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Obituary - Miss Sybil Lennox (Brackenfield)
1920 – 2008


The Irish Setter world has lost a true lady and one of its greatest characters with the passing of Sybil Lennox.

On the 21st March 1920 Sybil was born into a world far different from the one she has now left. When she was born her father was with the Army of Occupation in Germany and her early years, and those of her brother, Stephen, were spent with her mother and grandmother from whom she got her love of animals.

She was educated at The Matlock Modern School which was a private boarding school for girls and which also took boys up to the age of 10. As she was within walking distance Sybil was a day girl but one of the weekly boarders at the school was Rachel Lamb who later became Rae Furness. This was an age when girls were not expected to have careers and so no exams were taken; her education being more of a social one where dances, good manners and etiquette were of high importance. As it turned out, the Second World War was to be her future.

With her father away at Air Force Training Camp and Stephen already in the army, Sybil and her mother were left at home to get on with things. Neither of them could drive but as the car had been left in the garage Sybil set about teaching herself to drive. No lessons or indeed driving tests were required in those days. She had never had a job until she volunteered for the Civil Defence and did her bit for the war effort. This time also found her working on a local farm which before the war had been run by 16 men. Now it was run by Sybil, two land army girls and an old man with failing eye sight. Here Sybil gained her experience with cattle and so applied for a job with the Milk Board. She was the first woman employee and at her interview one of the panellists was heard to say ‘Give her the job but she’ll not last.’ In true Sybil style she was still there 40 years later!

Dogs have always been part of her life and it was whilst at school that she got her first Irish Setter. Shandy, K.C. registered name Shandy Gaff, was bought for one guinea from the family of one of her school friends. Sybil, wearing her school uniform, showed her at The Matlock Agricultural show where Rae Lamb (Furness) was also showing. Rae told her ‘You’ll never win with that, it’s not good enough. I’ll find you one.’ But with Shandy still around this had to wait.

Shandy was a big, strapping girl and the naughtiest Irish Setter. Indeed, when she died Stephen wrote from abroad that he would buy her a puppy from anywhere and of any breed so long as it wasn’t an Irish Setter. But the love affair had already begun and so in 1946 into Sybil’s life came Raycroft Meg, pet name Bracken.

Sybil’s kennel name was her third choice; the first being Farley and the second Darley both being the names of local villages. Brackenfield came from her beloved ‘Bracken’ and ‘field’ as well as being the name of a local village. It was registered in 1946.

The success of the Brackenfields and her friendship with Eileen Walker who left to her the Hartsbourne affix is well documented elsewhere. But amongst those whose kennels are founded on her stock are the Cornevons through B. Iris, the Fearnleys through B. Sweep and B. Flax, the Musburys and in turn the Towacres through B. Holly, the Kylenoes through B. Tertius, the Autumnglows through B. Bette and the Tatterslees through B. Tatters.

Treetops in Matlock has been the family home since 1955 and for over 20 years has been the venue for the annual walk in aid of Irish Setter Rescue. This along with JAWS is something that has been dear to her heart for many, many years and she was a tireless worker for those Irish Setters less fortunate than others.

Chairman of Irish Setter Rescue, she also served on the committees of The Irish Setter Breeders Club, Matlock & DCS, Bakewell Show, Setter and Pointer, Midlands Irish Setter Society and was the first woman president of Matlock Farmers Show and Ploughing Competition. She is an Honorary Life Member of the ISBC and ISAE and has been a KC member since 1979. She judged a huge entry at Crufts in 1970 and has judged all over the world.

Her love of dogs also extended to Beagles, B. Brigadier being her biggest winner. Her grandmother bought her first Jersey heifer in the early 1960’s and one is still kept at Treetops to this day. Over the years pigs, chickens and bees were also kept. All visitors to Sybil and Steve’s are sent home with eggs and the richest, creamiest full fat milk you ever did see. One of her last instructions was ‘don’t send the cow to market.’

The ISAE 100th Anniversary celebrations have just taken place and it was Sybil’s dearest wish that she attend because she had been Best In Show at their 50th Anniversary show in 1958 with Ch. B. Hartsbourne Bronze. Sadly this was not to be but how fitting that at their Open Show under Andrew Brace Sybil’s new puppy, handled as always by Gill Dale, won Puppy Bitch. Her name? Brackenfield Forget-Me-Not.

Christine Morgan & Wendy Morley