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Obituary - Lucille Sawtell
29.6.1914 - 14.2.2009

Lucille Sawtell

I KNOW that Golden Retriever and English Setter lovers worldwide will join me in mourning the passing of Lucille Sawtell (of Yeo) on Saturday 14th February.

Ch Masterpiece of YeoUp until two months ago, although she was 94 years of age, Lucille was still active in her interest and passion for dogs, especially her beloved Golden Retrievers. She attended as many local Championship shows as she could, and as President of the South Western Golden Retriever Club she was there in person at all their major events.

We have lost a lady of legend with the passing of such an ambassador for the Golden Retriever and the English Setter fraternity. Always kind, generous and courteous her knowledge was boundless and was given freely to novice and expert alike. Her two books, All About the Golden Retriever and Golden Memories of a Lifetime in Dogs written when she was 93, illustrate her depth of experience and understanding and are greatly revered.

Lucille’s service to Golden Retrievers spans seventy years. Her famous ‘Of Yeo’ kennels, began in 1938 with the purchase of Princess of Slat. From her she bred her first Champion, Masterpiece of Yeo, who in turn produced a line of Champions including June Atkinson’s foundation bitch Field Trial Champion Musicmaker of Yeo and later Field Trial Champion Holway Flush of Yeo. June Atkinson and her illustrious Holway kennel are now a dynasty for working Golden Retrievers.

Lucille’s ‘Of Yeo’ dogs were influential in shaping the post-war Golden. She felt passionately about retaining the dual purpose ability in the breed and was highly successful in producing top winners capable of competing in both spheres of show and working. Lucille’s mentor in those early post-war days was the infamous Mrs Charlesworth, an early pioneer of the breed and a strong-minded lady who did not mince her words. Quoting now from Lucille’s book, Golden Memories of a Lifetime in Dogs, she said:

‘Mrs Charlesworth implored breeders to keep the breed active, virile and workmanlike and it was a grief to her to see in the ring sloppy, indolent dogs who looked incapable of a day’s hard work, and she took pains to let their owners know it.

‘I often wonder what she would think of today’s Goldens, with the unfortunate split between show and working dogs. I think it would have broken her heart to see the breed now.’
In the 1950s as the number of shows gradually began to increase after the war, Lucille wanted to exhibit more and felt that she needed to improve on her stock with better substance and bone so she brought in a bitch who was later to become Sh Ch Pandown Poppet of Yeo. Poppet, when mated to Ch Alresford Advertiser, a top winning dog of the era, produced Ringmaster of Yeo. He in turn was behind Int Ch Mandingo Buidhe Column who Lucille owned in partnership with Eva Harkness.

Mandingo Beau Geste of Yeo, half-brother to Buidhe Column, never gained his title but proved his worth as a stud producing six Champions. This included Ch Royal Pal of Catcombe (11 CCs ) and Lucille’s own Ch Deerflite Endeavour of Yeo, who was a very successful bitch, winning twelve Challenge Certificates and was the flagship for her kennel in the early seventies. Debbie, as she was known, was mated twice to Ch Stolford Happy Lad producing four Champions here and abroad. This breeding is behind many kennels both in the UK and worldwide who are founded on ‘Of Yeo’ stock.

By the eighties, the breeding lines in Lucille’s Goldens for the show dogs and the working dogs were not the same. She needed more bone and substance in order to win in the ring and she needed a faster, more agile dog without too much weight and substance to compete against the fast and stylish Field Trial Labradors.

‘This split for show and work was inevitable, unfortunately, if one wanted to win at the top level in both spheres,’ Lucille recalled. ‘Mrs Charlesworth would have been greatly distressed as she had steered the breed’s development and so fiercely defended its true dual purpose ability.’

Ch Deerflite of YeoThe line of descent in her Field Trail breeding from FT Champion Holway Flush of Yeo was through Fashion of Yeo, Vesta of Yeo, Shotsilk, Slipper Satin, and her sister Sheersilk of Yeo from Catcombe and finally Yeo Satin Brocade.

In her show breeding after Deerflite Endeavourr of Yeo came her son, Sh Ch Concord of Yeo, and his sister Caravelle, then Romance, Lively Lady, Party Piece, Record, and Loyalty - all with ‘Of Yeo’ used as a suffix. Then came the kennel Club’s decision to change the use of the suffix to a prefix when the dog was registered by the breeder. The suffix being added by a new owner. From then onwards Lucille bred Yeo Mastermind, Yeo Leading Lady, Yeo Latest Edition and finally Sh Ch Yeo Gold Medallion who lived with Lucille as her sole remaining friend into his fourteenth year preceding Lucille by a short span.

A silver thread amongst the gold. In the Yeo kennel the silver thread woven amongst the gold was English Setters! Lucille had always loved them having had one as a childhood pet long before getting her first Golden as a wedding present from her husband Howard.

After some initial breeding problems in the seventies Lucille decided to re-establish her line by buying in Sh Ch Noyna Sunfairy. After several good litters Lucille eventually achieved her goal by breeding Sh Ch Dancing Partner of Yeo and winning the CC at Crufts with him in 1988. He was sired by Sh Ch Bournehouse Dancing Master who was Best in Show at Crufts in1977.

Lucille judged in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and virtually every country on the Continent and has recounted many stories in her book of Memories... of her amusing, and sometimes hair-raising, incidents. She felt that by judging overseas, through her association with dogs, another world far beyond these shores had been opened up to her.

And the final word. At the Symposium ‘Guisachan to today’ held two years ago and hosted by the Berkshire Downs and Chilterns Golden Retriever Club, Lucille was one of a cast of guest speakers from home and abroad. Always a lady with strong opinions, with her roots firmly in the philosophy and strivings of the early development of the Golden Retriever her final comment in summary - a comment which bought the house down at the time, but which will be long remembered and often quoted, was in reference to coat colour. She said simply: ‘I don’t ‘do’ white’!

Wendy Andrews

IT WAS with great sadness that we learnt of the death of Mrs Sawtell. I first met her in the late sixties when my husband Andrew Thomson and I joined Yeovil & District Canine Society.

Mrs Sawtell was a founder member of the club being elected to the committee on 27th June 1939. I have had an opportunity this week to read through some of the early minutes of the meetings held and it is clear that right from the start she was extremely involved in the club’s development. She was voted to the position of Chairman in 1950. She became President of the Club in 1991 and has held the position ever since.

Yeovil & District was a club very dear to her heart and one that she took great interest in, even when she could no longer attend meetings which, until later years, she rarely missed. She was always available to give us guidance and advice and even last year attended our AGM and was delighted to see so many members present and meet their dogs.

Mrs Sawtell has been at the heart of Yeovil & District and we are grateful to her for everything she has done for us. On behalf of the committee and members I wish to extend our sincere condolences to her family.

Sue Thomason
Yeovil & District Canine Society

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