Tributes following the death of Margery RennerI promised in my last previous column to have an accurate account of the first Pembroke Welsh Corgis brought to the U.S.A. by our late and much beloved Club member, Margery Renner. She was the first to introduce the breed to the States. I have received a number of letters and, as well, a welcome visit from Ed Renner just a few days ago. I am grateful to Mrs. Thelma Evans Gray of Rozavel Kennels in England for the most help. I should like to have visited the AKC to go over some of the old Gazettes and have some help from its files during the early 30's. With the transit strike it seemed impossible to make the trip, so please bear with me.
Mrs. Gray writes:
"The news of poor Margery Renner's passing made us very sad. I first met her in, I think, 1933 or 1934, and we became firm friends. In spite of distances between us we have kept up a regular, prolific correspondence through the years and I have visited her at least six or seven times and she has in turn stayed with us whenever she came to this country. I shall always miss her and no further trips to U.S.A. will ever seem quite the same again, I am afraid.
"Now about her Corgis: Her first acquisitions were Little Madam and Bowhit Punter which she bought from old Mrs. Lewis, of Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. Little Madam was a pretty bitch with an attractive head and ears, a shade high on the leg and as is often the case with that leg conformation, very straight-fronted. She was light red with flashy white shirt-front and stockings. Punter was a biggish dog for his day, low to ground and not absolutely straight in front. He was solid red with little or no white about him. I personally never cared much for his head and expression which, at that time when heads were universally good, was rather heavy, I thought.
"These were, I believe, the first Pembroke Corgis to be exhibited in the U.S.A. and Margery, who at that time had a large kennel of Old English Sheepdogs which were being extensively campaigned all over the States, took the Corgis along to shows, too.
Rozavel Rufus, C.D.
"A year or so later Margery returned to England and saw my Rozavel Rufus C.D., performing in obedience classes, and at the same show he also won BB. She fell in love with him and took him home with her, where he became the first-ever Eng. & Amer.C.D. Corgi - I am not sure that he was not the first such of any breed - I rather think he was, but am open to correction here. Rufus also made his championship very easily and was widely used at stud insofar as breeding was widely practiced at all at that time. He was a son of Ch. Rozavel Red Dragon, and was, in fact, one of the puppies from the first litter Dragon sired.
"With Rufus, Margery took back a pretty puppy bitch from our kennel which quickly made her American championship but I don't think she bred very successfully. I am ashamed to say that I cannot remember her name and I must be getting old!" (I believe she was Rozavel Christmas Gift.)
Note by Simon Parsons: R. Christmas Gift of Merriedip did become a champion and didn't breed on. However she wasn't born until 1945 so was too late to be contemporary with Rufus (born 1934). The pup was more likely to be Rozavel Mayfly of Merriedip, born 1936. She did become a champion and has bred on.
"During the war Margery managed to retain a nucleus and her kennel manager (George MacKercher) did some breeding on her behalf though she herself was away from home for much of the time on war-work (she was in Alaska)".
Eng. & Am.Ch. Rozavel Lucky Strike
"As soon as hostilities ceased, however, and it became easy to send dogs overseas again, Margery wrote to me for some fresh blood and I sent her two males and a female. One male was Am.Ch. Dimdell Dono, a dog I secured for her from S. Wales, the other was Am.Ch. Rozavel Lucky Fellow of Merriedip. Lucky Fellow was one of the celebrated trio by Eng. and Am.Ch. Rozavel. Lucky Strike, which, curiously enough, all ended in the U.S.A. A litter brother, Am.Ch. Rozavel Uncle Sam going to Mrs. Power's Waseeka Kennels, and the only female, Am.Ch. Rozavel Miss Bobbysox, C.D. becoming the foundation brood bitch for Mrs. Kay Duncan's newly established Kaydon Kennels.
"Margery judged Corgis at championship shows in Britain where her opinion was much valued and eagerly sought. She definitely started Pembrokes in the U.S. and it was her hard work that inspired later enthusiasts to 'Carry the torch' for the breed. She always loved Corgis, always enjoyed them, never feared criticism of her dogs, and was always generous towards the dogs which were in competition with her own. She was America's best loved ambassadress in my own land, and will always be missed."
Discussing this with Ed, he gives the first two Corgis arriving and shown in this country as Little Madam and a dog purchased in Wales named Captain Lewis. This could be Punter, but at any rate these two dogs were shown in the miscellaneous classes and were number one and two in registrations.
Jean Walker, now of Friday Harbor, Wash. and co-owner with her sister Margery Walker of Far Away Kennels, West Stockbridge, Mass., writes of being interested in pictures of "Dookie" owned by Princess Elizabeth. She read of Margery Renner's having imported Little Madam and wrote to ask if the might see her. She writes "This is how our long and wonderful friendship began." She repeats much of the information Thelma Gray tells.
It was about this time when I was living in West Stockbridge that I first met Margery Renner, Jean and Margery Walker, George and Ethel MacKercher, and so many of the wonderful Berkshire Hills dog people. Many times we met for tea at Margery's and it was from these gatherings that the first interest in the founding of the Great Barrington Kennel Club emerged. It was also at Merriedip where we held our first obedience classes with Mrs. Whitehouse Walker coming to train us. (She of course was the founder of obedience in this country) and very frequently her kennel assistant, Blanche Saunders, would come up to fill in for Mrs. Walker. As you may surmise all of these have been valued and beloved friends in the dog world and looking back over these years causes much nostalgia.
About ten years ago Margery was taken ill while about to judge at a southern show. This became a crippling thing for Margery and one had to know what courage she had in overcoming a great deal of her affliction. She never ceased to remind me of having been asked to judge one of our Match shows held by the PWCCA here at Cote de Neige. Hesitating at first, but eventually giving in she judged a good sized entry of Corgis. From this she felt she had the courage to advance in her activities and she soon continued her valued judging in the show ring. She wrote to me at one time to say she had at last walked by herself into the office for her regular treatment and it was a big day for her in her progression. This past summer Miss Lucy Drummond helped Margery in getting to good many shows, where Merriedip Corgis were once more exhibited. It is from Lucy that I received this very lovely prayer which was read at her funeral just before Christmas. It seems very fitting that it should be repeated.
"We thank thee, O God, for all the goodness and courage which has passed from the life of this thy servant into the life of others, and have left the world richer for her presence - for a life's task faithfully and honorably discharged; for good humor and gracious affection and kindly generosity; for sadness met without surrender, and weakness endured without defeat; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN"
Marjorie Butcher, Cote de Neige Kennels, Greenwich Rd. Bedford, N.Y. 10506.
AKC Kennel Gazette March, 1966