Is this the first show winner? by Valerie Foss
OFTEN we take little notice of the treasures which can be found on eBay and local auction sites. Over the years Steven Green has collected all kinds of things, be they related to his breeds or just general dog items, from auctions, antique fairs and online auction sites.
A while ago Steven bought a mixed bundle of about 20 photographs and images from a well known online auction site. It did not cost much but Steven was intrigued by the contents as a wide mix of breeds was represented.
Some of them had very detailed and well researched information written on the back of them in an elegant hand.
Some time later, when the Kennel Club Gallery was due to hold its Photography ‘Going to the Dogs’ exhibition Steven decided to look through the bundle in detail and do some more research before offering the items to the exhibition. Some were of well known dogs, including those who were the starting points for their breeds.
One of the images was very different from the others in the way it had been produced. The names on the back were Dandy and Jobling.
Steven contacted me who sent him off to the first KC Stud Book covering 1859 to 1874. Dandy was the winner of the setter class at the very first dog show at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1859 while Mr J Jobling was one of the judges for Pointers, the other class at the show,
The picture was framed and became part of the exhibition.
In view of the historical importance of the picture to the dog world Steven offered it, along with an early photographic studio portrait of a young S E Shirley, founder of the KC, and a very early canine prize card, and the KC was very pleased to accept his kind offer.
That is only the start of the story, Heidi Hudson, the KC picture librarian, was recently doing a course at the Victoria and Albert Museum on early British photography. She was interested by the age and uniqueness of the Dandy photograph so she took the photo to her instructors who happen to be the senior photographic curators at the V&A. They agreed with her that it is an old print from the late 1800s or early 1900s.
The writing on the back indicates that the photo was used for an early engraving and also seemed to show that the photo was of some importance as engravings were used only for publications and reproduced artwork of the time.
So who was Dandy?
In Godfrey Gompertz’s marvellous book on the Gordon Setter, the first dog to head the UK list is Dandie or Dandy (1581), whelped in 1856, bred and owned by Joshua Jobling.
He was by Coward’s Sam ex breeder’s Nell who was by Sir Matthew Ridley’s Grouse (breeder Duke of Gordon) ex his Nell. He won first at the first official dog show held for Pointers and setters only at Newcastle-on-Tyne June in 1859.
A point raised by Gompertz is that it is difficult to see how Jobling’s Nell, dam of Dandy, could have had as a sire a dog bred by the Duke of Gordon who died in 1836. The answer might be the multiplicity of the same names and the dog could have come from the Duke’s kennels after his death.
The first official dog show was organised by John Shorthose and William Pape and held in the Town Hall at Newcastle-on-Tyne on June 28/29, 1859. It was exclusively for Pointers and setters, of which 23 and 36 respectively were exhibited. The first prize for setters was awarded to Mr Jobling’s Black and Tan Setter Dandy.
The fact that Mr Jobling was himself one of the Pointer judges and awarded the first prize to a Pointer belonging to Mr Brailsford, who helped judge the setters, did cause criticism in many circles!
The coloured picture shows a blackish dog, no tan, construction very similar to the early setters. Today we would consider him rather retriever-like. The colour is interesting because they were not always black and tan.
The fourth Duke of Gordon is the one we credit with the existence of the Gordon Setter. On his death in 1827 everything passed to the fifth Duke who died in 1836 having owned the estate for only nine years.
Following his death, only 11 dogs from his kennels came up for sale at Tattersall’s auction. Maybe others he had inherited from the fourth Duke were given away to friends as shooting dogs and it is also probable some were given to gamekeepers, as the dogs were bred as workers.
We have the colours of nine of them – one black and tan, one black, white and tan, five black and white, one black and one red and white – plus their names and breeding, who bought them and the price.
We know the colour of the early Gordon Castle Setters was mainly black and tan; many had white markings as well.
The estate passed to the fifth Duke’s nephew the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. He had bought a black and white bitch at the sale and built up a strong working kennel including Gordon Setters. He is thought to have had some black and tans but also many black, white and tans.
When the Castle kennel closed in 1907 all the remaining setters were bought by Isaac Sharpe of the Stylish kennel and he wrote that all the dogs were black, white and tan. Colour was not important, working ability was. There were some kennels of black and tans that had no connection with the Gordon Castle strain.
When the early dog shows started there was uncertainty how setters would be classified and this was closely involved with colour. 1862 saw setters divided into three classes: English, Black and Tan and Irish.
After the KC was founded in 1873 this became the official breed classification and the reason for using the description Black/Tan Setter is clearly stated by J H Walsh (known as Stonehenge, editor of The Field, one of the founder members of the KC and a judge at that first dog show in 1859): "It is now generally admitted that the Gordon Setter was originally white, black and tan and that many black and tan setters are not descended from the Gordon Castle kennels. The classes for the breed are, therefore, not now defined as for Gordon Setters, but for black and tan setters, whether Gordon or not, and certainly this appears to be the most sensible plan.” (Stonehenge, 1879)
Some latitude was allowed; the first Stud Book includes Sir Matthew Ridley’s liver and tan dog, presumably Grouse.
In 1924 the KC allowed the name Gordon Setter instead of Black and Tan as the official usage.
So Dandy’s colour in the photograph for that era is correct. Is the river in the background the Tyne and the trees some estate?
What a treasure for the KC to procure an image of the winner at the first official dog show.