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W A (Sandy) Mackenzie

Sandy Mackenzie, who died peacefully at home on 23 June aged 83, could never remember a time when dogs were not part of his life. Born in the North of Scotland in 1921 and growing up at Balmoral, where his father was the last "His Majesty’s Commissioner" to King George V, he was ideally placed to become a traditional and passionate countryman, a fine shot and fisherman.

For more years than he cared to remember, Sandy had been at the beck and call of gundogs, hounds and terriers. At an early age his strict, but wise, father instilled into him the important codes of conduct for field sports. It was drummed into him that the first propriety was safety, particularly when handling a gun. Running a close second was consideration for your dog and, of equal importance, consideration for other people and their dogs. He remembered, as a boy, arriving in from shooting at dusk one freezing January afternoon, soaked through and bitterly cold. As he made his way to the kitchen to thaw out, his father’s boot on his backside propelled him out again, with the words "Dry and feed your dog first" ringing in his ears.

At Eton, Sandy was an exceptional games player, going on to play rugby for The London Scottish. He enlisted with the Seaforth Highlanders, the family regiment, but served for most of the war with the newly formed Special Air Service. He fought with the Partisans behind the lines in Italy and was awarded The Military Medal for bravery. As a successful businessman, he founded an international molasses company and later became a consultant to British Sugar. He was chairman of Devas Boys’ Club and then became chairman of the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs.

In his private life, Sandy became a leading figure in the world of greyhound coursing and racing. He served as a steward of the National Greyhound Racing Club and also became a member of the Kennel Club. He and Anne, whom he married in 1947, founded The Coursing Supporters’ Club, which spearheaded the fight to preserve the sport of coursing under rules.

It was in 1979 that they first saw a Basset Griffon Vendéen (as they were called in those days) at a local agricultural show. They were so attracted to the breed that, in 1982, Sandy joined Anne on the committee of the BGV Club that had only been in existence for four years. Their first PBGV was Twinrivers Duchesse from Ruth Brucker. In 1986 at the Houndshow Musette, as they called her, became the second bitch champion in the breed. A desire to widen the limited gene pool here in the UK at that time led to the Mackenzies and Ruth going to Belgium in 1982, where they acquired Gourou from R Noel. I have a soft spot for both these dogs as a mating between them gave Bernie and me our first introduction to the breed, along with a Jomil bitch that we collected from Clipperdown. As early breeders, Anne and Sandy also welcomed others to BGVs, many of whom are still active and influential club members.

In terms of breed history, an earlier mating between another import, Pacha des Barbus d’Entre Lac, and Twinrivers Duchesse, produced Angelique, who went to Canada. In 1983, a Jomil Pascal – Wakelyns Angelique mating gave Alexander who sparked immense interest in the breed in the States and, a year later, the PBGV Club of America was formed. In 1984, a repeat Gourou-Duchesse mating gave the PBGVCA its first Champion, Wakelyns Noblesse.

When Joan Wells-Meacham became President of the BGV Club in 1985, Sandy stepped into her shoes as Chairman, where he stayed until 2000, after which he became Vice-President.

Over the years, he and Anne bred countless champions and the support that gave to the club both in terms of time and help has been immeasurable. In more recent years, they introduced French lines into their breeding and GBGVs have joined the household.

Sandy judged at championship level and, in 1999, he and Anne were honoured to be invited to judge at the PBGV Club of America Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is a measure of their influence on the breed in the States that, at this year’s Nationals in Chicago, the 17 year old Lacebarks Serendpity Luka, born in 1987 from Ch Wakelyns Javelot ex Ch Wakelyns Noblesse, toddled proudly round the ring to much applause. This and a comment from a PBGV owner in the States who said "He was a gracious gentleman" are fitting tributes to Sandy, who is survived by his wife Anne, his two children and six grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them.

Linda Skerritt