WE AT Our Dogs were saddened to learn of the recent passing of two of our most valued breed correspondents, Olwen Gwynne-Jones and Barbara Butler. Their columns were essential reading for enthusiasts of Shetland Sheepdogs and Rottweilers, and we extend our condolences to the families and friends of Olwen and Barbara at this time.
Olwen pictured at last year’s Bournemouth Show
Having written in the breed notes about Olwen’s exciting day at Richmond where she won the DCC at the grand age of 91, it was a shock to learn that she had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage the following week. The prognosis was not good as she was in a deep coma and not expected to recover, so the news of her death on Tuesday 26th September did not come as a complete shock, but was a very sad day for our breed and the many people who had known Olwen for a very long time. She had no close family, so I think she thought of her many friends in Shelties as part of her family.
Olwen owned her first Sheltie in 1936, registering the affix "Callart" the following year. When in her late teens, Olwen together with her Mother decided, after looking through various magazines and books, to buy a Sheltie. Her first ever was a tri dog puppy, but the owner of the sire did not particularly want her to show it, so she was advised to buy a bitch. At that time she was studying at London University with a view to becoming a teacher, but her interest in breeding and showing took over and rather curtailed her teaching career.
Then came the war which put most breeders’ activities on hold, but in the late 40s she bred Heatherbelle of Callart, the dam of her first homebred champion, Orpheus of Callart who was born in 1948 and gained his title in 1950. Her success as a breeder and exhibitor really took off in the 50s and early 60s when she bred several champions and CC winners.
The Observers Book of Dogs chose to illustrate the Shetland Sheepdog with a photograph of Int. Ch. Starlight of Callart (who was exported to Australia). We bought this little book when we were searching for our first dog and this picture did it for us! So in 1962 after purchasing our Sheltie, we bought two of Olwen’s books to read as much about the Breed as possible. Then in the autumn of that year, we made an appointment to visit Greenacre to see the famous Callarts. What an experience that was! Olwen didn’t know us at all, but made us so welcome, gave us tea and introduced us to her dogs – they too gave us a great welcome, all so beautiful including two sable champions of that time Ch. Miel of C. and his son Ch.Honey Boy of C.
Olwen was a devout Catholic and in 1964 took the decision to retire from the dog scene and enter a Holy Order. She relinquished her affix to her friend Pat Barker, who carried on the breeding lines and made up Ch. Star Princess of Callart.
However, after a period of ten years, Olwen found that she could no longer continue the life she had chosen, so decided to return to her life with dogs. Luckily she was able to have her affix back and although by this time none of the original Callarts were left, she was able to begin again with the help of some kennels who carried Callart bloodlines in their breeding.
Marion Marriage, who founded her famous Scylla Kennel on Swan Princess of Callart in 1958, recalls one of the "exciting highlights" of Olwen’s life (Olwen’s own words). She was on a visit to Cyprus to meet up with her brother who was at that time working as a Missionary in Africa. Unfortunately she was there at the time of the Turkish uprising in 1983 when holidaymakers and UK citizens were advised to leave the Island. All the guests in the hotel where they were staying were put into the cellar to protect them from the bombardment. They were only allowed to take one bag and told their luggage would be returned to them in due course. Olwen just took her handbag, so when they were rescued by the Royal Navy, she had to board ship with not even a change of clothes or any toiletries for the journey home to England. However, she said she was treated like royalty by the Naval Officers and really enjoyed the voyage home - but never saw her luggage again!
Olwen’s knowledge of the Breed and its history is well documented within the six books she has written. One of the most well known is the The Popular Guide to Puppy Rearing, a bible amongst most Sheltie breeders and a great many people in other breeds. Away from dogs she had her life with the Church and became a counsellor for the Samaritans, she was a compassionate person, always ready to listen and chat if we telephoned, and if she was busy would always call back.
She made up many champions in the breed, served on the Committee of the English Shetland Sheepdog Club for many, many years both before her break and since, and was the Club’s President at the time of her death, also a member of the Kennel Club since 1979 (previously the Ladies Branch in’74) She judged her first championship show in 1949, judged the Breed at Crufts in 1959, then again in 1998 when she judged the dog entry. She has judged all over the World including the U.S.A. She began writing the Breed notes for Our Dogs in 1940, and apart from the time she was out of the Breed was writing them up until her death. Everyone knew her as just "Olwen" - no need for the surname - she was so well known throughout the world of Shelties. Those who were at Richmond this year were able to share in her absolute delight at winning the CC with Boysie of whom she was so proud – it was such a happy day for her and that is how we will remember her.
