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Youth has its day at charity working test!

Labrador Swinbrook Gorse retrieves from water at the ‘Save the Children Fund’ Gundog
Test final held earlier this month at the beautiful Chatsworth Estate, Derbyshire.

WHAT CAN one say? Incredible, amazing brilliant? When have you ever seen a Spaniel working test with an eight-year-old boy competing? What’s more, getting in the last six?
And there’s more - getting in the last two for a run-off. That’s exactly what Harrison Lee-Everton accomplished in the final of the Save The Children Fund Working Tests for Spaniels and Retrievers held at Chatsworth Park, Derbyshire by kind permission of Their Graces, The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

There were 14 Spaniels running including two qualified by Harrison’s father Jonathan Lee-Everton, the very strong field included four members of the English Team for the CLA Game Fair at the end of this month.

Watching the dogs hunting in pairs through thick bracken and long grass it was clear that the standard was high, in particular two spaniels whose hunting was exceptionally good, keeping close and not missing any ground as they industrially worked the cover, they were Jack Iliffe’s International Field Travel Champion Laganmill Maestro who won the Final in 2000, (foot and mouth having put paid to the event last year), now nine years of age but still superb at his job and young Harrison Lee-Everton with his bitch Helsby Heidi of Marstonmill.

Photo by Gaynor Bailey
Save the Children Tests Final. l to r - 4th Jennifer Hay, 1st Annette Clarke,
2nd Peter Burton, 3rd - Alfred Gorman

After retrieving three dummies, two thrown in front in full view of the dogs and one hidden behind the line to be retrieved first, it was clear that Heidi knew all about dummies and made her work look easy, marking the thrown dummies perfectly and obeying Harrison’s whistle and hand signals to pick the blind, showing most of the other dogs how it should be done as some struggled to find in the poor scent.

After a thorough workout the two judges, John McKay and Malcolm Taylor, both very experienced handlers themselves, decided that they would run all the dogs again, lining out and hunting for the judge who hadn’t seen them before, with a straight forward marked retrieve in front, to test each dog’s marking ability, again Heidi went quickly to her retrieve and brought it back to harrison with a perfect delivery.

Photo by Gaynor Bailey
Save the Children Tests Final. Organiser and all his helpers
who gave up a day for the charity.

After an excellent lunch provided by steve and Ann Crookes, with his mother making a host of the goodies, the Judges decided to take six spaniels through to a Run Off. Eric Elwick’s Breckswood Lark, Jonathan Lee-Everton’s Linakers Legend of Marstonmill, Jack Iliffe’s Int FT Ch Laganmill Maestro and Laganmill Comet, Mark Whitehouse’s Cheweky Wolf and Harrison Lee-Everton’s Helsby Heidi of Marstonmill.

Beaters were advancing on the line up of the six dogs, shouting, banging sticks and throwing dummies in front, with blacks being fired to simulate a real drive. All the dogs behaved well and were then asked to retrieve a dummy placed previously behind the line, which all accomplished nicely. They were then moved to a lake, each being given one retrieve out of the water.


Again the judges had a discussion, deciding to take two dogs through to a final run-off, Laganmill Maestro and Helsby Heidi of Marstonmill, only hunting cover to establish a winner.

At the end of the day it was the more experienced Jack Iliffe with Maestro who was declared the Winner, being nine years old to be retired after this with a long list of wins to his credit. Second was the eight year old Harrison Lee-Everton with Helsby Heidi of Mastonmill, 3rd Jack Iliffe’s Laganmill Comet, a grandson of the winner; 4th Mark Whitehouse’s Cheweky Wolf.

Meanwhile the 28 Retrievers who had qualified for the final were completing their Tests with judges John and Sandra Halstead, John Lees and Phil Wagland, each judging a separate test, the handlers moving on as they completed one. Twenty three Labradors, 3 golden retrievers, 1 flatcoated retriever and 1 Chesapeake Bay Retriever, were set some difficult retrievers throughout the day on awkward ground, deep gullies, thick brambles, lakes surrounded by rhododendron’s, walls, high bracken and trees which made it difficult to handle dogs on to a dummy placed beforehand, so unseen by the dogs.

There were a good number of handlers whose dogs struggled to retrieve the dummy over the wall, although not high the dogs seemed to be nervous of perhaps a big drop on the far side, which actually did not exist and there were several failures but otherwise the standard was high, it was a pleasure to watch how dogs worked problems out for themselves, using what little wind there was to smell the retrieve.

Save the Children Tests Final. The Drive “Carnagh Colleen” retrieving to Keith Harvey watched by George Oliver

Save the Children Tests Final. Andy Kinta with Chesapeake Bay Retriever “Lateshift Demerara”

Except for two withdrawals, who felt they had not done very well in the morning, 26 retrievers were taken forward in the afternoon. Sandra Halstead and Phil Wagland took six dogs into line at a time to sit quietly at a drive and afterwards take it in turn to complete two retrieves, a long blind to the left and a short one to the right. It was certainly impressive seeing the speed and accuracy that dogs were going 150 yards, picking the dummy as if they knew where it was and returning as fast as their legs could carry them.

John Halstead and John Lees took batches of four dogs for a walk up through bracken and long grass, each asked to pick a blind behind the far end of the line, followed by a long mark in front. Annette Clarke’s Labrador dog Pointraire Cromwell made everything look so easy, which is, of course, the mark of a brilliant retriever, Jennifer Hay’s Golden Retriever dog Lochton Leet of Holywear, showed style and speed, flowing and looking beautiful as he galloped out, Dr Gareth Davies’ Ropehall Star seemed to be doing well as did Peter Burton’s
F.T. Ch Saxaphone Express.


Eventually it was all over and everyone returned to base to be given a cup of tea and some cake and have the winners announced. 1st Annette Clarke with Pointraire Cromwell, 2nd Peter Burton’s FT Ch Saxaphone Express, 3rd Alfred Gorman’s Clicke Minn Jill, 4th Jennifer Hay’s Lochton Leet of Holywear.

The prizes were kindly presented by Their Graces Gamekeeper David Gay, with sponsors for all the Heats and the Final being Masters Dog Food and Barbour.

Mention must be made of Steve Crookes, who each year puts such a lot of time and effort into running such a successful event, this time making approximately £4,700 for Save the Children Fund.

Photo by Gaynor Bailey
Save the Children Tests Final. David Gay patting Harrison Lee - Everton on the
back for getting 2nd watched by organisers Paul Raper & Steve Crookes.