THE MIDLAND & WEST OF ENGLAND GREAT DANE CLUB
1948 – 1998
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Midland & West of England Great Dane Club was formally registered by the Kennel Club on 7 November 1948; the application to register the title was actually received by The Kennel Club on 14 April 1948 together with the fee of 21 shillings (or was it a guinea?). Our sponsors were the Northern Great Dane Club, to which club we owe a debt of gratitude; the signatories for the N.G.D.C. were T.H. Hickson (chairman – also became a founder).
There were 25 founder members, none of whom are alive today. They were:
William Grew E.G. Courtenay-Benham
Kathryn Guthrie G. Redman
Doris Tittle L. Isaac
Rosalind Main H. Burgin
Muriel Osborn V. Humming
J. Cockman T.M. Street
Stanley Young Cynthia Young
Hazel Hirsch F. Smart
Katherine Barnes E.C. Rowberry
G.M. Jewel Dorothy Hale
R.H. Courtenay Benham T.H. Hickson
May Lomas Esther Parsons
Capt. W.C. Rowberry
Officers of the club from foundation to the present are listed separately. When reading this list it should be noted that Honorary Vice Presidents do not appear as the positions were not created until 1995 when Mr. Peter Russell was appointed upon relinquishing the post of Treasurer; he remained an Hon. V.P. until 1997 when he was appointed full Vice President. In 1998 Mrs. Gina Bowers, a long and hard working member of the committee, was honoured by being made an Hon V.P.
The driving force behind the foundation of the Club came from two ladies, Muriel Osborn and Doris Tittle, who devoted their lives to Great Danes running, running their renowned kennels under the Blendon affix. They became the leading ladies in every sense of the phrase. If you ask any of the older members why they joined and became committee members in those early days they invariable reply that they just could not refuse Muriel and Doris. For the first three years Mr. C. A. Ross was the secretary, being succeeded by Doris Tittle, who was also treasurer and cup steward.
It is fair to say that for about 15 of the first and formative years of the club Muriel and Doris ran it. Those years set the friendly tone and atmosphere for the club, which continues to this day and long may it be so.
The first president was Mrs. Lee-Booker, a well known figure in the Dane World.
She presided over the club for 15 years before handing over to Doris Tittle. The club did not have a patron until 1958 when the Earl of Northesk became such for only one year, when he was succeeded by the Hon. W.B. Wrottesley. He remained the patron for four years until 1963 when Lady Reddish was invited to become the Patron, a post she occupied until ill health forced her to relinquish it in 1971. She was succeeded by Muriel Osborn, who was patron from 1972 until 1979 when Doris Tittle succeeded her, serving until 1984. When she died Mrs. Nancy Hanson, a long time member of the club and former president, was appointed to replace her.
Although Mr. C.A. Ross was secretary for the first three years of the Club’s existence, arguably the first fifteen years were dominated by Mrs. Lee-Booker (President), Bill Grew (Chairman) and Doris Tittle (Secretary, (after Ross), Treasurer and Cup steward). The list of officers shows clearly how large a part they played in getting the club established. Although, during much of this time Muriel Osborn was not on the committee, she nevertheless played a large part in the running of the club. In 1958, for one year only, she became Joint Secretary with Mrs. Isaac, but it was 1964 before she came fully onto the committee as a Vice President along with Fergus Taylor – the first year the club appointed Vice Presidents. Muriel Osborn had been running her own Dane Rescue for some time before enlisting the help of Mrs. Rhoda McHaffey. In 1970 the position was formalised when Rhoda joined the committee with specific responsibility for Dane Rescue. In 1980 this activity was subsumed into the present National Great Dane Rescue Charity. But in reality it was all started by Muriel and Rhoda who went on to become its first President and then Patron and still holds that office. If readers care to refer back to the 1974 Club Year Book they can read an article, page No. 23, written by Muriel Osborn on the start of Dane Rescue.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s various Dane personalities came and went. It is most unfortunate that a section of the Club’s documentation was lost during this period. But in the late ‘70's things settled down when, in 1977, Nelly Ennals became Chairman, Sylvia Burton Secretary and Peter Russell Treasurer – a post he occupied for 17 years until 1994. Mrs. Ennals – who incidentally showed Dane at the Club’s first show in July 1949 at Reading – became President in 1981.
Except for the year 1958 – when Fergus Taylor of Dane of the Year fame took over for one year only. Bill Grew was chairman from 1948 until 1968 when he died.
Twenty years is a very long time for one person to be a Chairman Courtenay Benham, who had been Vice-Chairman since 1958 took over but his term of office as short lived because he died quite suddenly in 1969. Countenay Benham did a lot for the club in a quiet way. If you look at the current issue of the Club’s handbook you will see beautifully drawn illustrations on the front cover and on pages 20 and 37 which were all done by him. Incidentally, the handbook is just another example of how much the club owes to Muriel Osborn; she produced the handbook in 1979 which has become a very successful publication with all the proceeds benefiting the club. The Club then had a spell of relatively short Chairmanships with the Rev. Gwynn Davies from 1970 to 1974, Mrs. Joan Thomas from 1975 to 1976 and Nell Ennals from 1977 to 1979. When Nell became President in 1980 Geoff Burton became Chairman and held that post until 1989 when he was elected a Vice-President and Ian Jones became Chairman.
