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Obituary - Margaret Norman-Francehill

Margaret Norman

ON JULY 20th 1955, having been persuaded by the late Dickie Bainbridge (Oastwood Shelties) that the little sable puppy - purchased as an intended house pet for my mother-in-law - was worth showing, I set off by Green Line bus from our home in Ealing to Shalford Park, Guildford, to my first ever dog show as an exhibitor.

In retrospect, a day that proved a turning point in my life. Miss Olwen Gwynne-Jones (Callart) gave 2nd in Novice D/B (13 entries) to my 8-month-old Hallinwood Golden Fetter, with 3rd in the class to Francehill Crysalis, owned and bred by Miss M. Bagot, and our life-long friendship began that day.

At that time, Margaret was a fun-loving, somewhat rebellious teenager but already with a depth of knowledge of her chosen breed that few achieve even after years in a breed. Crysalis was a homebred tricolour dog by Ch Exford Piskiegye Taw x Discreet of Exford, breeding that
excelled in construction, soundness and flowing movement, that became a feature of the Francehill Shelties. Margaret immediately took me, a complete newcomer, under her wing, explaining that Fetter was a bitch with a future - and how right she was, and how fortunate for me that I listened to her.

She lived with her parents in a lovely house in Sussex and built up a small, very successful kennel, and once we both had our own transport (Margaret with a white van that I couldn't drive because I'd never been taught to double de-clutch, and me with a litle Standard 8 that could just about manage 50MPH downhill with a following wind) we visited each other regularly and travelled together to shows, often going by train with Mrs Cook's party. Although we laughed a lot, and enjoyed the comradeship of fellow show-goers, Margaret tried hard to instil into me the finer points of shelties, their show qualities and faults, and took me to visit other kennels and breeders. This grounding in the basics has stood me in good stead over the years and our meetings at the shows over all these years always resulted in stimulating discussions.

On that day in 1955, Margaret suggested the shows at which I should enter Fetter, and at the very next show she went BPIS under Leo Wilson and her show career took off, so we went to Paignton Ch the next year where Miss Patience Rogers (Riverhill) awarded us our very first CC - I have to admit that I didn't realise what an achievement this was, or how significant a CC really is. I soon learned though! In 1961 we owned Antoc Francehill Fortune in partnership, before he went to Italy, and hence our mutual greetings at shows of, ‘Hi Partner!’, but after Margaret married Robin Searle in 1964 and moved to Suffolk, and we moved to Hampshire in 1966, our ‘home visits’ became less frequent, but we always met up for a laugh and a cuppa at the shows.

From, in her own words, ‘a gawpy teenager’ Margaret became an elegant lady always with a warm, welcoming smile and, win or lose, always gracious. In her homes she was a wonderful hostess, an excellent cook and her interest and knowledge of antiques, especially ceramics, was well-known, with a special appearance on the Antiques Road Show.

As a judge her valued opinion was sought after both at home and abroad, and her work on behalf of the English Shetland Sheepdog Club spanned many years. She loved her shelties, and they loved her. Last year Margaret came to the Collie Club of Wales especially to help me celebrate my 80th birthday and treated me to a weekend away, leaving so many happy memories. My dearest friend, I say, most deeply and sincerely: ‘Thanks for the memory’.

Aileen Speding (Antoc)

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