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Obituary - Mrs Brenda Phillips (Exclyst)

Brenda Phillips
Mrs Brenda Phillips with her best gundog
at Bath show in 2005, which went on to reserve BIS

It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Mrs Brenda Phillips (Exclyst Flatcoated Retrievers) on Sunday 14th October.

Brenda’s involvement with Flatcoats began in 1966 when she purchased Collyer’s Albertine from the late Hon Amelia Jessel. However, it was with the bitch Wood Lass that her famous Exclyst line evolved. Wood Lass was co-owned with Ed Atkins (Wyndhaniam) and had two litters. From the first litter she retained Wyndhamian Christopher of Exclyst and Wyndhamian Claudette of Exclyst who was in turn mated to Halstock Lone Ranger which produced Brenda’s first Champion Ch Exclyst Bernard.

In the 1970s Brenda bought in Elizabeth of Exclyst and Midnight Star of Exclyst – both of whom she made up to their full titles. Elizabeth was the dam of Ch Exclyst Imperial Mint who in turn produced Exclyst Sequin – the most influential of Brenda’s brood bitches.

Sequin was mated to Ch/Ir Ch Shargleam Blackcap – a union which produced three champions – Viking and Victoria retained by Brenda, and Am Ch Exclyst Black Vixen. From her second litter Sequin produced Ch Exclyst Watchman and Exclyst Wild Silk of Collarm (a field trial winner).
Victoria was the dam of Exclyst Crackshot who in turn sired Brenda’s last home bred Champion Exclyst Evangeline. Watchman produced many Champions over a long period of time including three in one litter.

In 2003 Brenda imported Lhaxy’s Yatzy of Exclyst from Norway as she felt his blood lines could be used to advantage in the UK. He gained his title in 2005 and has a Champion daughter and CC winning son.

Brenda awarded CCs in all the retriever breeds and English Springer Spaniels. In 2005 she judged her first group at Bath Ch Show. Only a few weeks ago she heard that she had been passed to award CCs in Cocker Spaniels next year – something she was very proud of and greatly looking forward to. She judged Flatcoats all over the world including the American Speciality, and endless breed club shows throughout Europe and Scandinavia.

As a judge she demanded very high standards and was often outspoken in her critiques. This was because she cared very deeply about the future of the breed and wanted to get her point across. She expected the same standards of others and if one didn’t live up to them she expressed herself in no uncertain terms! In short, she did not suffer fools gladly. That having been said she was a very kind person – and if you wanted to learn and took learning seriously she would give you all the time in the world to teach you. Her mentor was the late Patience Lock (Halstock) whom she often quoted in the many many conversations we had over the years.
She was a founder member of South Western Gundog Society – and took them to qualifying status in Field Trials. She served twice on the Committee of the Flatcoated Retriever Society and was a member of the Kennel Club.

She worked tirelessly for the health and welfare of Flatcoated Retrievers. She set up the Flatcoated Retriever Health Committee in the 1990s and put many hours of work into research and also counselling those owners who had lost their Flatcoats.

In 1996 she produced a book "Flatcoated Retrievers". This was sold worldwide and is a must for all Flatcoat owners. She also produced the Flatcoated Retriever Directory, volumes 1 and 2 with Sue Kearton (Ravenhall).

In July 2006 she was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. Never one to give up on anything she resolved to fight it to the bitter end – and so she did with great courage and stoicism. She never complained about the card she had been dealt – she just got on with things and continued showing Yatzy until a couple of months before her death.

In August 2007, despite suffering from food poisoning a few weeks beforehand, she judged Flatcoats at Bournemouth for the last time. As was her way, we were judged with the same professionalism and dedication to duty that was her hallmark. Nobody watching could have realised just in how much pain she was.

She had an encyclopaedic memory for pedigrees and the history of the breed. On the occasions I spent at her house with her, many hours would be spent pouring over pedigrees and old scrap books – so many stories, so many memories. Yes, she was a contrary person, yes, she could be very outspoken, but as an ambassador for Flatcoated Retrievers she ranked with the best.
Away from dogs she was a lover of art and classical music. A true country woman, with in depth knowledge of her surroundings.

To her husband Chris and daughter Liz we extend our sympathies. The Flatcoat world is poorer for her passing but richer for having had her in its presence. From a personal point of view as one of my mentors and closest friends I owe her a debt of gratitude and will admire her courage and wisdom forever.

Brenda’s funeral is on Monday 22 Oct - Exeter Crematorium, EX2 6EU afterwards at Poltimore Village Hall. Family flowers only. Donations if desired to Hospice Care, Dryden Road, Exeter, EX2 5JJ. Could anyone intending to go to the funeral please let me know so that I can give the family ideas of numbers. My e-mail address is:

Becky Johnson