My Life with Corgis
By Sue Harrison, Haresfoot Corgis, UK
A Welsh Corgi was not my choice ... I desperately wanted a Scottie! It was 1952 and I was 9 years old at the time and didn't have much say in the matter. Dad decided we were to have a Pem and start breeding and showing.
My disappointment was soon forgotten when Dad purchased Bellefavourite from Mr Mountsteven for the sum of 50 guineas. She had won one CC and was in whelp to Ch Knowland Clipper - her pet name was Susan so this caused a few problems! (Editor's note: Susan was also the name of the Pembroke corgi that was given to Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday!) My paternal grandfather had bred Bulldogs under the Charleston prefix, but I have no recollection of him showing - there were however, lovely chunky puppies for us to play with on visits. But the horse meat the dogs were fed is well remembered for the smell and bluebottle flies - this now makes me thankful for modern feeds!!
Ch. Knowland Clipper, born 08.03.1949
My mother had grown up with a much loved black Pom and a naughty Dandie Dinmont. My companion for the early years was a non-pedigree Smooth Fox Terrier called Jenny. She had endeared herself to me (but not my parents!) by producing five mongrel puppies on my fifth birthday and six puppies on my sixth birthday-all totally by accident. So, there was a diverse amount of breeds to select from.
Susan produced six puppies and I have this abiding memory of her and Jenny, one each end of the whelping box nursing three each. Jenny at this time must have been about 7 years old and her role was probably just cleaning. It is however remarkable that Susan permitted her to assist in this way. This box was made by my father and is still in use for every one of my litters to date. Roseleigh was registered as the prefix, one of the bitches was retained, another went to Mrs Helen Sheldon Craythorns and two to Mrs Watts-Russell. The remaining bitch puppy I named Lucky as she was a bobtail and didn`t have to be docked. She went to a local home. The only male, Roseleigh Achilles, was placed nearby and was in great demand as a stud dog. I learnt the rudiments of matings at an early age which was to stand me in good stead later in life when I was considered to be an expert at the so-called 'skill' [not something to put on a CV!]
Numbers increased as other bitches were brought in and I particularly remember Ercallside Golden Girl - she was a very rich red with almost no white and a terror for starting fights! I very quickly became chief kennel maid and handler.
Rearing puppies in the 1950's was not as easy as today with none of the convenience foods. Puppies could not be wormed until six weeks old and before that they frequently had fits caused by round worms. Dosing was with 'Ruby' wormer which was a very unpleasant liquid, but the resulting piles of worms were amazing and no doubt the puppies must have felt great relief.
As new breeders in the area, we were contacted by Mrs Sylvia Watts-Russell of the long standing Banhaw Kennels, at her home Biggin Hall. This is a stately mansion built by King Henry VIII for his wife Catherine Parr. Being invited to visit meant that excitement levels went off the scale for my sister and I! This involved two bus routes and being greeted by this very grand lady when we got there. We were given free run whilst the adults discussed dogs.
Biggin Hall, nr. Peterborough, Northhamptonshire
Home of Mrs. S.C. Watts-Russell and the Banhaw Pembroke Corgis since 1934
The many future trips to Biggin plus shows and related activities meant that getting about by bus and train was not so convenient. Consequently, a vehicle had to be purchased - this was a Ford Shooting brake which easily accommodated all family and several dogs but was not very reliable. Shows of course were more local and very often in the evenings and made for a very social scene with many of the top judges of the day officiating.
Banhaw Mirth, 1 year
Ch. Benhaw Renard, born 18.03.1963
The WCL Shows in those days at Seymour Hall in London included obedience classes. John Holmes was very keen to promote this side of the breed and could be seen at county shows giving demonstrations of obedience and herding using ducks. Leslie Perrins would be at the door to welcome everyone. He was a famous actor in those days and my mother was so excited to meet him!
This era had many memorable top breeders. Apart from Mrs Thelma Gray, I well remember Anne Biddlecombe and lovely ladies like Patsy Hewan's mother, the very grand Lister-Kayes I was in awe of. Jessie Fitz-Williams another delightful person, always so kind and amusing. So many other kind and interesting people who were willing in those days to pass on their knowledge of the breed to a youngster, I shall be forever grateful to them. Sadly they are not with us anymore.
