I noticed from your column a few weeks ago, someone had remarked that Mrs Willison couldn’t see any further than the Watford Gap. I thought this was rather an unkind thing to say and implied that the person making the remark didn’t know much about the history of the Breed.

In the mid fifties, you wouldn’t have been able to drive to Scotland in one day, as you can now, so your travel would be somewhat restricted, even if you could afford it, and I’m not at all sure that people selling puppies even knew what they had. If you delve back into the revival of the Beardie, you will find that Britt of Bothkennar was acquired from far north of the Watford Gap. I haven’t checked, but there may well have been others that arrived from this source.

Without all the hard work Mrs Willison put into the breed, there probably wouldn’t be Beardies at all, and certainly not the numbers we have today. In those early days, you couldn’t always find homes for puppies, even at £5 a pup and a stud fee of a similar figure, not the inflated prices we see today! The breed was very lucky to have people such as Jenny Osborne, Shirley Holmes, Suzanne Moorhouse, Barbara Iremonger and others who did such sterling work for the breed in those early days.

Barbara Walker-Smith mentioned she had seen several specimens that would have been suitable to put on the Register, had we had one, to bring in new blood. She has been more fortunate than me, as I have looked for 40 years and have only seen one decent specimen that belonged to a cattle haulier and was eventually stolen. I haven’t been lucky enough to go to Loch Lomond, which may have been a bit of a ‘hot spot’ for Beardies.

Moving on, I noticed at a recent show a Judge was very critical of the quality of Beardies and it was all ‘doom and gloom’. If this is the situation, then a lot of the blame must be put down to poor judging, which I can’t understand, when we live in an era where Judges can all benefit from the obligatory Seminar. One wonders how great Judges of the past fared without this experience. Perhaps good Judges are born and not made! It does seem a bit of a paradox when Judges withhold a placing as low as VHC because the animal has too much coat, yet at top shows, dogs can appear that have clearly been trimmed, scissored, and over-prepared and then walk away with top awards - the Breed Standard doesn’t seem to have much relevance.

With registrations dropping, I can’t agree with the current fad of importing pups from the continent when there is no certainty about health guarantees, with the possible exception of Sweden. Foreign breeders don’t seem to be any more open about health problems than the rest of us.

To close, did you know there are possibly only 3 or 4 serious breeders left in the South East. What a sad situation.

Keith Hicks
June 2013