If you think about gundogs – and Labradors in particular in KZN, a host of people, their dogs and all of their collective accomplishments spring to mind. In this somewhat unashamedly Labrador-biased set of ‘memories’ and regardless of the activity, in the field, around the breed ring or in obedience, carting or agility, labradors always feature! A great deal of the history of gundog activities is linked to the Natal Gundog Club, which in its 38-year history has been instrumental in fostering the development and community of Labrador folk in the province.
In the early days it was the Newmarches and Gummows that were influential in embedding a love for gundogs in KZN, and the Newmarch home at Bishopstowe – Wingfield - was where many dreams were conceived and encouraged. As far as labs go, it was Adele in particular who could be relied on to quietly lead thinking in the ‘right’ direction and from whom you could expect wise counsel on all matters ‘labrador’. The Newmarch hospitality and support for club activities is legendary and all three of the Newmarch sisters promoted the concept of dual-purpose working dogs, and many a field training and funday event was held at Wingfield. (See the sisters in the photo on the right). Only Adele could have a lab called Trouble (Huntingdon’s Tamarind) and it was her black Kimber (bred by Johan Bruwer) who accompanied her when the family departed from Wingfield to live in Pietermaritzburg. The Gummow family were also great field and club supporters and many will remember Vic’s Raven from the Ballyhue kennel and Debbie’s Rosser.
The Cook family, Margaret, John, Brian and Andrew and their labs, is also one of the icons of Labrador-dom in KZN. For most people, John’s Duma (Rownston Bamber) will be remembered for his field achievements, but Kim was his first lab and took many a trip to the then ‘Transvaal’ to compete in field trials there. Brian and his Tracer were a hunting and shooting pair, but they too had their share of field trial spoils. Misty, Khela and Brandy were regular field competitors and achievers, often handled by Margaret, Brian or Andrew. Margaret’s regular column in the NGC’s Showgun magazine was always a pleasure to read and kept everyone up to date with latest awards and successes. A regular training companion with Spike Bulley and his black lab Kali (Sandwall Lady Kali), Margaret gave generously of her wisdom and field experience, and always at exactly the right time. She always takes a special interest in newcomers and in the early days it was Margaret who patiently taught me that ‘baby-steps’ and understanding were far more likely to lead to success in the field.
From Left to Right: Roxi McCormick, Brian Cook, Adele Newmarch and Wendy Sanzin.
Talking of ‘wisdom’, Hilary Wisdom (Bahati), KZN and Labradors are almost synonymous. Sally was Hilary’s first field lab, and as is so often the case with first dogs, it was her determination and commitment to please, that hooked Hilary into the field. Cass followed in Sally’s footsteps and then along came Mara (Gokwe Mara) – from John Cook’s Duma and Philip Jack’s Archer. Fast and furious Jess (Bahati Black Magic, a Mara daughter), served as a fair challenge for Hilary after that, and she was the ‘matriarch’ that presided over the Wisdom pack of Shelley (Scorrybreak Shelley of Bahati) and young Juno for a long time. Jess’s brother, Andrew Templeton’s Rigby (Gokwe Rigby), a fast and powerful black lab is another well-known field trialler. Fondly referred to as the ‘wild hooligan’, Andrew was advised that not until the ripe age of eight would the boy settle down and become manageable! Together with his daughter Helen, Andrew has made a considerable contribution to the Natal Gundog Club, not least of all as the Director of Training of the Field Section in the early nineties. Helen managed the ‘Spring Trials’ in KZN and successfully worked Darcy (Wynard Darcy) in club tests and trials. Today, Andrew is a regular at club events with Emily, his rescue bitch.
