Kerry Williamson 1958-2010
WITH deep regret DOG WORLD has to announce the death, on Thursday of last week, of its managing director Kerry Williamson, following a short illness.
Kerry, who was just 51, joined DOG WORLD as a trainee sub-editor in 1979 and ever since had played a major role in the success of the company.
As well as being involved in all aspects of the editorial side, and having produced DOG WORLD ANNUAL, she was instrumental in the transition to modern publishing technology, and latterly in the development of the website.
Since her teenage years Kerry had been devoted to the Tibetan Spaniel breed.
In her first litter she bred her first champion, Nimana Lhamu, and since then, although she only ever kept fewer than a handful of dogs, she enjoyed much success in the show ring, notably with the famous Ch Twinley Tarantella. She was a championship show judge of the breed and had officiated at Crufts.
Kerry will be greatly missed by all who knew her and all at DOG WORLD would like to send our sympathy to her husband Adrian Willson.
The funeral will take place at Basingstoke Crematorium at 11am on Thursday, February 18, flowers from immediate friends and family, otherwise donations to Macmillan Cancer Care. Donations are being co-ordinated by Alexander and Dry, 1 Seal Road, Basingstoke, RG21 7NQ. There should also be the opportunity for donations to be made at the crematorium, which will go to the same cause.
Kerry joined DOG WORLD as a trainee sub-editor early in 1979. Already she had a long standing interest in the world of dogs and had bred her first litter of Tibetan Spaniels which had been born two years earlier.
The family’s first Tibetan Spaniel had been a pet male, who came from Brunette Greenland better known today for her Siberian Huskies. Kerry had quickly become passionate about the breed and, seeking a foundation, had contacted top breeder Ann Wynyard. Ann let her have a beautifully bred puppy, Braeduke Rinchi-Ta, daughter of two champions, and in due course Kerry mated her to Ann’s Braeduke Dung-Ka. From this she kept a bitch, Nimana Lhamu.
Shortly after Kerry came to Ashford, she had the joy of receiving her first CC with Lhamu, at Crufts no less from breed authority M C Hourihane, and over the next few months she quickly gained her title under Yve Bentinck and another breed expert, Jane Lilley.
The breed was always one in which a keen young enthusiast would be welcomed by the senior breeders, and Kerry was one of several of similar vintage who not only received a good start in the breed, but was encouraged all the way.
Her parents, too, supported her canine interests with great pride; Kerry coped with her mother’s tragically early death and later her father’s long illness with characteristic quiet strength.
Subsequently Kerry mated Lhamu to Ch Amcross Am-Ban, combining the best of the great Amcross and Braeduke lines, whose pedigrees at that point in their history still had much in common. From this came Nimana Kelma who gained his title easily but whose greatest claim to fame was winning best puppy in show at Bath under Maurice Gilliat. In those days top variety wins for the breed were even more unusual than they are now, and this was a considerable achievement.
As a teenager, Kerry got to know Pauline Block who lived at Whitchurch, not far from Basingstoke where Kerry was brought up. She recognised Kerry’s enthusiasm, and for some years she would help with the Twinley dogs at home and shows. Kerry always recalled the occasion when she had only just passed her driving test, but Pauline cheerfully sent her off to a show on her own in her brand new estate car.
Pauline was a great character who was one of the most significant pioneers of the Pharaoh Hound in the UK, a successful breeder of Chihuahuas, and was also among the early breeders and importers of the Bichon – and Kerry maintained her interest in these three breeds throughout her life.
Pauline also had a Tibetan Spaniel bitch from Kerry’s first litter, as well as a Kensing male from Jane Lilley, and a daughter of these two was mated to the great Ch Tsingay Tango, a dog of whom Kerry was a great admirer for his balance, soundness and dignified presence.
This mating produced an outstanding, classic bitch puppy. Twinley Tarantella. Tara remained at Twinley Manor and it always seemed a waste that she was seldom shown; eventually she came to Kerry and amply fulfilled her promise in the ring, taking BOB at Crufts 1988 and being shortlisted in the group, and ending up top Tibetan Spaniel for the year.
From her litters Kerry and Pauline shared the puppies, and in the first litter one of the Twinley bitches became a Swedish champion. Kerry kept a male, who was all too prophetically named What Next at Nimana. Arthur was one of the characters of the breed – if anything could happen to him it did! Eventually he gained his title but, regrettably for a dog with an outstanding pedigree, decided that being a stud dog was quite beneath him!
Tara had two other litters and a bitch from each proved significant. Tantara of Nimana won a CC at the first championship show of the South East and East Anglia breed club, and was the dam of Pat Atkins’ Ch Nimana Seraphina at Tsingay. After a successful show career and producing a champion son, Seraphina came back to live with her breeder and is still going strong as a very old lady.
From Tara’s last litter came Tasmin of Twinley who became foundation bitch for another very keen enthusiast, Karen Sheppard. This role she fulfilled brilliantly by producing three UK champions including Ch Tibanchi Dashing Debonair who holds the breed CC record.
