The passing of Wendy Jackson on January 11th 2007 brought to an end the life of one of the most remarkable ladies ever to be involved in the Irish dog show scene.
Wendy was diagnosed with inoperable cancer three years ago and her attitude to this unwanted news was to treat it somewhat as a project which she would tackle head on and with great enthusiasm and spirit. This attitude was characteristic of every other aspect of her life and of all her other interests, of which she had many.
Although most of us would know Wendy through her work and interest in the world of dogs, she had also been involved in work with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Cheshire Homes organisation, for both of which she used her great qualities as a fundraiser, and her activities and interests also took in foster care, sailing, publishing, gardening, birds, and visits to France as well as looking after her husband John and family.
Born Wendy Tuke, in the South of England on November 17th 1929, she worked in publishing in London and in 1954 she married John Jackson whom she had known since childhood. John’s work as a lecturer brought the young Jackson family to Belfast where he took up a post at Queen’s University. After five years John took a posting at Dublin’s Trinity College and the family lived in the Blackrock area of Dublin’s southside and with it came a time of interest in the world of dogs for Wendy. The family would later move to Rathdrum in County Wicklow, aptly named the garden of Ireland, and what better place for someone who was so in tune with nature and everything that it brought.
On the afternoon of the 15th of January the cremation service for Wendy was held at the Garden Church at Mount Jerome Crematorium in Harold’s Cross, not far from the Irish Kennel Club’s offices. Such was the respect for Wendy and her popularity with so many people, the church was overflowing with family, friends and a large representation of friends from the canine world. Many of the IKC girls from the offices were there and many of Wendy’s friends had made the effort to travel long distances to come to pay their last respects.
John welcomed those who had come to the service and told us more about Wendy’s life and one of Wendy’s favourite songs, Phil Coulter and the Lifeboat Chorus’ ‘Home from the Sea’ was played to the gathering. It was very poignant to hear this great seafarer’s anthem.
Members of the family gave us an insight into life with Wendy and of her great achievements during her life and we listened to another of Wendy’s favourite pieces of classical music. The order of service carried a short American verse which the family felt summed up Wendy’s attitude:
Sitting still and wishing,
Makes no person great,
The good Lord sends the fishing,
But you’ve got to dig the bait.
Wendy became secretary of the Irish Dachshund Club over 30 years ago and also became a representative for the club at An Ard Chomhairle, later progressing to being a member of the Green Star and Judges committee of the Irish Kennel Club and eventually being elected to the Chairmanship of the committee. Many years as a General Purposes committee member would follow and as Public Relations Officer for the IKC she would be to the fore on many issues concerning the sport. She was very much a driving force behind fundraising for the National Show Centre in Cloghran and as a member of the board of management she was a diligent and hard worker, and indeed many of the improvements at the centre which we enjoy these days are down to the efforts made by Wendy and her team over the years.
As a member of the North South Committee for the Irish Kennel Club Wendy also played an integral part in some major changes and negotiations which affected the sport and those involved, and we all know how much has changed in the geographical spread of the IKC licenced events over the last number of years. As well as being Secretary to the Irish Dachshund Club she held the position of show secretary with the Hound Association of Ireland for many years, promoting an active style for the club and increasing the number of events it undertook.
As a judge Wendy never sought to put herself forward for the limelight, and fast tracking oneself through the breeds and groups as so many do these days was as far away from her style as could be imagined, therefore it may come as a surprise to most that her first All Breed Championship show Best in show appointment would not be undertaken until Clonmel’s event in August of 2004. However with the onset of illness came the need to step down from this appointment and it would be in 2005 at the same show, except this time as an international event, that Wendy would be in a position to fulfill the invitation to adjudicate.
Wendy’s condition had deteriorated in January and on January 10th a phone call was made by John Jackson to Nick Hammond, Wendy’s great friend and Chairman of the Irish Kennel Club’s GP committee, telling Nick of Wendy’s wish that a party of celebration of her life might be held in the National Show Centre and the hope that Nick and his wife Sandra would host this special evening. This party in Wendy’s memory would be a chance for some of her friends and people she had worked with in dogdom over the years to get together. As John explained to those invited, she was very pleased when he was able to tell her that they would be delighted to host the party, however she stressed that she did not want it to be a sad occasion but merely a continuation of the fun and satisfaction that she had enjoyed from her work for the Irish Kennel Club and other dog clubs and committees over the years.
On the evening of Saturday January 27th we gathered in the Cloghran show centre’s upper room to enjoy an evening dedicated to the memory of Wendy. The room with its great views of the showgrounds area had been set up by Nick and Sandra with the help of Ger Philpot. There was a relaxed but at the same time upbeat feeling about the room as the guests mingled and spoke of Wendy as they viewed a great selection of photographs of her from throughout her life which were posted on the walls around the room. Candlelit tables and background music confirmed that this really was a special evening for those invited. And it was Wendy herself who had compiled the guest list, a mark of her great courage and strength in dealing with her illness.
Nick Hammond welcomed everybody and explained how we had come to be there. Irish Kennel Club President Sean Delmar, past President Tom Creamer and Treasurer Rita McCarry Beattie shared their thoughts and memories of Wendy while seated in front of the main table which hosted the family, and gave a great picture of what it was like to work with her and enjoy her company and sense of humour, each taking the microphone in turn and reminiscing about their time with her down the years.
Wendy’s son Patrick and husband John gave us more insight into Wendy and contributions to the evening were also made by her great friend and Dachshund exhibitor Micky Parker and Hound Association representative Rodney McDowell. During the evening a lovely meal was served to all and everybody toasted to Wendy’s memory and her life.
It was a fitting way to salute a most remarkable and special lady who was a shining example to others on how to live and enjoy one’s life. Wendy has left so many of us with very special memories and her enthusiasm for life, courage and strength are an example for all to follow. There is little doubt that she will be sorely missed by many.