The Start of Our Dogs

OUR DOGS Editor, William Moores,
reviews the start of Our Dogs

Theo Marples embraced kennel journalism very early in his career, and became closely associated with many leading writers on dogs and authors of doggy books. He contributed to The Field kennel section and was shareholder and kennel reporter-in-chief to The Stockkeeper when Mr. Brown, a great poultry authority, founded it in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was also sub-editor of the late Canine World.

In 1891 Theo founded the British Fancier, which paper was devoted to dogs, poultry, pigeons, etc. He obtained permission from Queen Victoria to illustrate (for the first time) Her Majesty's favourite Pomeranian, Marco, on the first front page in colour. The Queen was said to be 'delighted' with the picture.

In the same year, he formed the Pomeranian Club and was its first Hon. Secretary, a position he held for a few years.

Mr. Hugh Dalziel, author of "British Dogs" was amongst his honoured and closest old friends. Theo contributed to his book an article on the Pekingese when they were first introduced into England, and were erroneously looked upon by many as rough-haired Pugs.

Mr.Vero Shaw, author of that great work, "The Book of the Dog", was an old kennel and journalistic associate of his, as was the late Mr. Rawdon B. Lee who used to exhibit a local weekly paper before he joined The Field.

The brightest and most prosperous period in Theo's career, was the founding, by him, of this great and successful journal, 'OUR DOGS'. This was when he was Editor of the British Fancier, in 1894. He succeeded in getting together another directorate in the persons of Sir Humphrey F. de Trafford, Bart (Chairman, Mr. T. W. Markland (later Vice-Chairman), Sir Everett Millais, Bart., Col R. Claude Cane, J.P., Col C. S. Dean, Mr. C. A. Phillips, J.P., and Mr. John Proctor.

He was appointed Editor and Managing Director, a position he occupied until his death.

A committee was formed for the purpose of organising the subscription and making the presentation, which was done on the evening of March 24th 1926 at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, under the presidency of Her Grace Duchess of Newcastle, the presence and support of leading officials of The Kennel Club and a great galaxy of dog owners of "every shade of opinion".

The Duchess of Newcastle, in making the presentation of the trophies and pocket watch, said:

"It is with the greatest pleasure that, on behalf of Dogdom, I hand you, Mr.Marples, this watch and cups as small tokens of the appreciation in which we hold you. I feel my fellow-fanciers have done me a great honour in asking me to make this presentation, and in doing so, I am able to voice our good wishes and to say how fully we all realise what you have done in the past for the fancy. Your wonderful knowledge and tact have been fully in evidence as Editor of 'OUR DOGS'. We have seen other papers come and go, but from its inception thirty years ago, 'OUR DOGS' will remain the premier dog paper the world over. I can only now wish you long life, coupled with good health to enjoy it, and tender these tokens of goodwill with every good wish from us all."

The Duchess continued: "The subscribers would like you, Mr.Marples, to have some sort of memento of this interesting meeting and presentation, for yourself" and Her Grace put into his hands a 100 guinea gold repeater watch containing the following inscription:

"This watch was subscribed for by dog owners in the United Kingdom and abroad, along with three perpetual challenge trophies, and presented by Her Grace the Duchess of Newcastle to Theo Marples Esq., F.Z.S (Editor of 'OUR DOGS') at a dinner organised in his honour at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, on March 24 1926, as a tribute to the great service he has rendered to Dogdom during a period exceeding over half a century."

Out of the total 500, which total the fund reached, Theo purchased three 100 guinea trophies, two of which he gave to The Kennel Club to be offered at The Kennel Club show each year, one for the best Sporting dog and the other for the best non-sporting dog.

The other 100 guinea cup Mr.Marples presented to the Manchester Dog Show Society to be offered each year for the best dog in the show.

All these trophies are still on offer today.

The 1st Issue of Our Dogs

This expenditure left something short of 100 for which Mr.Marples was not long in finding a purpose!

At a subsequent dinner at the Midland Hotel on the eve of the Manchester Show, he suggested that this surplus of the presentation fund should be applied to found a "Theo Marples Benevolent Fund" from which sums of money should be paid out and donated to dog owners of both sexes who had been overtaken by misfortune or had been the victims of sickness or other distress.

The idea was applauded, and most of his friends and some clubs promised to subscribe further to it. Mr. Walter S. Glynn J.P., who was well known, kindly undertook to act as Hon. Treasurer and he and Theo administered the fund doing a great service to the kennel community without any show or publicity.

The front cover of the first issue of 'OUR DOGS'

Theo's wife predeceased him by eight years but he left behind a family of six children. The sons were in order of age - Mr. J.W. Marples, who was a well-known and popular all-round judge; Mr. Alf E. Marples an engineer; Mr. Arthur F. Marples, Managing Director of 'OUR DOGS'; and Mr Percy S. Marples, a jeweller. The two daughters were Mrs Henshaw and Mrs Wrigley.