The post of Secretary in any club is vital and the club prospers or not on the skills of the person holding that office. The Club has been extremely fortunate in that for 51 years of its existence the post of Secretary has been filled by two exceptional people. Doris Tittle from 1951 – 1966 and Sylvia Burton from 1977 until 2002. In both instances these ladies set the tone for the club and its continuing success.
In 1974 the Club published its first Year Book, which was compiled by Miss Sheila Cartright who was Hon. Sec. at the time. In 1985 Bruce Macdonald edited the first Annual and in his editorial wrote . . .”We have always attempted to test new and old ideas for the continued progress of the Club and the members.
“This, our first attempt in producing an Annual, which is slightly different to the normal type of Year Book, is, we believe, another progressive step forward for the club.” Bruce was a committee member for a long time before becoming Vice Chairman from 1990 to 1992 and then retiring from the committee.
The newly formed club ran its first open show at the Reading Drill Hall on 23 July 1949 when the judge was Mr. Gordon Stewart. The entry fee was 5 shillings, which seems a bargain when you consider that prize money of £1, 10/- and 5/- was paid to 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each class. Fifty one Danes were entered (at our 1988 show 244 Danes were on show!!). One of the exhibitors at the show was Mr. J.VB. Rank of ‘Ouborough’ fame. Older members will well remember trudging around all those exotic places like the Nine Elms Baths in London, or the Northampton Drill Hall and Bingley Hall, Stafford. The club now concentrates on two centres –the Connexion at Coventry for its championship and open show and Baginton Village Hall for its Members Limited Show.
The format of the open show was changed in 1985 when we introduced a system of judging the five colours of Danes separately under different judges, but the winners in each colour being brought together under yet another judge for Best in Show. This innovative show was certainly launched in style with Mr. John MacDougal (the then Chairman of The KC) as our B.I.S. judge, which he awarded to brindle boy Ch. Devarro Direct Descendant – bred by the Burtons/owned and handled by joint owners Eddie Talbot and Ann Archer.
The Club’s first championship show was held in 1963. Mrs. W.S. Young judged and her Best in Show was Ch. Surice of Leesthorphill – bred/owned and shown by Mrs. Joan Kelly of Harlequin fame.
In 1995 the Club introduced another doggy event called the Midland and West of England Great Dane Puppy of the Year Award, where all puppies born the previous year are judged in succession by three judges and eventually a winner emerges. The winner in 995 was Mr. & Mrs. Cobley’s Eleeta Masterplan under the three judges; Mrs. Audrey Sheppard, Mrs. Evan Bratton and Mr. Steve Wareing. This became an established event in the Club’s diary and was popular as it combined with a match. It was a nice doggy affair and was the brainchild of Sylvia Burton.
Way back in the late 1960's the Club ran what was then ‘optimistically’ called ‘Judges Training Sessions’. They consisted simply of groups of enthusiastic members going to the kennels of leading breeders who talked to them about Danes and explained some of the finer points. Those early Days were totally unscripted and lacked any formality. However, in 1996 the club decided to go ahead with a formalised training course and were lucky enough to have on committee Jane Colton B.A. Solicitor, who quickly devised and documented a normal training course which the club introduced called ‘The Judges Assessment Course’, where anyone in the club aspiring to become a judge would be tested both by a written test and, under practical conditions in a ring on their ability to judge a Dane. This has proved to be very successful and the letters P.A.C. (passed assessment course) after your name in the list of judges is becoming much sought after.
The club took the lead in 1991 in producing a code of ethics to the Dane world. It produced a booklet entitled Ethical Guidelines, which has now been adopted by most other Dane clubs. The issue caused much debate at the time with members being divided on whether the club should incorporate them as Club Rules or retain them as separate guidelines. The latter won the argument.
The MWEGDC is an active supporter of The Kennel Club’s initiative on Discover Dogs and will continue to be so. One of our committee members, Marian Simpson-Wyeth, organised the Great Dane stand at the London based show whilst another club member, Mrs. G. L’E West looked after the stand at Crufts. The stands take a lot of time and effort to organise and run for the 3 – 4 days and are well worth visiting if only to see the photographs they have accumulated for display.
1998 was the club’s Diamond Anniversary and we did everything possible to celebrate. At every show we gave specials to class winners, even our raffle prizes were gift wrapped in gold paper! Some events such as the Puppy Event and the Judges Assessment Course do not lend themselves to celebrations but the club had marked out three events in particular for celebration:
i. The members Limited Show in July
ii. A Dinner/Dance in September
iii. The Championship Show in December
I will not expound on them here but I know those who attended these events enjoyed them – you told us so, and that consideration has been the aim of this club since its inauguration in 1948 and continues to be so. The committee and all the members of the club can be proud that the lovely friendly club that Muriel and Doris started 50 years ago is still the same, just a lot bigger
Initially compiled by Sqn Ldr (ret’d) Ian Jones for the
‘Golden Anniversary’ year 1998 and repeated in the Club Annul
For the ‘Diamond Anniversary’ Year 2008