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by Keith and Audrey Hicks

This writing appeared in The Millennium Book 2000 for the The Southern
Counties Bearded Collie Club, England. Keith Hicks sent written permission
for the "How They Started" article to be retyped for this website.

The manner in which I acquired my first Beardie is not a method I would condone nowadays; I would advocate much more investigation than I was able to achieve.

I bought my first Bearded Collie (later to be known as 'Jennifer of Multan') purely by chance. Having lost a Border Collie pup, I was looking for a replacement and after a lot of thought, through the columns of the 'Farmers Weekly' I ordered a puppy from a Farmers Agent who supplied working dogs and youngsters. This was, and I presume still is, quite an acceptable way of trading working type dogs.

Having handed over my 5, my puppy arrived from Loch Lomond, having travelled down by overnight train in the Guards Van and contained in a cardboard box. Somehow she must have been transported across London from Kings Cross to Victoria station by some other mode of transport.

With the aid of my bicycle, I duly collected the puppy from the local station. It was St. Valentine's Day and the ground was covered with snow. Feeling somewhat disappointed with my ball of brown and white fluff, I resolved she would have to be returned. Of course she never was, and in due course became my constant companion.

Near to where I live are boarding kennels, which at that time were owned by a lady by the name of June Chamberlain. She was extremely knowledgeable about dogs and immediately recognised my puppy as a Bearded Collie, telling me this was a very rare breed and there were few to be found. Miss Chamberlain advised me to get in touch with the Kennel Club with a view to getting my puppy registered, and after much prompting this was duly arranged (in those days, minority breeds could be assessed for registration).

The Kennel Club instructed me to contact a Mrs. Willison of Bothkennar Grange for an assessment, and this I did. However, due to illness, I was unable to travel on the arranged day and Jennifer was taken to Mrs. Willlison by Miss Chamberlain. Mrs. Willison was delighted with my bitch, confirmed she was indeed a Bearded Collie, of a good type and she would take forward her registration with the Kennel Club. Her name was to be 'Jennifer of Multan'. Mrs. Willison had already indicated to me that should my bitch prove to be a Bearded Collie, she would be extremely keen to mate her to one of the Bothkennar dogs. As Jennifer was in fact in season at the time of her assessment by Mrs. Willison, she remained at Bothkennar Grange and was eventually mated to Bruce of Bothkennar. Bruce was a very handsome dog and was the son of Bailie of Bothkennar, who Mrs. Willison managed to acquire on the beach at Brighton with the promise of a good home.

In due course, Jennifer produced five puppies (all brown and white) under the raised floor of an outbuilding - no whelping boxes or Vetbed in those days. Mrs. Willison asked me if she could have the only bitch puppy in the litter in lieu of a stud fee, as she was anxious to acquire an additional bitch to add to her line. I happily agreed and this bitch eventually became Ch Bronze Penny of Bothkennar; she was the mother of Ch Benjie of Bothkennar, the first brown dog Champion.

Ch. Bronze Penny of Bothkennar

Ch. Benjie of Bothkennar

A dog puppy from Jennifer's litter to Bruce (to be known as John Scrope of Swalehall) was sold to a Mr. Green of Herne Bay and later made quite a contribution to the development of the breed. He was father of the late Trudy Wheeler's Ch Cannamoor Brighde and Ch Cannamoor Bonnie, and grandfather to Jeni Cooke (now Jeni Wiggins) Obedience Ch Scapa and Joyce Collis and Felix Cosme's Ch Beagold Ella.

At one stage, Mrs. Willison was very keen that I should show Jennifer and encouraged me to enter a show run by the London Collie Club. This was a very different affair to today's shows, being quite a low key event. I knew absolutely nothing about dog shows and hoped that Mrs. Willison would help me with grooming and preparation etc. However, she had a number of her own dogs entered and was too busy preparing them, so I was somewhat left to my own devices. However, Jennifer managed to win a third prize and I felt very pleased with myself, but that was the end of my showing career.

At a later date I returned to Bothkennar Grange, as by this time Mrs. Willison had acquired a new slate and white dog known as Britt of Bothkennar. He too, I believe had come down from Scotland, from unregistered parentage. Britt had a rather sparse coat and was without much facial hair and didn't make such an impression as Bruce although I have to admit that he did throw a very nice litter of six puppies. One bitch from this litter went to Mary Partridge (a present from her parents for passing some exams) and this bitch was to be the foundation of the Wishanger line. Note: Jessica's picture is on the "Photos" page. A slate and white dog stayed locally in Burgess Hill and he looked remarkably like many of the show dogs seen today being quite heavily coated.

It actually only came to light at a much later stage that in fact our paths had crossed before, as Mrs. Willison had acquired her first Beardie, Jeanie of Bothkennar, from a Farmers Agent, although she had ordered I believe a Shetland Sheepdog, and this was how Mrs. Willison was introduced to the Bearded Collie.

From a very small gene pool, the dogs produced have been and still are, in my opinion, of a very high standard. Much hard work has been put into the development of the Bearded Collie by dedicated breeders over the years, none more so than Suzanne Moorhouse whose enthusiasm for the breed from the very beginning (and to the present day) must be unequalled

In 1976 we heard of a slate and white bitch puppy just a few miles away that was desperately looking for a new home, the owner having already decided she had had enough before the pup was 14 weeks old. The puppy was known as Nigella Jolyonne and was from John and Betty Meyrick's kennel in Kent - and she carried strong bloodlines to Bothkennar. So began our return to showing. Merry, as we called her was eventually mated to the illustrious Ch Pepperland Lyric John at Potterdale, and from this litter came Ch Multan Magikana.

The breed is now well catered for by the various clubs across the length and breadth of the country, and much hard work and time is put into their management by long suffering committee members who are charged with organising open shows, championship shows, seminars, social functions, etc. If you feel you would like to repay the breed for all the enjoyment you have gained from your Beardie, why not consider standing for a committee, where your help would be much appreciated.

A great deal of hard work has also been put in by those behind the scenes helpers who run the various rescue schemes across the country. Now that the breed has become so popular, there are inevitably cases of Beardies needing to be re-homed or helped in some way, through no fault of their own, and the rescue schemes are there to step in and offer help and practical advice whenever and wherever they are needed.

Without the steely determination and enormous dedication that Mrs. Willison had in those early days, the breed would never have achieved its present day popularity, and those of us who are totally besotted with these lovely dogs owe her a very great debt.

Newcomers to the breed who are interested in tracing their dog's breeding could do no better than borrow a Bearded Collie Year Book of about 1976 from which you can check on a host of Beardie bloodlines - it makes fascinating reading.




*keith and audrey




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