The Funeral Service and Requiem Mass for will take place at 2 pm on Thursday 5th October, 2006 at Saint Josephs Roman Catholic Church Stanley Walk, Bracknell, Berkshire. Dnations to Cancer Research can be made through A.B Walker 157, Binfield Road, Bracknell RG42 2BB,
Barbara and Ch Upend Theodoric with a little friend
The first time I had contact with Barbara Butler was when I read a piece in the dog papers asking for people who were interested in starting a Midlands based Rottweiler club. I rang the number and was invited by Barbara to the village hall in Sambrook the following weekend.
I expected quite a few people to attend but when I got there just a handful of people had assembled on the little green in front of the village hall adjacent to the pretty church which in turn is surrounded by a wall built of large grey Shropshire stone covered in green and yellow lichen which had built up over many years.
As in many churchyards there are yew trees scattered around and the dogs accepted their shade gratefully in the summer season.
Little did I know that over the next 10 years I would make many trips to Sambook village hall which was ‘conveniently’ situated just two minutes from Barbara’s house Pickstock Manor.
This was the first meeting of the Midland Branch of the Rottweiler Club. Barbara was on the committee of the main Rottweiler club and she was the main force in the formation of the fledgling Midland club and served as chairman for many years.
Barbara’s right hand person was the late Betty Hobley who always seemed to wear a stern expression: an aftermath of years spent as a schoolteacher. Her manner could sometimes seem brusque and I can remember quite a few people who complained that Betty treated them like school children! Barbara however was always on hand to calm the waters and act the diplomat.
Betty was a very hard worker and took up the job of secretary in which she excelled; over the years people got used to Betty’s manner and she won the respect of the whole membership.
After a few years when the club was up and running Barbara asked me if I would like to show some of her dogs. I was winning well with my own dogs but not the top honours and so I was surprised she asked me.
I showed one or two of her dogs but the one most associated with me was Ch Upend Gallant Gairbert (Churchill) who I made up for her. He was very much the same type as the dog I was already showing, Ch Jagen Mister Blue. (Blue) I would often win Limit with Blue and Open with Churchill.
It got to the stage where there was a conflict of interest and I decided to show my own dogs from there on in.
I was very grateful for the experience handling Barbara’s dogs had given me. Barbara gave several other up and coming talents a chance to show her dogs and among them were Liz Dunhill, Kate Pinches and Dave Killilea, all of whom went on to do well with their own dogs in time.
Barbara’s background was in the country and she was a real dog woman. She had made up champions in five different breeds: Dobermanns, Deerhounds, Bull Terriers, Rottweiler and, I think, Dalmatians. She had won a BIS all breeds with one of her Bull Terriers and many other top awards in her other breeds. She also had one or two Boston Terriers around the house.
Her grandfather was the first person to import Friesian cows into this country and her late husband Ken who was a school teacher at a private school enjoyed breeding pedigree pigs in his spare time; Welsh Whites if memory serves. Her son John who survives her was an MP for the duration of the last Conservative government.
One can only wonder why someone with this kind of experience was never a top show judge. She had a very good eye and was a dog woman through and through.
I recall one day I popped in for tea and found two fox cubs in her kitchen. The vixen had been killed by the local hunt and she was rearing the cubs to the stage where they could be released back into the wild. We were not allowed to get too near them so as not to socialise them with humans.
Barbara was always there for any advice and some of it was surprising but none the less effective!
I remember her feeding advice for puppies that were poor eaters; ‘I just throw a whole dead sheep in with them’, she told me. ‘Don’t bother to skin it; the pups will strip it off to get to the meat.’
Most people don’t have access to whole dead sheep and I must admit I never tried this remedy, but just one look at the health and condition of her dogs spoke volumes. They were always big and strong with plenty of bone. Barbara always paid attention to the working aspect of the breeds she owned.
The Deerhounds were worked and Barbara travelled miles to coursing meets up and down the country. The Rottweilers including her champions undertook working tests and Barbara won many awards in trials including CD.ex & UD.ex
She was also very keen on character assessments and a Club Character Assessment was introduced and found favour with the membership.
Barbara had a Margaret Thatcher type of attitude and was a strong leader, full of enthusiasm, vitality and as enduring as the old stonewall around Sambrook hall. On the other hand she would never turn anyone away who needed help or advice. She told me once: If you see someone making a mess of things don’t go for them. Offer advice and support, it will be more effective in the long run.
She could always delegate responsibility and spotted potential in the people around her. She was a great character of a type that we will see no more in this politically correct and sanitised society. Her passing is a sad loss to the whole world of dogs.