breeze of Drakeshead in 1985,1986, and 1987. Three consecutive wins in the classic is a unique achievement.
When the Labrador Club was founded there were 129 Members. And to this total some 16 per cent were noblemen or aristocrats. Many of the remainder were entitled to an entry in Burke's Landed Gentry. All or nearly all. of the 5 shilling Members were gamekeepers or dog handlers in the employ of the other Members. Finding ground for trials in those days did not present a problem to a Field Trial Secretary. Many owners were willing to provide ground, and to show off their preserves. All the Members were shooters, and the importance of well behaved gamefinding dogs was thoroughly understood.
Having been brought up in an age when horsemanship was a necessity, most of them appreciated the importance of good conformation in their animals. In their particular milieu quality was sought after as well as utility. They expected their dogs to look the part, as well as be it.
From the sporting press of those days it would seem that field trials then were a social occasion as well as a sporting. High standards of sporting behaviour were expected from the competitors. We are their inheritors.