The Corgi – a jubilee treat by Nick Waters
JUBILEE bank holiday; it seems opportune to feature the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and two pastels from the collection at the Kennel Club of which Queen Elizabeth II is Patron.
They were painted in 1972 and 1978 respectively by Mary Browning (born 1935), a member of the Society of Equestrian Artists. She studied at Southampton and Leicester Colleges of Art and taught for 16 years before doing her first dog portrait. She was commissioned by a friend to draw an elderly Labrador. This led to more commissions for portrait studies of both dogs and horses, the latter an early passion in her life.
Both dogs were owned by Nan Butler, whose initial interest was in obedience and working trials. Several of the early Wey dogs did well in these fields, notably Sinbad of Wey, who was also used as a picking-up-dog in the shooting field by husband Ken. Ken also shared his wife’s interest in obedience and working trials and judged the Obedience Championships at Crufts. He was involved with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, at one time its chairman, and he was also an active KC General Committee member and it was he who introduced the 75-year retirement age rule.
In the mid ‘50s Nan’s interest turned to the show ring and the two dogs featured here were both very successful show dogs. For many years the kennel held the record for the number of Pembroke champions made up. Although many of the Wey champions were homebred, Nan also had a knack of spotting a promising puppy or youngster and snapping it up. Indeed Ch Wyeford Roberto of Wey, a son of Lees Antonio ex Wyeford Maggie May, and the subject of the 1972 picture, is one such example. Bred by Joe and Mary Ford, he had very few Wey dogs in his pedigree but did go back to the Fords’ foundation bitch, Wyeford Springtime of Wey. Roberto won 11 CCs, was ‘Pembroke Corgi of the Year’ in 1971 and sired a couple of champions.
The second dog, Ch Wey Blackmint, was homebred by Wey Magic ex Caramel of Wey (both CC winners) and went back to Sinbad. She was one of the kennel’s most successful dogs taking several group wins, was ‘Pembroke Corgi of the Year’ in 1977 and top working dog the same year. Ch Wey Spearmint was one of her best-known sons. Caramel’s sire, Cobbler of Wey, was half-brother to Ch Georgette of Wey who won the group at Crufts in 1973.
Nan had a flourishing export market, and several of the Wey champions went overseas, the best known perhaps was the big winner in the US, Ch/Am Ch Rockrose of Wey, handled by Frank Sabella and owned by Derek Rayne, a prominent Corgi owner for more than 50 years. Among Rockrose’s many wins was going BIS three times at the Golden Gate Pembroke Welsh Corgi Fanciers specialties.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s large successful kennels, such as the likes of Wey, were looked upon in awe and admiration by those new to the fancy and eager to learn. Simon Parsons recalls: "When we first started in Pembrokes, the breed, especially in the south, was dominated by three top kennels, Nan Butler’s Wey, Pat Curties’ Lees and Patsy Hewan’s Stormerbanks. We all looked up to these great ladies but soon found that they were keen to offer help and advice if they thought you were seriously interested. I for one will always be grateful to them for encouraging a young schoolboy’s enthusiasm for what became a lifelong passion.”