Where did it all start for me? Well it started with Bandit. I had a red Lakeland/Fell type dog named ‘Flint’ and a brindle bitch named ‘Lady’. I bred these two together and ended up with a litter of four pups, three bitches and a dog pup; two were red, one brindle and lastly a white Russell type, Bandit. Bandit grew into a nice pup, showing a lot of intelligence and drive for such a young pup, she was going to ground at seven months of age, showing a lot of promise. I can remember thinking at the time she was working like a three year old. In hindsight I should have taken my time with her really, should have held her back, but we were both young and eager for the work, sadly, she didn’t make it to her first birthday, suffocating below ground. I was gutted, but at least she died doing what she was bred for, earthwork. By then I was not only hooked on terrier work but also white terriers.
At the time I had a kennel full of Lakeland/Fell/crossbred terriers, they all worked, some better than others at earthwork, some better than others at bushing, some better than others at ratting… you get the picture!
I bought ‘Lass’ off a lad I knew who hadn’t had her long. She was a red Lakeland type bitch, and as time was to tell, ‘Lass’ could find in the biggest of earths and would stay until dug to, she had done a good bit of work before she came to my kennels. She cost me a 20kg sack of dog meal and £10 in cash, BARGAIN! To me she was worth her weight in gold, I had some very good digs to that bitch.
One particular dig which stands out was the time we were on a bank next to the boneyard, she had only just gone to ground and we could hear her furiously baying at her quarry, it took us a fair bit of time to pinpoint where she was in the earth, a little over 5 feet down, the digging was good going, nice loose soil with no rocks and just a few stones. We soon got down to her and she was working her quarry hard. We dug around to free her up, opening the tube a bit more to get at the fox, after a bit more earth removal we could see the fox laying there, waiting, its mouth opened showing its armoury in defiance, waiting for ‘Lass’ to come in a bit closer to striking range.
I put the shovel into its mouth for it to bite on and then quickly grabbed hold of its ears and slowly pulled it from the tube. It was a vixen in cub. With terriers coupled up and pegged to ground the vixen was placed on the ground and given best. I felt good for her as she made her bid for freedom. I silently wished her good luck with the cubs she was carrying and hoped we would meet again sometime in the near future. Whilst we were back filling the hole, the groundsman of the graveyard came up to the railings and asked us what we were doing. “Foxing, why do you ask?” I replied. “Them dirty things are digging great big holes in here making me more work, I hope you killed it?” was his response. I said “Yeah, it’s dead, we’ve buried it here.” And with that we both went our separate ways. What he didn’t know surely wouldn’t hurt him!
I was thinking to myself I want white dogs that worked as good as Bandit and also as good as my coloured terriers in my kennels. I’d been out with lads with these pure Russells but these dogs would stand back 3 feet from their quarry, happily baying. I didn’t like that at all and what made it worse, on a few occasions I saw them entering more than one terrier at the same time; to me this was unnecessary and a sure recipe for disaster.
Anyway, fast forward a few months and one of my old mates told me Ken Gould’s show was on at the weekend, ‘great!’ I thought, I’d saved a bit of money so I would see if Ken had anything for sale. The weekend soon came round and off to the show we went.
When we arrived I went for a walk about to see what was around, Ken was seeing to the pork cobs, 50p each them cobs were. (bread rolls to some of you that don’t speak the Queen’s English!) I had to have one, they were really big and Ken put loads of pork on them. Makes my mouth water now thinking about them. Anyway, I asked Ken if he had any terriers for sale, he told me he might have one or two about the place and he would come and find me later on when he wasn’t so busy. True to his word, Ken came and found me a few hours later. He showed me a couple of black pups about 4 months old, but I wasn’t looking for a black terrier, then I saw a nice strong Russell dog, “Is he for sale?” I asked Ken, “Yes, he is.” Great, that’s what I wanted so I did the deal and bought the dog, I named him ‘Jet’, he was 11 months old which meant I could start him off as soon as the season started. ‘Jet’ was a big strong Russell dog with a red head, he started off well but would eat some of the foxes if they had their backends facing him. I bred ‘Jet’ to ‘Brock’ who I got off ‘blackneck’ Phil for £7.
Now ‘Brock’ was a steady bitch to work, she would take her time and more often than not bolt her fox. ‘Brock’ was a rough coated, tri-coloured Russell; not the best of looking animals but an honest bitch in the ground. A few years later I got a bitch back out of that mating, a big ugly bitch called ‘Tess’, she looked like her dam but was as big as her sire ‘Jet’.
The lad I got her off said he had done a bit of work with her but she could be a bit funny with other dogs and people. I took the chance and brought her home with me. Now ‘Tess’ was as different as chalk and cheese when compared to her mother at work, but not as hard as her sire ‘Jet’, but was still a very good bitch when it came to earthwork. She never put a foot wrong working and I soon found out why the lad had parted ways with her. She would launch a full on attack at you after her evening meal… the little sod! I worked and bred from her for a few years until she was stolen out of my kennel, leaving her 3 week old pups behind. My Russell dog ‘Stan’ was the sire to the pups, I kept the two bitch pups back (‘Brock & Jess’) and let my mate Jim take the big strong dog pup. He really did have a big strong head on him just like his grandsire. (I was sure there was bull terrier influence in ‘Jet’) ‘Fagan’ was this dog pup’s name.
