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George Lancaster

I am sure friends and acquaintances in the dog world in this country and abroad will be saddened by the passing of George Lancaster, last week at the grand age of 86 years.

A large portion of George’s life, was one of dedication to Mavis his wife in the first instance and secondly in particular to his two favourite breeds, but with an abiding passion in all aspects of gundogs, whether they be for show or working. He was a popular Gundog Group judge at Championship Shows. He would rise from being an ordinary exhibitor in the mid forties, to active committee member for many clubs. He was the consummate Chairman, guiding those clubs, through the golden years of their existence and finally in his latter years his contribution would be recognised by so many clubs.

George owned his first show dog, which incidentally happened to be a Golden Retriever, just after the Second World War, which cost him the equivalent of three weeks wages. Only on the death of his beloved Golden did he decide that his next purchase should be a Flatcoated Retriever and thus started a relationship with the breed, which would see him achieve high status as Chairman of the Flatcoat Retriever Society and President of the Northern England Flatcoat Retriever Association and a Championship show judge on many occasions at the most prestigious shows.

In the sixties he married Mavis and between them they would forge a special relationship with the Sussex Spaniel that would occupy most of Georges waking hours for the next thirty-six years. He became the Treasurer of the Sussex Spaniel Association in 1968 and often would tell of the1 guinea, that they had in its accounts when he took over, in just a few years this had risen to several thousands of pounds.

In 1982 at the fiftieth AGM he was voted to the Chair taking over from Miss Daphne Dodson. George’s style of Chairmanship differed considerably from Daphne, but this was a position he would hold until 2002, when ill health forced him to take life at a more leisurely pace. He was unanimously elected President of Honour, by the SSA, having already been made a life member some years earlier.

During this time the Association, under his stewardship would see the breed at its zenith in the show ring and the Association would achieve so much for its members, an active working section, newsletters and yearbooks, Championship show status and fun weekends were the order of the day.

George’s dedication was infectious and so many people did things for the Association without being committee members and without any gain for themselves.

His knowledge of dog-related matters was second to none and he always had a perfect grasp of new pronouncements from the KC. Although he wasn’t the biggest fan of the ‘establishment’, he could be outspoken. I felt he was one person who should have been a member of the KC, for his contribution to dogs, but he was not the kind of person to ingratiate himself on anyone for his own gain.

He had worked as a Gamekeeper for ten years after he retired from real work and he used to regale us all with his tales and experiences in that field.

He was scrupulously honest and a man of high principles. Everything was in black and white; there were no grey areas. He didn’t stand anyone messing the Association about. He could be quite forthright with people, but a few days later he would speak to the same person, as if nothing had happened, he never as far as I know bore any one any grudge nor did he behave in an underhand way towards anyone. What you saw was what you got.

For the SSA George was a strong character at the right time and unlike the periodic strife in our sister clubs, we enjoyed peace and relative tranquillity.

He would often refer to us all as a ‘family.’ The spirit of which I believe he cherished.
Our AGM’s were always well supported because they were such light hearted affairs, at committee meetings the only time George had to call a halt in proceedings where when there was too much laughter and merriment. I believe these times were our Golden years.

He was much sort after as a judge at home and abroad and judged at Crufts on several occasions. Certainly in Sussex Spaniels, when you were awarded the CC from George, you know you deserved it.

One of his Sussex, Sh Ch Oakmoss Ruff sired many big winners, including the Group winner at Crufts. He had a special affinity with all his dogs, particularly with his Jack Russell Terrier ‘Rats’.

He was a leading light in the United Spaniel Association and was a past Chairman of the European Spaniel Council, together with Mavis they powered their way through all the red tape to organise the first European Spaniel Congress held in this country. At Malvern, Civic dinners with the Mayor, visits to Championship shows and the actual congress, with everything organised to perfection, it had the lot.

He made a valuable contribution to the National Gundog Association as the Vice Chairman for years and sometime Show Manager, his contribution was recognised and he was placed on the ‘roll of honour.’ Along with many luminaries in the Gundog World.

He was a member of Stoke on Trent Gundog Club, for thirty to forty years has its Chairman and latterly becoming President. He was Patron of the North Western Counties Spaniel.
There is a palpable air of sadness in and around the membership of the SSA, many of us loved him and will miss him greatly, he regularly gave talks on the breed, his sphere of influence and its development during this period is undeniable, which rightly earned George our respect and to my mind he was the ‘Modern Father of the Sussex Spaniel’,

George’s funeral will take place at Crewe Crematorium, Market Close, off Middlewich Road, Crewe, Cheshire, on Friday 10th September 2004 at 2pm.

Flowers from the family only please. Donations to the Flatcoat Rescue and Sussex Spaniel Rescue, cheques should be sent to Mrs S Goodwin, Mill House Farm Mill Lane, Wheelock, Cheshire CW11 4SQ Tel 01270 768388.

Chris Bexon