One of the greatest qualities Theo Marples possessed was his intense and unswerving loyalty to those he had gathered around him. It was incumbent upon those left behind to carry on the high traditions he established and upheld so that they could bequeath a proud heritage.

Prophetically at a meeting on March 27th 1931, the Directors of OUR DOGS had appointed Arthur Marples to the position of joint Managing Director and joint Editor.

For the latter reason, too, he rarely appeared even as a visitor to dog shows, but he did keep "appointments for the purpose of discussing dog-show politics at a high level".

In his earlier days, he had been through the mill as a fancier and exhibitor and was successful in the ring with a variety of breeds - Smooth Fox Terriers (perhaps his favourite of all breeds), Cocker Spaniels (when only a handful of people bred them), Scottish, Bull and West Highland White Terriers and Great Danes. For a few years he also kept Border Terriers as companions. He had one of the first Pekingese imported into this country from China, was a successful exhibitor of bantams, cavies and pigeons, and at one time kept a great variety of domestic and fancy livestock.

Arthur Marples also had experience in the running of Canine Societies and over 40 years put into practice a recently-discovered "innovation" by buying benching on behalf of Stockport Canine Society on which he served as both Secretary and Chairman and for which he organised many Members' and Open Shows.

He was at one time a Committee Member of the Manchester Fox Terrier Club, and for many years was a member of the Kennel Club. Like Theo he, too, was a Fellow of the Zoological Society.


OUR DOGS Annual 1951

His employment was twice severed by war service; he was with the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment during the Boer War, and the Army, Veterinary Corps in France and Italy in the Great War (1914-18).

In spite of ill-health in the 1940's, he still drove to his office every day to edit OUR DOGS. Every week, he read and corrected the proofs for the current issue, criticised contributors and staff, directed policy and saw that his paper's reputation for up-to-the-minute reporting, accurate sub-editing and fairness of comment was maintained at the highest level.

Most of the writing that he did for OUR DOGS was unsigned, but a "Marples" editorial was always recognisable by the terseness of its language and the directness and commonsense of its argument.

Arthur's eldest son, Ronald, passed away in 1949 but he ensured his younger son Denis was well prepared to perpetuate the Marples' dynasty.

After a day at the Manchester office on Thursday, December 13th 1951, Arthur sat down in his fireside chair to answer a note from his old friend and correspondent Will Hally.

The response read: "My dear Will, Your letter Our Dogs Dec. 12th was a joy to read as your epistles usually are and I know that .."

... it was a letter without conclusion as Arthur suffered a fatal heart attack at 6.20 p.m.

Cheadle Parish Church was packed to capacity on December 18th with people wishing to pay tribute to a popular, firm but fair man whose life had touched many.

Space precludes a detailed review of succeeding editors but Denis Theophilus Marples held the post from 1951 to the late 1970s when his son Richard, who joined the company as Advertisement Manager in 1966, took 'the chair'.

In 1987 seeking early retirement Richard Marples left the company in the hands of fellow directors William Moores and Vincent Hogan. Two years earlier the ownership of Our Dogs Publishing Co. Ltd., had passed to Johnston Press plc, from which it passed to publisher David Cavill in December 1994.

William Moores joined OUR DOGS in 1967 and after a period in the circulation and distribution department, he went 'through the mill' in editorial to become a director of the company in 1983 and its fifth Editor in 1987.Since his retirement the editor's chair has been filled by Anne Williams and the current incumbent is Alison Smith.

Vincent Hogan joined OUR DOGS in 1973 as Advertisement Manager and was appointed to the board of directors in 1983. His commercial experience led to him becoming Managing Director in 1987. With his energy and foresight OUR DOGS has broken new ground in the world of canine and specialist publishing.

Towards the end of 1994, the opportunity arose for OUR DOGS to once more return to private ownership, following a 9 year period within a large publishing group.


OUR DOGS Annual 1959

Ownership of the company now rests with David and Angela Cavill, Vincent Hogan and William Moores....people who have all had a lifelong involvement in the world of pedigree dogs, from showing and judging to administration and publishing.

William Moores, Vince Hogan and David and Angela Cavill have a combined experience of one hundred years in specialist publishing. Together with the enthusiastic team both at shows and in the office they are committed to ensuring 'OUR DOGS' success towards the millennium.

We publish three regular titles, OUR DOGS weekly in addition to top quality Annuals, Diaries and Wallcharts.

Our web sites - www.ourdogs.co.uk, advertising.ourdogs.co.uk & www.ourdogsinternational.com - also illustrates how we seek to serve the discerning dog owner through our range of canine goods and services.

Since the days of Theo Marples we have seen many changes in the world of dogs and the world at large, but OUR DOGS has continued to be published every week without fail since that time.