Hilary Wisdom and John Cook
In recent times field labs in KZN have received a boost through Louise Welsford’s (Burwell) drive to introduce new ‘field genes’ into the province. Her two imports, Gypsey (Merry Arit of Burwell) and Teal (Bynbrig Teal of Burwell), have already made a significant impact on the field scene, and Louise’s style of training and focus has contributed to Gypsey becoming a FT Champion and one of only two KZN dogs to qualify for the Championship Stake in recent years. The other is also a Burwell dog, Jasper (Burwell Ben of Tashinga) owned by David Padbury. In the 2011 season, he successfully achieved his FT Champion status.
A handful of KZN lab folk are strong participants in both field and breed events, and in this regard the Ainslie’s (Klynroc) are notable. It is not surprising that such commitment to both sectors comes with serious demands on time and participation at all levels. Rob is probably best known for his role as Field Trial Judge, but he is also the Chair of the Natal Gundog Club having led the field section for some years. Much of the show-ring activities are managed by Gill, and they have consistently made up Show Champions over the years. Gill’s focus on looking to produce dual-purpose dogs is a strong factor that has resulted in the likes of Honey (Klynroc Honeycrunch), Zoe (Stabo Zoe of Klynroc) and now more recently her young Jeep. I remember her ‘old man’ Jason (Brightwood Jason of Klynroc) and also Grouse (Brightwood Flagship of Klynroc) as wonderful examples of what Labradors should be like - strong, gentle and devoted. Amber (Klynroc Rave Review) bred by Rob and Gill and owned by Sue and Dave Forder, is also proving to be another good example of a dual-purpose lab.
Gill Ainslie and Sue Forder
Mel and Tony Taylor’s (Dunnolly) contribution to show and field are also notable. When looking through the pedigrees of KZN labs (and indeed many from Gauteng), it is likely that Dunnolly will be there. When the family moved into KZN for a spell, their fun-loving approach and ability to bring people together to enjoy not only the dogs, but a jolly good party is well-known.
Field events have served as a great way of getting people to enjoy being out in the country with their dogs – and whether or not they are great achievers is less of the issue, but rather the time spent out training with like-minded people is what has served as the important driver for most of us. There are a host of field people and their labs in recent times that I have not even touched on – the Skeltons with Swempie and their two ‘hooligans’ (Caillie and Prana), Jenny Gray with Nessa and Lily, Richard Wisdom with Murphy and Calli, Carolyn Baker with Cassa and Guinness, Rob Mackillican and V and .. and… the list goes on with too many to remember.
And while this story focuses on Labradors in the main – it is incomplete from a field trialling perspective without mentioning the notable Golden Retrievers and also Chesapeake’s that have been amongst the field achievers in the past and present.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are not at all common amongst the field trial fraternity and in KZN it is the performances of Gavin Bloy and his first Chessie that stand out. Buller (CH Delaware Eastern Waters) was an active trialler and made way for Sparky in his latter years.
On the Golden Retriever front, there is one person and her dogs that stands out – Wendy Sanzin. Since the seventies Wendy has been involved with the Natal Gundog Club and has made a significant contribution to sustaining gundog activities in the province. Aside from being (from my ‘labrador-centred’ perspective!) a slave to Golden Retrievers, Wendy Sanzin continues to be an active and respected sage on all things ‘dog’ regardless of breed. She is still able to recall her very first committee meeting of the Natal Gundog Club around 1979, when she was entirely awestruck by ‘being amongst the “big guns” - and over the years she has taken on several different portfolios of the Club including Chairman, Secretary and also newsletter Editor. Always active in the field, she has had had considerable success with several of her dogs, from the early days of her Calico to the present successes with Breeze (Kincora Breeze of Laird) and Lyric (Kincora Lyric of Laird). Other notable field Goldens have been run by Joe and Tessa Kruger, and also in the very early days the Newmarches.
In ‘recalling the past’, there are many KZN retrievers and their people that stand out in any one person’s mind, and it would be impossible to mention all of them in this short commentary – but rather it is the collective contribution of ALL the gundog folk in the province that has played such an important role in contributing to the sustainability of our club.
To see more archived photos of NGC people in the early days, please go to our photo albums.