Larger Font | Smaller Font

The National celebrates

THE COMMITTEE of The National (Birmingham) celebrated its 150 year history last weekend at the Ullesthorpe Golf and Country Club in the Midlands. Sharing the evening were guests from the Kennel Club and members past and present, together with other guests representing other aspects of past and current links with the Society.

The Committee has to be congratulated not only on the society reaching this fabulous
milestone, but also having the courage to lay on such a terrific night in the face of hard times in the world at large. But there again, what a missed opportunity it would have been bearing in mind the proud heritage of the society, referred to in his toast and speech, by Ronnie Irving, Chairman of the Kennel Club. Ronnie had obviously done his homework going back into the history books to come up with some great quotes on shows in the past. Many of us there remembered the old Bingley Hall, and the years when the show moved around from a number of venues. The National as a fully representative show clearly has had a very close relationship with the Kennel Club, even though 150 years ago, things did not run smoothly.

Kennel Club guests and their partners included Gerald King, Caroline Kisko, Vanessa McAlpine, Kathryn Symms, Andrea Peters and Ben Ashcroft from Agria/Kennel Club. Keith and June Young
represented the ‘other’ Birmingham.


Current Chairman Martin Wyles was the MC for the evening at a venue he clearly knows well; his expertise in his own business was evident – he runs Bablake Wines – always a good man to have on board! Martin and his partner Annette Oliver Wyles have also to be congratulated for the obvious effort and hard work put in to make a night like this a success.

OUR DOGS were honoured to be invited to the event and were represented by Vince and Jo Hogan, both of whom have a number of Nationals notched up over the past few years. Stalwart Midlands dog person Ann Trott will never miss an opportunity to remind me of the times we nearly sank under the duckboards at one Birmingham, and also of how I nearly disappeared down a well disguised flag pole hole at Stoneleigh in a rather wet year!

Many of the younger committee members were in evidence as well as the stalwarts of the National and they were all mentioned in the President’s speech, which OUR DOGS has included in this report as Eric Smethurst took a wide view of events in dogdom as well as commenting on the society itself.

President Eric Smethurst:

‘Chairman, members of The National, honoured guests, it is my pleasure to respond to the toast to the society made by Ronnie Irving, Chairman of the Kennel Club.

‘The National has had a long and close association with the Kennel Club as has been notably illustrated. The Chairman prior to me, John MacDougall, told me on a number of occasions that next to the Kennel Club – his true love was for The National. I can understand that sentiment – The National has a history that is unique in its relationship with the club.

‘In one of my reports, I likened the recent turmoil within the sport as living in interesting times – a so called Chinese curse – the dirt grubbers and stirrers will not go away – but fighting fire with fire isn’t always the best way forward.

‘Public opinion is fickle but can be curiously forgiving if it sees that the right moves are being made. The Kennel Club has acted tirelessly over the past months to set the record straight – to respond to criticisms that are reasonable – to deal with both the hysterical, the plainly vicious and the foolish. There is, however, a long road to tread and it is not for the faint–hearted.

‘The National, as a representative show must, by its policies and actions over the coming years, be linked closely with the Kennel Club to ensure that the society is singing from the same hymn sheet.

‘There will be more TV programmes, there will be more sniping, the RSPCA will not change its agenda because the Kennel Club has, despite its hurt, made significant steps to address the core issues.

‘Since 1987 – when I was elected to The National committee – we too have had our moments. Remember Arbury Hall? A wonderful venue if the climate is rain–free – on second thoughts let’s forget that experience. And remember the foot and mouth crisis – what a do that was – the rumoured fear was that we would all as guarantors have to sell our houses to cover the cost of
cancellation when the insurers pulled the plug.

‘Despite all the ups and downs, the society is in a pretty good financial position – I hope that my Cassandra–like forecasts that the sponsor would not be there forever had some effect – Mike Townsend is a canny treasurer, he never actually says no – a look is enough!

‘As a society of firsts I will indulge myself and mention one or two: 1985 – Daphne MacDougall launched the KCJO at The National and that launch was organised by Merial Hathaway; the product of her figurative labours has grown up and are members of this society committee and others. 1995 the first breeder stakes was organised at The National. 1995 one of the first
training seminars for judges organised by Annette Oliver.

‘Before that The National was the first society to use framed pavilions with in and out rings – I could go on but I don’t wish to thump the drum too hard, but most especially – though there are now other societies getting YKC members onto their committees – The National was (and is) in the forefront of the belief that, in an ageing society the young have to be brought forward.

‘It’s no use any more saying that the newcomers have to do 10 years of bucket and shovel work – dog show management is not rocket science – with good mentoring from the senior members the sport can continue to flourish. If not, the sport will fail to the nay sayers, the anti–dog brigade and the opportunistic media merchants – and the RSPCA, or its like.

‘There is one other first I must mention – The National, I think, was the first to have an active water fountain in the main ring – to ill effect on one judge who asked for it to be shut down because the tinkle of the water made her wish to follow its example!

‘The strap line of the society logo is the Birmingham National Show of Sporting and Other Dogs. To go forward the society must become more international, and continue to support the Kennel Club.
‘The society must set out to create an environment that properly demonstrates and exhibits the
benefits of the pedigree dog. And, by its inclusive approach to the sport, all dogs. That means getting involved with agility, heelwork to music and obedience, it means supporting activities like cani–cross, setting up companion dog shows alongside the Championship show, and getting more deeply involved in good citizen work.

‘That means the public have to be attracted. We succeeded in getting public interest when the society was at the NEC – with a good advertising campaign and interesting activities the public could be attracted to the show at Stafford.

‘So much to do, so easy to sit back and hope others will take the lead. Change is happening and only those forward looking societies will survive in the long term.

‘Sitting with us tonight are a number of members. They, along with the current committee, are the stuff that The National is made of, and of course our very welcome guests and dear friends from the Kennel Club.

‘So my one line message is – bring on the young, attract the public and enjoy the sport in all its colours.

‘Mr Irving, thank you for your toast to the society on its 150th anniversary year and thank you to our guests and members for the manner in which it was received.

‘I now ask you all to rise to join me in a combined toast – to the Kennel Club and The National, may they both continue to prosper.’

Photo Special Below
by Vince Hogan and Les Denman
Move cursor over image to pause





To receive Breaking News dog stories direct to your Inbox,

sign up for the weekly Our Dogs email newsletter here