Obituary - Sheila Gilleney
Much will already have been written about Sheila and her life and career with the world famous Carloway Afghans whilst living in England, but having my first Afghan in 1965 just about the time she was departing these shores, I only really got to know her during the second part of her life.
When Sheila and new husband Michael Gilleney ‘retired’ to Malta an idyllic life awaited them.
They bought a Palazzo high in the hills above Wardija with fabulous views over fields and vineyards. The property needed much work as it had been lived in by a farmer who lived upstairs whilst the animals were kept downstairs on the ground floor! - It also came with its own chapel alongside!
Malta at that time was home to a thriving Ex-Pat community centred around the Naval Base and the Yacht Club. – A very sociable life which suited Sheila and Michael ideally.
Sheila’s Sunday lunchtime parties were legendary. Once I remember we were going on to meet some Maltese friends whose horses were competing in trotting races! Needless to say we never got there!
However the breeding of Carloway Afghans did not completely come to an end on reaching Malta, as she had taken Ch. Mandodari with her and was able to use a Carloway dog already on the Island.
In 1969 I was able to send her a bitch puppy to breed with the dog she had retained from this litter, and so began a friendship which lasted for almost 40 years.
In due course she sent me a dog from this litter along with a bitch to be owned by Harry Watling, so they could quarantine together, and these became the very last Carloways in Great Britain.
There was to be only one more litter after that with disastrous results. Shortly after Anne Andrews (Miyasht) had moved to Malta with her family and dogs Sheila was able to use High Jinks of Miyasht on the young bitch she had kept - sister to mine. This bitch was beautiful and a real favourite, but sadly died whelping along with all but two of her puppies because the only vet did not attend in time. After this distressing episode, so upsetting both for Sheila and for Anne, Sheila decided NEVER to breed another litter in Malta, and so another chapter came to an end.
Soon after this of course Anne herself died leaving a young family, an awful time for all of us during which Sheila was my rock and support and her home an oasis of calm whilst we worked out how to resolve the situation.
A few years later Michael also died, - the British had already departed for home and nothing was ever to be the same again. However Sheila carried on in her own indomitable style living a full and eventful life.
Following the death last year of Ruth Hughes, another old friend, without whose introduction I would never have met Sheila, it really seems as if yet another era has come to an end.
I shall miss her visits (less frequent in later years) which were always eventful. – But that is another story!
Her legacy will live on, albeit 12 to 15 generations back in most of our pedigrees, and we will remember the attractive young woman who would charm anyone and everyone she met.