On my 13th birthday I was given my first Pembroke and I remember being so excited and happy - but to my absolute shame nearly 60 years on I cannot remember anything else about her!
Me in 1956 with Trixie!
For the next couple of years my aim and ambition was to go to the Bellmead Kennel Maid Training School at Windsor. However, fate took a hand and the dream job was advertised = Kennel Maid required for the Wey Corgis. So at just over 15 off I went to Surrey and had 2½ happy years. Barbara Walker-Smith, who took over after I left has described so eloquently the daily routine at the Weys. During my time there, the new house and kennels were built further up the hill. These now are owned by Karina le Mare for her Great Danes and Quarantine kennels.
The 1960's were undoubtedly the years in which the Pems and the big kennels were at their height. It was a great education, especially meeting so many of the foremost breeders of the day, including the overseas buyers who came to Wey Farm. Mrs Thelma Gray was a formidable personality, but was kind enough to praise me to Mrs Butler after she had arrived early and with all the confidence of youth, I set about the mating!
The "ladies" would lunch at each other's premises from time to time so it was interesting to hear all the comments about each of their dogs and up and coming puppies. We kennel maids also got to have our own 'get together' in the kitchen - wonder what we discussed!
The steps at Biggin Hall, home of Banhaw Corgis.
So, on to phase three of my life with Corgis. Mrs Watts-Russell had expressed a desire to have "one last fling" at the show ring, so I took over the Banhaw Kennels for six exciting years. The first event was to pass my driving test and the purchase of a little red and white van, which served me well but was superseded by a Morris 1000 Traveller.
Paddy Date of the Rowell Pems became a good friend at this time and meeting up with her and setting off to shows with her small van loaded up with dogs [no crates then] and people was fun. No motorways around in those days either but we always seemed to have time to stop for picnic supplies en route - I don't remember ever missing a class!
Me with Haresfoot Ezra who went to Holland
My sister Mo joined me for most of the shows once she left school and we would load up with camping gear, several Pems and a Great Dane and set off to far flung places. The Banhaws were very successful in a very short space of time and living at Biggin for the six years up to my marriage has given me a life time of happy memories.
Sue Harrison judging the Pembrokes at the
Swiss Welsh Corgi Club's champion show in 1995
I had many happy and frequently challenging times whilst there. Staying on occasions with Eve Forsythe-Forrest I was given master classes on the breed standard. She was my mentor and taught me such a lot. I was terrified of getting it wrong when I judged. She was a delightful lady but quite terrifying to a teenager!
At the age of twenty I started my judging career with classes of mixed Pems and Cardis. From then I have been honored to judge both in UK and abroad on many occasions and seen so many beautiful dogs and met wonderful people who share the love of our breed.
Ch. Banhaw Chaffinch, born 27.02.1964
After my marriage I took Ch Banhaw Chaffinch with me but sadly for such a lovely bitch she failed to breed on. I then 'deviated' somewhat into Bearded Collies for a few years winning several CC's. Then Jessie Fitz-Williams kindly let me have Fitzdown Frolic and I was off again in Pems. Biddy was a character and a joy to own.
Haresfoot Rueben (left), his daughter H. Victoria (right) and H. Blaise, later Int Ch. (centre)
Ch. Haresfoot Isaac, born 03.01.1981
(Ch. Evancoyd Mr Wonderful x Fitzdown Frolic)
and his sister Haresfoot Ivy, at 9 months
With a young family and farming commitments I was restricted in my showing and breeding activities, probably just as well as these passions can take over one's life! Anyone who knows my husband John will believe me when I say his first comment to anyone showing an interest in the dogs is ... "how many do you want?" ... so numbers are always at a reasonable level and very much part of my life.
My daughter Emma with her pony and the corgis
Haresfoot Glengarry, Fitzdown Frolic and Haresfoot Holly
Being the current President of the Welsh Corgi League (since 2014) is an honour and one I am certain my father would be delighted about. I shall always be grateful to him for choosing a Pem; somehow I am not sure it would have been the same with a Scottie!
Me riding my Arab and exercising the "Haresfoot pack" a few years ago
Written for the Christmas 2015 issue of Our Corgi World and reproduced with kind permission.