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Obituary - M J R (Mike) Stockman MRCVS

To the UK dog scene Mike Stockman was a familiar face who, during his long association with the Kennel Club had held many of its most senior positions; in later years as a Trustee. He was also well known for his TV work as the resident expert during Crufts where he worked alongside BBC presenters such as Peter Purves, Angela Rippon and Jessica Holm.

While it is true that he knew dogs inside out it was a meeting with Mrs Irene Tucker of the Vorden Kennel in 1941 that led to him adopting the Keeshond as his favourite breed. This introduction proved to be a life-changing episode for him because it was Mrs Tucker that persuaded him to go to veterinary college; thus assuring his future. He had chosen well because, in 1957, the Vorden Kennel produced the only Keeshond ever to win BIS at Crufts – Ch Volkrjk of Vorden: Mike never looked back after that. With his late wife Val, the famous ‘Valsgate’ line was soon making its impact in the ring and shaping other kennels looking to improve their stock. It was this requirement that led me to first approach him in 1980 for ‘pick of bitches’ from an impending litter from the union of Ch Valsgate Bonne Chance and Ch Ledwell Solomon. It was an audacious request from a precocious new breeder that I felt sure would be rejected. It wasn’t, and Valsgate Silver Buckle came to Neradmik and heralded the beginning of a new breeding partnership that endured and placed me on the road to success. Mike and Val bred and campaigned many fine dogs but the undoubted ‘King’ of them all was Ch Valsgate Squires Boy; Mike would never forget ‘Jack’ and would continue to compare him to later dogs; rarely accepting any equals.

Mike and Val met at veterinary college eventually building their practice together in North London where he rapidly developed his special interest in the welfare and exhibition of dogs; talents that were soon noticed by the Kennel Club where, even following retirement from veterinary work, he remained a working member for many years. It is to his credit that, as Chairman of the Crufts Committee, he presided over the challenging and arduous move from Earl’s Court to the NEC for the centenary show in 1991. Later, he became a champion for dog owners by assisting many in their defence of the unpleasant 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. One of his legacies was the encouragement he gave to his daughter Caroline who is now the Secretary of the Kennel Club and keeping alive the Stockman tradition.

Mike had a ‘fun side’ too and took part in many activities to raise funds for charity. One of the most publicised was the ‘Charity Sail’ of two boats (one for us ladies and the other for the chaps) up the river from Henley-in-Arden to Upton-on-Severn. The two-week journey was not without incident especially during the evenings at the riverside pubs! but both Mike, and his team from Pedigree Masterfoods, managed to avoid most of the other barges without losing anyone overboard. The target was reached in time for WELKS where they were welcomed ashore as if they had just circumnavigated the globe.

Despite being a ‘National Dog Treasure’ Mike remained one of us in the Keeshond Club; our own ‘VIP’ that we had to share with the whole of the dog world. We considered it our good fortune to benefit from his wisdom and clarity of thought, particularly during our AGMs where he regularly corrected us on points of order and the ‘minefield’ of Kennel Club rules and procedures; AGMs will never be the same again without his presence. During our 75th anniversary celebrations in 2000 he worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it a success. Few knew just how generous he was during the fund raising and just what his true contribution was over that period. Mike held the position of club Chairman twice – he only resigned the first time to take over as the President of the BVA – and also served as an ordinary member until 2001 when he became a life member. In BUBA, Mike had recently become its President after being Chairman for some time.

On a personal note, Mike was the one person to whom I could turn when things got tough. By guiding me through my troubles and helping me to keep both feet firmly on the ground he became my mentor and made me what I am today. Although we argued constantly, (often left by Val and Ernie to get on with it) it seemed only to strengthen our friendship and understanding. Mike was like a father to me and I loved him dearly. The Keeshond Club have lost a dedicated member and Ernie and I have lost a dear dear friend

Mike J R Stockman can be justly proud of all that he did for dogs in his lifetime and the loyal service given to the many organisations of which he was part. My sympathies go to Andrew, Caroline and Duncan at their loss.

God Bless and rest in peace.

Jean Sharp-Bale
Chairman of The Keeshond Club

We were really very sorry to hear of Mike Stockman’s death. He was deeply committed to the cause of dogs, dog showing, dog people and the Kennel Club. His family including his late wife Val were, and in the case of his daughter Caroline Kisko (Secretary of the Kennel Club) still is, an important part of our canine world. Mike and Val were both practising vets and both, in their time, active dog breeders, judges and exhibitors.

Mike Stockman played a respected role in the veterinary profession rising up the professional ‘political’ ladder (in the best sense of the word ‘political’) and did likewise in our world of dogs. That is a rare double achievement and everyone would agree that it was a team effort between him and Val. But it is so important to the canine fraternity to have links of this kind with the veterinary profession.

Mike Stockman was a great veterinary anchor man for the Kennel Club and I saw him work closely with my two predecessor Chairmen. I had my first differences with him long before my own KC involvement, when he was Chairman of the KC Committee revising breed standards and I was Chairman of the Border Terrier Club! He was no pushover when it came to debate and while he could be very forthright at times, in the end of a debate he bore no grudges and was always loyal to the decision reached. He was also in the tradition of General Committee Members who knew how to have a good time. In those days the Meetings almost invariably went into the afternoon and sometimes the occasional glass or two of port somehow accompanied Mike back into the boardroom, one of which ended up at the Chairman’s desk. We are much more serious and boring nowadays!

We at the Kennel Club shall sorely miss Mike Stockman – the vet, the ‘politician’, the judge, the Crufts Chairman, the family man, the breed enthusiast – the list goes on. I know that everyone at the Kennel Club will want to join me in sending our sincere sympathies to his daughter Caroline and her two brothers at this sad time for them.

Ronnie Irving
Chairman of the Kennel Club

Mike’s memorial service to be held on Thursday September 6th at
St Peter’s Church, Grandborough, Northants at 1.30pm.