THE QUEEN’S enthusiasm for her Pembroke Corgis is well known, and how the royal family first became interested in the breed is described in In the Dog House this week.
She also has a long standing involvement in the working gundog world. Paul Rawlings writes:
MY PASSION for gundog competition began in the mid 1970s and, as a dummy thrower at the Peterborough Gundog Society’s first working test I was privileged to see some great handlers and dogs in action.
Bill Meldrum was running FT Ch Sandringham Sydney, a very handsome yellow Labrador dog belonging to the Queen. Seeing the skill with which this dog was handled certainly increased my desire to get further involved in the sport.
The Queen’s passion for gundog competition had begun over a decade earlier when she had witnessed Bill, a young Scottish gamekeeper, handling his dogs when the IGL Championship for Retrievers had been held at Sandringham in 1963. The following year Bill won the Championship at Woburn Abbey with FT Ch Glenfarg Skid and was soon appointed as gundog trainer for the Queen.
Her first field trial champion, Sandringham Ranger, acquired the title in 1964, followed by Sherry of Biteabout in 1967 and then Skipper the following year.
However, perhaps the dog who really put the Sandringham kennel to the fore was that remarkable homebred FTCh Sandringham Sydney. He won consistently and besides his success in trials, he was placed reserve at the 1973 Championship, he was also the top dog at the CLA Game Fair three years in succession.
Although the Labrador, particularly those coloured black, have dominated the Sandringham kennel, Her Majesty’s interest in Cockers bred for work has also increased over the last two decades. Sandringham has hosted the Retriever and Cocker Championship on several occasions and no matter what the weather the Queen has always been a keen but inconspicuous spectator,at these events.
In the 1990s when I was judging an open Cocker stake for the Eastern Counties Spaniel Society at Windsor, I had the pleasure of meeting her when, with Bill Meldrum, she joined us to watch the trial. It was obvious from that meeting, and from her discussions with the other officials and competitors on the day, how passionate and knowledgeable she is about gundogs.
I know her presence was very well received although it did just put a little extra pressure on those competing to do well; perhaps some of the Cockers should have been told to behave better as well!