THE EARLY YELLOW LABRADOR IN FIELD TRIALS
by Audrey Radclyffe
When asked by Jo Coulson to write about the early yellow Labrador field trial dogs it seemed a fairly easy task, the cards of every field trial I have ever run in or judged are in three large boxes. Starting in 1933, they brought back so many memories of failure and a few triumphs, of agonising waiting to go in, of long journeys home, of the friendly handlers and all the chat, the judges -so terrifying when one first started and almost as frightening fifty years later!
My first award in 1933 at the All-Aged Yellow Stake at Six-Mile Bottom, Cambridgeshire, was a Certificate of Merit with Zelstone Sandy, from the first litter bred by me. He found everything, but in The Field report (most trials were reported then), the judges said "This dog did all he was asked, but too slow in these days if we must get on". I never ran a slow dog again! I still remember what a wonderful gamefinder he was. This trial was won by Birdsall Vesper, bred by Lord Middleton, whose kennel did so well then. It is interesting to note in these early cards they say "Any dog suffering from Hysteria must be removed from the ground."
It was difficult to advance in the field trial world before the Great War especially with yellows. One learned the hard way, not much help or advice and no training classes to help one train a dog. One remembers with gratitude those that did help and encourage, Major and Mrs. Wormald, Lady Hill-Wood, Lord Middleton, Mr. T. Gaunt, Lady Howe's handler; and she herself was always good to me and both she and Lady Hill-Wood admired my Zelstone Darter, a great pleasure to me. Miss Eleanor Buller did a lot for the yellows with her small kennel, Ch. Badgery Richard, by Ch Banchory Danilo, did much for the looks of yellows and both he and Ch Badgery Ivory, handled by Ronald MacDonald did well in trials as well as shows.
Judges were different, mostly shooting men who were keener on good marking (no disturbance of game) and good gamefinding, keenness in thick cover, than the ability to be put onto a sixpence 200 yards out, though they insisted on dogs being under control.
After the War, trials started again. It was not easy, no game had been reared for years, petrol rationing meant it was difficult to get to trials, one sometimes had to go by train, and it was more difficult to train dogs, but gradually things got back to normal. Some great yellows came then; Edga Winter's Dual Ch. Staindrop Saighdear (Gaelic for soldier), Dual Ch. Knaith Banjo and my FT Ch. Zelstone Darter who, with FT Ch Zelstone Moss were two of the best I bred. Darter was placed 15 times at trials including four firsts and second in the Retriever Championship. She was the dam of eight stake winners, one Field Trial Ch. and of my Ch. Zelstone Leap Year Lass and American Ch. Zelstone Kate, she also won on the bench.
FT Ch Zelstone Moss by Bench out of Zelstone Leap Year Lass, was also second in the Retriever Championship at Littlecote in 1957 when under two years old. She was a very brilliant bitch with lovely style and so quick. She won well on the bench, though just too small to go right to the top. Edgar Winter's Dual Ch. Staindrop Saighdear was a lovely dog, so full of quality and a lovely worker. Veronica Wormald's Dual Ch. Knaith Banjo was a very masculine dog, of splendid dark colour and quite massive build. Golden Morn and FT Ch. Hawkesbury Jupiter were notable dogs as was Folkingham Seeker and Redeal Rufus, handled by Andrew Wylie of Pinehawk fame. He belonged to E E Smith the famous jockey and was one of the early yellow stars. My Zlelstone Tramp won a CC and was well placed at trials as was my daughter Sarah' s Zelstone Nethercompton Amanda, who won a CC. and a Reserve CC and a two day open stake, but that would have been in the 60' s I think.
It is 60 years since my first litter arrived, Zelstone Sandy being one of them. The yellows have been my great interest and have given me much pleasure and a lot of satisfaction, mixed as are most things, with a few disappointments. The breeding of working Labradors which are also typical is a great thing for which to aim.