David McCurdy was a devoted family man, highly respected doctor, renowned and avid outdoorsman, friend and gentleman in every sense of the word.
He was a rightfully proud Cape Bretoner who became a medical doctor, served overseas in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and then joined the Nova Scotia Department of Health. David served in Cape Breton until he moved to Halifax in 1961, then continued to serve our Province, retiring from the position of Administrator of Consultation Services in 1977.
Iím George Sutherland and like many of you, I met Doctor McCurdy through English springer spaniels. This is not about us, but rather, how sharing our experiences helps me to remember David.
In 1989, I called David on the phone, telling him I didnít know anything about springer spaniels. Over a year earlier our daughter, Jill, had been bitten by our previous dog. I asked if his dogs were good with children.
"Why donít you come down and see for yourself?" he replied in a gentle voice. I knew right away this was no ordinary person.
"Enjoying Margotís sweets and drinking tea with David in the blue Volvo were some of the highlights of these times that many of us were fortunate enough to experience."
Accompanied by my sons, Mike and Mark, then 10 and 12 years old, I met David the next day. We were greeted by a warm smile, twinkling bright eyes and a very firm handshake at the McCurdy home on Burns Drive. He was tall, like my father, looked you directly in the eye and what a grip!
We met his wife, Margot, the dogs: Sharp, Wrinkles and other dogs from Glenrock Kennel. After watching the dogs, we were invited back to their home. My two sons and I were fascinated by what we had just seen. The boys laid on the floor at Davidís feet asking him question after question for close to two hours.
There were times where I thought they were taking up too much of our hosts' time, but David appeared to enjoy answering them, even encouraging them to ask more questions. And David asked some subtle questions of his own, which I later discovered were part of the McCurdy interview process, during which he sized us up. Later Lillian and Jill visited.
In the spring, we were fortunate enough to receive a wonderful Glenrock pup and she became an important part of our family.
But this quickly became more than just getting a dog. In the process, and over the next few months, we were fortunate enough to get to know even more of the warmness of the McCurdy family. We enjoyed visiting them and we were always welcome. I was also privileged to enjoy Margotís cooking and realize his children must have had a good thing going when they were growing up!
David was - and had - every reason to be proud of Margot, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
"He was always so interested in your life, your career, your well-being, how everyone in the family was doing, how the dog was doing - a true optimist," remembers my son, Michael."
David was over 75 years young when I first met him. He and Margot loved their garden and enjoyed swimming... when Margot could get him away from the dogs. He enjoyed skating, cross country skiing and real walks. Sandy Cove may have been one of his favourites, but I also think he knew just about every orchard in Nova Scotia. What an inspiration to others!
His eyes would light up and his face would fill with a warm smile whenever we discussed the outdoors. He had such a very deep appreciation of nature, family and friendships.
David and Margot were kind enough to introduce us to a number of their friends, many of whom were members of the Scotia Springer Club. Everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly. All were deeply fond of David and Margot. Enjoying Margotís sweets and drinking tea with David in the blue Volvo were some of the highlights of these times that many of us were fortunate enough to experience.
David had a passion for dogs. He was a founding member and president of the Scotia Springer Club in 1969. With his many accomplishments, he was written up in hunting magazines and books. But David would never tell you that... and would simply smile if you mentioned it.
He and his dogs had won many field trials and placements in Canada and the United States. His dog, Fury, handled by John Mitchell, won the Canadian National in 1998. Numerous dinners and gunshoots have been held in his honour. His family room is filled with trophies, books and videos.
In a tribute to David, friend and author, Shirley Woods wrote "...he staged the first springer trial in the Atlantic Provinces. Over the decades, the beneficial effects of his selective breeding of field spaniels have rippled across the continent. Equally important, he has shared his success with others... helping countless people."
David Diblee told me the entry fee for that first trial was $12.50 and that Doc won that trial.
Jim Gourlay wrote: "The name David McCurdy has been synonymous with English springers for... years." and "One could argue the genteel personality of the man has by some miracle been... transferred to his dogs... Glenrock Springers are lambs in the family room and tigers in the field."
In short, "Doc" McCurdy is a legend in Canada and beyond. In 2008, although unable to attend, he was inducted into the Spaniel Field Trial Hall of Fame in Tennessee.
I know that David would not want me to dwell on his accomplishments. David was never about "David". Rather his interest was always in you, your family, mutual friends and, of course, your dog. He enjoyed seeing people learn. If things werenít going just right, he would always find something positive to say to encourage you.
"He was always so interested in your life, your career, your well-being, how everyone in the family was doing, how the dog was doing - a true optimist," remembers my son, Michael. "Whether you had an interest in hunting or not, David was always so genuine and wanted to know every detail, which he would recall at later dates. His enthusiasm, attentiveness and patience were like none other. I can only imagine the physician he was during his years as a public health doctor."
I have one final story. If there is one thing I will always remember about David McCurdy, it was how remarkably supportive and positive he was about everything in life.
"David McCurdy was tall in so many ways, gentle, wise, patient, steady and determined, caring and supportive... always positive beyond description."
In the fall of 1990, the boys and I wanted to hunt pheasants with our new dog in the Annapolis Valley. We invited David and he was going to drive down to meet us on a Saturday morning. It poured rain all night and the next morning. We were staying at my in-laws and the phone rang at about 8:30 in the morning. I thought it was David calling to say he wouldnít be coming. Not a chance. He was already at a farmhouse just a few miles down the road, getting better directions.
David didnít want us to be disappointed. So we drove around in the pouring rain - all the while he was beaming, staying positive, telling us how beautiful or good every bit of cover was and how pheasants were exciting and magnificent birds.
He told us to look through the rain at the light sky in the distance. The clouds seemed awfully dark to me, but David was keeping our hopes alive that we would be able to get out together for the hunt. Even the boys starting saying "Look Dr. McCurdy, thereís light in the sky" as the rain poured down.
The rain finally ended early in the afternoon, the light shone and we did get out for a hunt together. We were absolutely thrilled. David was determined to ensure that he and these two young boys would get out hunting with their new pup. His commitment and positive attitude are things our family will cherish forever.
In recent years, age may have slowed him physically, but his care for his family and friends remained his priority. David McCurdy was tall in so many ways, gentle, wise, patient, steady and determined, caring and supportive... always positive beyond description. How do you pay your respects and help celebrate the life of such a wonderful man, who has touched so many, in less than ten minutes? I donít know the answer. I simply hope you can identify with some of these experiences.
In a tribute to another legendary breeder and his good friend, Talbot Radcliffe, David wrote: "We will cherish the memory of our friendship with him..." Well David, we will cherish the memory of our friendship with you. You gave us so much.
To Margot, Sheila, Ross, Doug and your families, as we all gather here today, I hope it gives you real comfort in knowing how much David was so deeply respected - and truly loved by everyone he touched.