For Kerry, though, the dogs’ show careers were very much secondary to their individual personalities. She only ever kept a very few and they enjoyed an idyllic lifestyle, most of them being ‘office dogs’ at DOG WORLD over the years. Kerry had great admiration for breeders who were clever enough to enjoy consistent success while keeping very few dogs, and felt strongly that their welfare and happiness was all-important.
Kerry served on the committee of the South Western breed club and later was a founder member and vice-chairman of the South East and East Anglia Club. She awarded CCs in the breed for many years, including Crufts, and most recently at Bournemouth last year. Although she had an eye for quality in all breeds, she preferred, apart from the occasional open show appointment, to stick to judging her specialist breed. She was a popular judge of the breed in Scandinavia where it is so strong, making a number of repeat visits.
At DOG WORLD she had been involved in every aspect of the editorial process and with her creative flair – of which her superb handwriting was another aspect – and attention to detail produced the ANNUAL for some years.
She was especially interested in the impact of modern technology and embraced the opportunities this gave, most recently through the DOG WORLD website which was very much her ‘baby’.
The business side very much appealed to her too and in 2001 she became managing director of the company, subsequently becoming owner with Stuart Baillie after Ferelith Somerfield’s retirement. She was very much actively involved with all aspects of the business, yet was still happy to proof read and do any of the other basic tasks involved with the newspaper.
In 2008 she married her long-term partner Adrian Willson whom she had known for well over 30 years and with whom she shared many interests including opera and holidays with the dogs in National Trust properties throughout Britain.
It is very difficult to take in the fact that Kerry has died. She was only 51, doing a job she loved and was very good at, sharing her home life with her husband Adrian and her Tibetan Spaniel ‘grannies’.
I first met Kerry in her late teens showing Tibbies, the breed in which she was to achieve so much, as a breeder, judge and club committee member, but mainly to me as someone whose dogs meant so much to her as companions and friends. My favourite was of course the very special Arthur whom I was lucky enough to be able to talk to almost on a daily basis.
At that first meeting with Kerry I also saw her parents, again very special people, and now they are all gone. Why is there so much truth in the saying that ‘only the good die young’?
Many people will be able to write about Kerry’s life in dogs better than I can although I would like to mention Pauline Block who had so much influence on her in her teenage years. Through her Kerry gained her interest in Chihuahuas and Bichons, for example, although it was the Tibetan Spaniel breed which was to benefit from her excellent breeding and owning practices.
Health and soundness, as well as breed type, were very important to her and, while she would keep a dog as a pet it had to come up to her strict standards before it would be bred from. She kept very few dogs, seldom more than four, so each one had special individual attention.
She was a very private person so, while we were good friends and colleagues, I was often one of the last to know of the important moments in her life, whether good or bad, but I never thought of her as anything but an exceptional person, with integrity, kind to those in trouble, always ready to listen, but with an unerring view of what was right in her business life. Lucky indeed were those close to her.
While I am writing this I am watching the birds eating from the bird feeder she gave us for Christmas in ’08. It has given great pleasure, and will always do so, but now my eyes are filled with tears.
It is difficult to say exactly when Kerry and I became what turned out to be lifelong friends. We had always attended the same schools and so at a guess we would possibly have been around seven years old. That would make our friendship not too far short of 45 years, give or take a bit.
In more recent times we would analyse our friendship and wonder what on earth kept us together. We had grown to have such different tastes and moved in different circles. The answer was simple, of course; we had a huge history together and nothing could change that. One of our joint successes was that Kerry actually got me to a three-hour opera and I got her to an Abba Tribute Night. As different as chalk and cheese!
Over the decades we rode the storms of life together, both always being there for the other one. It was probably outsiders who first saw our relationship as being more akin to sisters than friends. Geographical distance and physical separation never changed that. One of Kerry’s famous sayings as she rang would be ‘just reporting in’ and that was how it was, no need to explain.
It goes without saying that Kerry was a very caring and supportive friend for all those 45 years. It is difficult to say what made her ‘the special friend’, I guess it was just being Kerry.
What shall I miss the most? Everything but everything! Silly things really, like not having to ‘steal’ an extra amenity kit on a plane ‘just for Kerry’ ‘cos it has nice things inside and having someone to send a balloon to ‘cos everyday can be a balloon day!
Most of all – just missing Kerry, who in 45 years of friendship never judged me but was always there for me.
Till we meet again!
It seems hard if not impossible to believe that Kerry is with us no more. It was only weeks ago that she seemed, at least, to be sounding like her perfectly normal happy self. Sadly, as many of us know all too well, cancer is no respecter of persons.
Looking back, I remember her as a shy, quiet teenager who used to come to the shows with her mother and their beloved first dog. Sadly her mother died in her late 40s, so then Kerry used to come with Pauline Block, whom she had helped with her Twinleys from the time she was a young girl.
