BIG thanks for another year of GREAT reading and wonderful stories from like minded folk.
The letter from Eddie Chapman in the January edition over the article involvement of us readers got the old grey matter swirling and the thoughts of days gone by with both friends and dogs from the late 60s to the present. I’ll give it a go.
My dad moved down to Staffs in the early 50s when the mines up north were shutting, as they all have now, tragic. He would tell us the stories of his young days on High Spen Golf Course which, according to him, was full of rabbit, hare and the odd deer. He even had an old black and white picture of him and his favourite dog, a little rough collie x whippet bitch called Jess.
As far back as I can remember we always had running dogs at home under the kitchen table. (Sometimes on top when mum’s back was turned!) They were the days when we could cover miles without anyone bothering us and the good old local farmer was grateful for any quarry you could take off his land. We would help them get the hay in through summer and the potatoes later on, and spend time camping out in a tent that was room for 2 but slept 6, and as many dogs (all breeds). We ate what we caught, Coot, Moorhen, Hedgehog, and just the very odd rabbit, with the dogs we had back then, anything was a bonus. But the learning curve for what was to follow was priceless.
Come the early 70s, in our late teen years, the pack was evolving with both running dogs and ground covering terriers, and with more success on the fur side of things. I will never forget the day when myself and the brother-in-law Ted went to look at what would be our first Jack Russell types. We travelled over the Staffs border to a small farm in Cheshire where my father-in-law (another good old farmer type) had told us of the litter and what good stock they were from. We turned up at the farm to be told the pups were in the loose box over the yard but the mother was nowhere to be seen. We picked our pups, Ted had a big white and tan dog and I picked a Tri-coloured bitch. Having agreed the price of £20 for the pair, we were amused to see the mother come trotting over the yard with a moorhen in her gob and duly feed it to her pups in front of us. Now the strange thing is that Jess, the bitch I picked, turned out to be an absolute master at catching Moorhens off water, even when they would show only that tiny red beak through the weed.
In those days the tails were docked without hesitation but the wife and Ted had a car full of worms on the journey home.
Jess bred some very good pups but her gameness was her down fall as well as my lack of knowledge of digging. She started to go to ground regular and although she bolted many a fox it was Brock that had the final say, and I had to thank Irish Tommy and his one eyed bitch along with my brother Col for retrieving her (a very sad day), and have never let my terriers go to ground from that day. In hindsight, after spending some time with Col, Tommy, his one eyed bitch (never heard him call her any other name!) and Ray with Nettle, working both fox and badger, perhaps things could have been different for my bitch. Those lads could be into the thick of things in quick time when there were no locators, just a big iron bar and good ears and power on the spade. But as Eddie commented in his letter, what suits one is not always the same for another, and the digging was not for me.
The ultimate test for me personally was the 1 v 1, dog v hare, before the introduction of the ass of a ban. Mind you, the old days with the home made lamp were good times, straight out after noon shift finished and back in early morning with half a dozen rabbits or even a stag or a doe, then find your coat has dropped to bits from the battery acid!
Molly and Milly were the 2 bitches that really started to excite me as far as coursing dogs went. They were litter sisters bred by JC in Shropshire, who spent some time on the Greyhound coursing scene trying to get a runner at Altcar. The bitches were both rough coated and really versatile dogs. Col ran Molly who was a first class all round bitch and would take any game presented to her; she was a real good un on deer. I have forgotten how many times I’ve heard mum scream when she had gone to the coal house first thing in the morning to be confronted by a deer hanging by it’s back legs from the ceiling.
Greyhound tracks were very popular around the late 70s and 80s and the flapping scene was doing really well, whereas the old farmers were retiring and the shooting brigade started paying good money for permission, so Dad and I turned our attentions to rearing a couple of track pups and schooling them ready for racing. Col on the other hand still had the lurcher bug and he would have the local constabulary knocking on the door at regular intervals over taking his dogs and trespassing as they called it. It turned out in latter years that dad’s greyhound was pretty niffty on the old hare and deer as, unbeknown to him at the time, Col had been taking it coursing with the lurchers when he should have been giving it the road work, ever likely he was having trouble with his toes (the dog not Col).
Here we are many years down the line and still working the dogs: a Greyhound x Beddie, 2 Borders and a Russell type. Working them through the winter and spending time at the shows for fun during the summer.
Whatever the views on both lurcher and terrier shows and the effect it has on both types as working dogs, it is still good to meet up with like minded folk for the craic and the enjoyment of showing your dog or maybe giving it a run in one of the events, and yes, you do get quite a few bull******s out there, but hey, you get them in all walks of life. It’s a good little fund raiser for some hunts and having had the honour of judging the Supreme Champion Lurcher for the NLRC at Chatsworth this year, no one can deny the time and effort put into those dogs by the trainers, whether workers or not; all finalists were a credit to the breed.
Just to finish, my son recently got himself a Sporting Lucas bitch, again just for bushing and working with the lurcher, although this is her first season she is doing really well and the future looks bright for her as long as we keep her above ground. (Sorry Eddie and you digging guys.)
Keep the faith and I will hopefully keep you up dated on her progress.
Thanks again for a great read, and long may it last.