Fred Ratcliffe & Jack Kenworthy
I was saddened to learn of the deaths recently of Fred Ratcliffe at the age of 93, and Jack Kenworthy aged 84, who passed away within days of each other. They were two of the pioneers of obedience training and their deaths marks the end of an era.
They and others of their generation established the Kennel Club structure of obedience training and laid down the original regulations from which the whole pattern of obedience activities have developed today.
It is a regrettable fact that the names of these early originators are now virtually unknown for they laid the foundations on which all the modern activities have been built and those who take part in them owe them a very great debt of gratitude. They were the pioneers. It all started with them and has now developed into a sporting pursuit enjoyed by thousands.
By profession Jack Kenworthy was a cartographer but when World War 2 began he quickly joined the Royal Air Force to fly and he trained in Canada under the Empire Training Scheme to become a navigator. Back in England he flew many missions with Bomber Command until being shot down over enemy territory to spend the rest of the war as a POW in Germany.
When the war finished Jack’s interest in dogs began. He bought an Alsatian, RAF of Schone, which he trained with the Mortlake Training Society. He was a brilliant trainer and RAF became the first dog obedience champion following Henry Dearman who had the first bitch obedience champion.
Jack was an enthusiastic and active member of Mortlake and was outstanding not only as a trainer but as a judge. He played a full part in the sport’s administration not only serving on the original working trials and obedience council of which I had the privilege of being the first chairman but also on the Kennel Club working trials and obedience committee established later under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Simpson who was then the Metropolitan Police commissioner. Jack was a cheerful, extrovert person, a friend of everyone, always ready to help and the centre of attraction at any social function.
A Mancunian by birth besides dogs his other abiding passion was Manchester City Football Club. For decades he closely followed their interests and regularly every weekend when they were playing at home he travelled from Surrey where he lived to Manchester to watch them. He never became a director of the club but their board held him in high esteem and he was always a most welcome visitor.
Fred Ratcliffe was one of Jack’s close friends, He was a post office telephone engineer and although I am not fully conversant with his early activities outside dogs I believe he saw service with the Army in North Africa. A different type from Jack with not the same extrovert personality but a warm hearted, friendly man, popular with all with whom he became acquainted. He too bought a dog after the war, not an Alsatian but a Shetland Sheepdog. He became interested in obedience training and was a good member of the Epsom club. Like Jack a brilliant and dedicated trainer he made up the first Sheltie obedience champion. He judged extensively and was one of the most popular and successful obedience trainers. He maintained his interest to the end and only a few weeks before his death talked to me on the telephone about the sport as it is today.
These were great dog men in their special sphere. They were outstanding characters of their generation. But more than that they were delightful people, gentlemen in the real sense of the word who started a tradition in a special sporting activity. Those who knew them will join me in extending heartfelt sympathy to their surviving families. I am proud to have known them as friends.