Later she was often accompanied with her then boyfriend and now husband, Adrian, who has always had such a genuine love for the dogs. Dogs formed so much a part of Kerry’s life and she adored every one of her own with a deep, abiding passion.
Her first Tibetan Spaniel, Braeduke Rinchi-Ta known as Mummy Dog, was dam of Kerry’s first champion, the beautiful Ch Nimana Lhamu, who illustrated the breed Standard in Dogs Monthly back in April 1987. Mated to Ch Amcross Am-Ban, she in turn produced Ch Nimana Kelma, the first – and so far only – Tibetan Spaniel to win best puppy in show at a general championship show.
Kerry then made up Ch Twinley Tarantella bred by Pauline Block, who produced Tantara of Nimana, the youngest ever TS RCC winner at six months exactly, who produced Pat Atkins’ Ch Nimana Seraphina at Tsingay, affectionately known as Holly, now aged 14.
Tarantella also produced Arthur, Ch What Next at Nimana, bred jointly with Pauline Block, who featured in many advertisements in DOG WORLD ANNUAL, seldom in show pose but simply enjoying doing his own thing.
Kerry was a well respected, popular judge of Tibetan Spaniels, awarding her first set of CCs as one of the youngest judges in the breed at the SKC in 1985, when she awarded BOB to Ch Tsingay Tango.
She was a highly valued member of the South East and East Anglian Society’s committee from its formation, not only giving the club the benefit of her knowledge and calm astute guidance but also, in a sensible practical way, assessing and speaking at seminars as well as often stewarding at breed shows.
So capable, clever and exceptionally successful in her career in the canine world, she was an unassuming and an intensely private person.
I personally owe Kerry so much, in fact she changed my life very much for the better when she and DOG WORLD originally – and quite out of the blue – invited me to take over the late Tom Horner’s brilliantly written column. She refused to listen to my protestations that I could not possibly do anything as clever, insisted that it should be just as if I was writing a letter to a good friend and to at least give it a go.
Her persuasion and badly needed boost to my ebbing confidence finally tipped the scales and that was almost 16 years ago. The amount of knowledge gained from others and the number of friends I have made through the column is extraordinary and continues to give me endless interest and pleasure. All this is thanks to Kerry.
A light has gone out in my life her with her untimely death as I know it will have with all her colleagues at DOG WORLD and indeed everyone who was lucky enough to have known her. Our deepest sympathy must go to Adrian, her husband, and hope that his beloved Flora is providing a comforting presence as Tibetan Spaniels can do so well.
How we will all miss her charm, delightful sense of humour, sparkling eyes and smile that could light up a room. Rest in peace, Kerry and thank you for your loyal friendship for so many years.
All of us at the Kennel Club were very saddened to hear of Kerry’s death which was so sudden, untimely and unfair.
Kerry truly understood the world of dogs as a grass roots dog person. In her professional life she combined this deep knowledge and experience with a number of other really valuable attributes. First she had a great sense of fairness and integrity and this she brought to her position at DOG WORLD to great advantage.
I personally always found her to take a sensible and disarmingly reasonable but nevertheless firm line in any dealings – sometimes disagreements! – that I had with her.
She also had a very businesslike approach which she combined with her journalistic strengths to benefit both DOG WORLD the paper – and to enhance the world of dogs generally.
Her guiding, fair, firm and friendly approach will be sadly missed by all of us who knew and worked with her.
I first met Kerry in August 2003 when I came to be interviewed for the post of assistant editor. I left the building that day convinced that she didn’t like me but within an hour had a call offering me the job.
We have laughed about my misunderstanding of that first meeting many times during the last six and a half years, just as we have laughed about many things. As I write this I find it difficult to comprehend that we won’t share a joke again, or have coffee together in our boardroom, nor exchange gossip about our respective families. Putting this page together is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
There is little to add to what others have written; Kerry was great to work with, she had a tremendous sense of fun and was incredibly modest. She would be blushing now were she able to read what people have written here. What I and many of my colleagues here are having difficulty coming to terms with is the speed at which Kerry’s illness developed. As we all headed off to celebrate Christmas she seemed absolutely fine. She felt unwell between Christmas and new year and never came back to work after the new year holiday.
There is so much I shall miss. I believe we made a great team as we complemented each other. But I am frustrated because there was still so much more we had to do and she should have been here to be part of that success.
Adieu, Kerry, from us all. You leave a huge void.
I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Kerry's sudden death. Being of the same age and with similar backgrounds in the world of dogs I considered her something of a kindred spirit and we enjoyed many hours chatting and trying to put our world to rights. One special occasion I recall was when Kerry took up my offer of the spare bed in my room at the Metropole during the 'LKA Snow Show' event, we had such fun. Her particularly gracious comments to me after I awarded CC''s for the first time in her beloved breed Tibetan Spaniels meant such a lot and I will treasure the memory. I shall miss her smilie and engaging disposition very much around the shows and know well the shock and pain her family, close friends and work colleagues are all enduring at this time. Jackie Kitchener