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Club History

"The Beginnings and Growth of the Labrador Retriever Kennel Club (LRKC)"


The first Labrador Retriever to be registered by the KUSA was Roseneath Bingo, owned by the mining magnate Sir Julius Jeppe. Bingo was registered on 13 April 1926. Various retrievers had been registered by the KUSA as early as the late 19th century but they were either interbred or sometimes classified according to the colour and texture of their coats. (For reference: the Labrador Retriever was recognised in Great Britain by the Kennel Club as a breed in 1903; the (British) Labrador Retriever Club was founded in 1916.) Information about Labradors and their owners or breeders in South Africa in the years before 1926 and between 1926 and 1958, when the LRKC was founded, is practically non-existent.

The LRKC had its origins in a meeting between Mr George Jenkin and Mr Eric Edwards whilst they were walking their Labradors at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg. Earlier Eric Edwards had tried to start a breed club but without success. As a result of this meeting George Jenkin took on the job of canvassing support for a club. He wrote to every owner of a registered Labrador in South Africa and the response was good enough for a meeting to be called at the old Craighall Hotel in February 1958. A Committee was formed and George Jenkin was elected as the first Chairman of the LRKC.

The names of Labrador enthusiasts in the 1960s can be deduced from the lists of donors and winners of the trophies belonging to the Club. Besides Messieurs Jenkin and Edwards (Blackthorn) they included Mrs P D Jenkin (formerly Hope - Beadles), Mr Les Wells (Pamplaurus), Mrs G Fyfe (Leasurleigh) and Major 'Oscar' T C Wilde, who brought two influential dogs to South Africa; Ch Sandylands Trade Wind, a son of Tweed, and Ch Zelstone Raven, both 'of the Brigade'. Raven being in the pedigrees of Labradors successful both in the ring and the field.


In the Cape, Mrs Rose-Marie Cabion, now Patron of the LRKC, founded her Sleepy Hollow Kennel in 1960. She brought Ch Sleepy Hollow's Follytower Old Oak, a Tweed grandson, to South Africa together with the notable yellow bitch, Ch Reanacre Redvale's Andrea, a granddaughter of Ch Sandylands Tandy. Ch Charway Craftsman of Sleepy Hollow, FQ, a son of Mastercraft, followed, as did two bitches, Ch Rocheby Charity of Charway, a daughter of Balywillwill, and Ch Lindall Black Briar, sired by Charway Blackthorn. Charity's litter brother, Ch Rocheby Chancellor of Follytower also came to South Africa, brought in by Mrs Cabion in partnership with Mrs Pam Richardson (Brightwood).


Lionel Wilson, who came to South Africa to set up kennels and training for the SA Guide Dogs Association for the Blind, also brought knowledge of training gundogs and running field trials with him. He ran the Club's first working tests on Sunday mornings in Bryanston. Lionel was to win the first trial for retrievers to be run in South Africa with his bitch, Ch Charmaine of Cannobie Lee. This trial was run by the LRKC in 1970 on the farm of Mr Ken Fyfe, then Chairman of the LRKC.

Early stalwarts of retriever training and trialling included Roger Kearney, whose Labmore Cedric of Glencova was the first dual champion (field trial and bench) in South Africa, and Ken Fletcher, whose Markens Black Prince of the Brigade, a Raven son, was the second. The first triple champion (bench, field and obedience) in South Africa was Mike Gie's Brigade Highwayman (Benji); Benji was the second dog in the world to achieve this status.

Amongst the field trial enthusiasts recruited by Roger Kearney was Bill Tait. Bill ran 19 field trials for the LRKC and his Ballyhue Labradors became the best known working and trialling retrievers in the country. Ballyhue's Grenade of the Brigade, another Raven son, became the first of five Ballyhue field trial champions; in turn, his son, Ch FT Ballyhue's Black Pipit of Donside, became the sire of Tony Schuil's record Open field trial winning yellow bitch, Ch FT Val du Sol's Sunup.


Whilst all the activity in the field was going on things in the ring were on the move. Breeders and exhibitors who came to prominence from the mid-1970s included Rod Copestake, later Chairman and President of the LRKC, and his wife, Carmen. The successful and influential dogs they brought to South Africa were headed by Ch Sandylands Master Piece of Breckondale, FQ, Sandy, a son of Mark, and Ch Balrion Lord of the Manor of Breckondale, Rion, a son of Ch Squire of Ballyduff. Labradors in whose pedigrees the bloodlines of Sandy and Rion were combined were particularly successful in the ring, one, Stafford Baker's Ch & KUSA Nat Ch Marsta Secret Duke, FQ, holding the record for the most Best of Breeds won.


With acknowledgements to the late R N Copestake; the late Michael Darwin; the late W J E (Bill) Tait; and the late June Trautmann.

Photo by Emma O'Brien ©

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