‘Brock’ was the smallest in the litter. ‘Jess’ was eventually gifted to a friend. ‘Brock’ was 15 months old before she went to ground and turned out to be a very hard bitch when worked to fox. One dig I had with her was when we were out with Taffy Dave and Bill. Taff had put his dog ‘Griff’ in and the dog was struggling to find his way in. Bill told Taff to tie Griff up and for me to try ‘Brock’ as she was only 11” or 12” tts. In she flew and after a few minutes later came out with a cub in her mouth which she immediately surrendered to me. Obviously the vixen had heard us approaching above ground and was moving the cubs to a safer place inside the den. Back to ground she went again, this time she found the vixen with the rest of her cubs. We dug down to her and clearing earth from around the bitch I lifted her, Bill leaned in with his shotgun and despatched the vixen. I then pulled the now dead vixen clear and let ‘Brock’ back in to bring the cubs out which we humanely despatched,
‘Brock’ was turning into a very handy terrier for her size (11”/12”tts), and by her fourth season she really was the main part of my team and getting the lion’s share of the work.
Her last dig with me was a 13 hour affair down at Philip’s (sheep) farm. We arrived at the farm around 8a.m. to check the earths and the drains. The first three earths Jay and myself checked were empty, they showed no signs of recent activity and none of the dogs showed any sign of giving a mark. So we made our way towards one of the drains when all of a sudden the dogs’ demeanour changed, they obviously picked up a scent and moved with purpose, upping their tempo and really started to pull us towards the direction of the drain. I was feeling confident about finding our quarry now, the old collie/greyhound lurcher, ‘Skip’, ran on and started to give a positive mark. My heartbeat thumped in my chest as the adrenaline started to kick in. We had never dug this particular drain before, I asked Jay if he wanted to try his young bitch but he didn’t think she was ready just yet, so I put the locator collar on ‘Brock’ and in she went. We gave her twenty minutes to settle into her task then went and found her. She was just a few feet down but it was really hard going and the hours flew by, just as we were about to break in to the tube I tried again with the old knockerbox and she had moved a further nine foot up the tube. We opened up the tube where she had originally been and pulled out a freshly killed dog fox. I bent down into the tube and using my torch I could just about see ‘Brock’, she was hard at it working another fox, I quickly put a net down over the tube where we had originally opened up while Jay had started on the second dig to ‘Brock’.
Time was going fast as it does when you are enjoying yourself, the downside being it was getting dark and we only had one small torch with us so we had to save the battery power for when we got close to the bitch.
This second fox was giving the little bitch some stick from the sound of things, I told Jay to keep a close eye on the first dig just in case it managed to bolt, remembering this was our first time digging this drain and we didn’t know the layout of it.
Just as I was breaking through to ‘Brock’ the farmer, Philip, came looking for us, he had seen my car was still in his yard so came to find us on his quad bike. ‘Brock’ killed the second vulpine of the day, it being a vixen that we estimated at approximately 12lb in weight. With aching backs and tired arms Jay and I backfilled the two holes we had dug, not just because the farmer was there, who I might add was pleased as punch with what he had seen, but because it’s the right thing to do, As a terrierman you are duty bound to backfill any holes that you dig and get the site looking in the same condition as you found it, by doing this it greatly increases your chances of it being occupied by a fox again in the future, also it’s a big plus in helping you keep your permission.
‘Brock’ had worked really well and took a fair bit of stick working these two foxes. That was it for the season with ‘Brock’, I would get her right and take a litter out of her when she came into season.
I phoned my mate Dave, he had a good Russell dog named ‘Brody’ who was out of a brother/sister mating. He was a hard dog on a fox and had the knack of finishing things off with his quarry without taking too much stick for his troubles. It’s fair to say he was the type of terrier to find favour with me…, yeah, I liked him.
Over the years Dave had dug a lot to ‘Brody’ and his style never changed, so I used him over ‘Brock’. She had four pups; three bitches and a dog. I kept a bitch pup for myself, an all white bitch with flecks of colour on her ears, she was named ‘Pepper’. Dave had a bitch pup in lieu of the mating and sold her, my mate Morris had the remaining bitch pup whom he named ‘Nut’, and the dog pup went to a gamekeeper friend in Yorkshire. A couple of months later Morris was having another pup from me out of my old dog ‘Jake’.
When Morris came down we got talking dogs as you do with fellow terrier men, anyway one thing led to another and I let him take ‘Brock’ back with him as well so he could give her some light work and take a litter out of her when the time was right. Morris already had a few terriers in his yard, but before he was able to take a litter out of ‘Brock’ some dirty low-life stole her and the two pups he had off me. They didn’t touch any of his other terriers just the Russells. We went to shows all over the country for weeks after but never did find them, unfortunately.
I still had ‘Pepper’ and a few of the others. The seasons would come and go, we kept on digging as much as we could, most weeks it was three or four times a week plus weekends. Happy days. I had a kennel full of white terriers that I think any man would have been proud of. Long may it carry on. Hunting till I die.