Steve Hall (Shenedene) talks to Helen Davenport
1. Steve, if it is not too rude a question, how old are you?
A. I am 55 years old.
2. Did you grow up in a doggie environment?
A. Unfortunately, no I didn't, but then I may have been directed into another breed, one will never know!
3. When did you own your first dog and what breed was it?
A. My wife and I purchased a German Shepherd male in l967, just after we were married, but he was not to show.
4. How and when did you first become involved with the world of Pedigree Dogs?
A. My wife had always wanted an OES, so we purchased a bitch in l973. In those days there were carnivals, fetes and festivals and it is at one of these that we first came into contact with dog shows. Albeit, it was just an exemption show within the grounds of Clitheroe Castle. A Dr Armstrong who, together with his wife, had Bobtails, suggested that our bitch was worth showing and put us in touch with the Secretary of Clitheroe and DCS, a Mr Derek Deardon. I remember he invited us to the club's Match Meeting which was held over the Co-op Funeral Parlour, Victoria Street, Blackburn! I was subsequently invited onto the Committee and served 27 years, eventually being Chairman, a position I have held for the past 15 years. I can honestly say that I had no idea that dog shows existed before then.
5. Who were your mentors and why?
A. My mentors. Ah, this is a difficult one, since many people help you along the way and there are many people you come to admire. In the breed, Ron and Rita Ashcroft of the famous Barnolby affix. They befriended me in the early days and Rita, in particular, had a tremendous knowledge of past pedigrees. She was one of the true breeders of her time.
Bobby James had the same type of photographic memory for dogs’ names and pedigrees. I always thought this was a gift. I did a lot to stewarding for many for the top all rounders of yesteryear and you can't help but pick up bits and bobs and tips about other breeds. That is the way I an others used to learn. Bobby James, Joe Cartledge and Jimmy James were particularly good at what they did and came across as very professional and knowledgeable.
These together with many others were, if asked, only too pleased, to explain why they placed a particular dog. I also think we have some excellent lady judges in this country, that I have watched and learnt from, in the past., Liz Cartledge and Feffie Somerfield are two that immediately spring to mind, with a wealth of knowledge applied with the utmost integrity. I do miss, the characters that dog shows, over the years produced in days gone by. I am afraid that these days, with political correctness, rules and regulations etc., we are restricted in the way we are allowed to develop into individual judges. The trademarks of judges like Pair "um" up Percy (Percy Whitaker), Harry Glover's yellow duster, George Leatt's "Plus fours", Phil Beeley's Snuff Box and many, many more, sadly, the like of which we will never see again.
6. What are the origins of your affix and what year was it registered?
A. I have no idea. It was made up by my wife and daughters and you never question a woman!
7. Did you research before purchasing your first puppy?
A. No, we had no idea that dog shows existed. But, to our costs, we know now!!
8. How did you establish your lines?
A. We did very limited breeding in the beginning as I had business to run and three daughters to bring up, but we did introduce a Bearded Collie to our kennels in l975.
9. Did show ring success come along quickly?
A. Yes, we were always pleased a what our dogs attained, but primarily, we went for a particular judges opinion, one that we valued.
10. When did you make up your first champion?
A. The first champion that was bred by us was a Bearded Collie, Ch Shenedene Rustic Miss. This was some time in the late seventies.
11. What year did you first judge/ which breed and where?
A. My first judging appointment was in l977 at Darwen Canine Society, four classes of OES. Coincidentally, the Secretary, at the time was Jack Bennett!. I had an entry of 48 dogs. Those were the days!
12. What were your hopes and ambitions then?
A. As I recall at the time, I had no hope nor ambitions, but I do remember feeling privileged that so many exhibitors had paid for my opinion and at the time, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to do my very best.
13. What year did you first award CCs?
A. In l984 at Scottish Kennel Club in Old English Sheepdogs.
14. How many breeds/Groups do you now award CCs in?
A. I award Challenge Certificates in some 32 breeds over three Groups. Since l991, I have been approved to judge both the Pastoral and Working Group at Ch shows.
15. What do you feel are the requirements of a Ch show judge?
A. Integrity and an understanding of breed type and to be able to see balance.
16. Has any particular dog impressed you over the years?
A. Many dogs have impressed over the years but one that sticks out in my mind is the Chow Chow, Ch Ukwong King Solomon, owned by Eric and Joan Egerton. To me this dog was one in a million.
17. Of your own dogs, which have been your particular favourite(s)?
A. I don't have favourites, but one particular dog, I did not breed but did own was Marley Mr Punch of Shenedene. A dog that I admired greatly was bred by Mrs Hilary Booth. A great dog from the past, Ch Sonny Boy of Marley, "Mr Punch" as he was affectionately known won 2CCs and countless reserve CCs.
18. As one of the UK's Top Allrounder judges, how often do you judge abroad?
A. It is very flattering of you to put me in the category, as I do not see myself this way. (Steve Hall is 18th in the top 20 UK judges list provided by the Kennel Club. Ed) However, I do judge abroad quite a lot and feel that if it were not for dogs, I would not have seen so much of the world as I have done. I feel very lucky for this.
19. Do you think we can learn from our fellow breeders abroad?
A. Yes, I do, especially the Scandinavians as they breed some wonderful dogs.
20. In the world of Pedigree Dogs, what has been your biggest thrill?
A. I don't know, I haven't had it yet. Being invited to judge the Groups at Crufts, was, I thought, pretty special, don't you think?
21. Equally, what has been your biggest disappointment?
A. Never go with big expectations, then, you will never get big disappointments.
22. How do you see the future development of dog shows?
A. This is, I feel, a leading question. But if pushed, I would say they need to be more attractive to visitors since we need to entice more new exhibitors to our sport. When I started, it was nice to go to a dog show, to get away from all those rules and regulations at work. No phones to bother you. But now, there are more rules and reg. and mobile phones going off than you had at work, so the pleasure is not quite the same. A little more tolerance from us all would make for a better environment to the newer people in our game.
23. You recently took over as Secretary of Blackpool Ch Show when Jack Bennett retired. What are the aims and ambitions of the Society?
A. I think the Society has been built on a good firm foundation and it is our responsibility to continue this and with this in mind we move forward and try to improve our own showground. In fact, this has begun already. We would like to think we could, in time, be one of the best dedicated showgrounds in the UK.
24. Have you any unfulfilled ambitions in dogs?
A. Contrary to perception, I do not, nor did I ever have, any ambitions as I take each event as it comes.
25. Away from the world of pedigree dogs, what other interested do you have?
A. I love gardening and nice gardens, particularly water gardens. I had a passion for painting, but sadly, I do not have the time to paint, these days.
26. Do you have any advice you would like to pass on?
A. Don't volunteer for anything!
27. Finally, Steve, how would you like to be remembered?
A. As a friend.
Thank you Steve for taking the time out from your very busy schedule, to give us an insight into a life in dogs.