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Preparing for the off

David Lissett’s gutsy little performer Ft.Ch. Annickview Anna (Ftch.Steadroc Sker x Rytex Ricicles) ran out the clear and convincing winner of the 30th running of the Irish Kennel Club’s A.V. Spaniel Championship held over two gruelling days on the Shane’s Castle Estate, Co.Antrim, N.Ireland. A quality bitch; small in stature, but oozing class, “Anna” added to her already impressive collection of trophies which include a previous 3rd in the Irish C’ship and superb first prize in the British A.V. Spaniel C’ships 2004. Handled superbly, as usual, by her unassuming trainer, David Lisset (Scotland), the winning combination turned in a marvellous performance throughout the hotly contested championship. Working the bitch with consummate ease and with the mimimum of handling required, Lissett guided this daughter of Ftch. Steadroc Sker to a well deserved victory.
Punishing cover took its toll on the dogs

Judges for the occasion were Mr. Larry Taaffe (S.Ire) and Mr. John Edwards (Wales) with Mr. Willie McGeaughin serving as championship referee. Judging throughout the entire two days was clear and decisive with no quarter given. Dogs had to be on their mettle to prove their worthiness to take part in this prestigious event where both judges demonstrated an eye for detail and upheld the highest standard possible.

To describe day one as not being a day for the faint of heart would be an understatement! A punishing biting wind accompanied by hard driving squalls whipped off the local Lough Neagh, added to the discomfort of both dogs and competitiors.

Chief stud dogs whose progeny were taking place were Int.Ftch. Millshadow Aster and Ftch. Knockmany Jumbo.

Cover consisted of oceans of thick punishing and severely unforgiving bramble and briars; this Championship demanded a dog that was willing to face the heaviest and most wicked of cover. Game tended to be patchy at times - some felt a little too patchy for an event such as this. On other occasions throughout the two days, large pockets of birds were to be found. Some dogs, over the two days of the event, had longer runs than necessary before getting positive finds and proving themselves, whilst others had quick finds with shortish runs. Overall, matters seemed to balance out. Some very high class demonstrations of hunting was seen from the dogs on show - where virtually every dog competing vigorously applied themselves to the thick testing cover.
Mark Clifford's hard going bitch Rydanlue Breeze attacked
cover with relish but proved too hot to hold over the two days

Running under Judge Taaffe:

No.3. Kingcott Dell (C.S.D./Kirkshall Lever x Priorsmeadow Roggy) handled by Eddie Scott (Scotland) had two handy finds and retrieves while applying himself well on his first run, but had a slightly harder second run.

No.5. Mark Clifford’s exciting ESSB Rydanlue Breeze (Ftch. Denford Danny of Belvden x Mistress Carra) was certainly a bitch that could hunt! Hard going and possessing a lot of drive, at times suicidal in cover, “Breeze” lives life on the edge and took all her handler’s ability to hold her. She certainly is a handful! She had a super first day, but her drive and hunting prowess proved just too much for her handler to hold together over the two days.

No.7. Mr.G.Wilson’s ESSD Mally Harbut of Witchwillow (Witchwillow Magician x Toonarmy Tamarzin) showed some good pace. Slightly pulling on his beat, he has two retrieves that could have been cleaner.

Next up was No.9. Mr. P. Learmont’s ESSB Tygore Asp (Roughburn Ricky x Dardnell Dante). This bitch hunted reasonably well, had quite a long run without any retrieve, and was tried on two differing eye-wipe possibilities with no success. Game along this strip of thick cover bordering the Lough edge was scant; the cold bitter wind whipping off the water seemed to be a deciding factor in the scarcity of finds. Some dogs having fairly long runs along this particular section.

The next dog under the Judge was No.11. Mr. A.Patterson’s ESSD Ballyfindra Stamp (Edwardiana Tay x Portaferry Tina). Ably handled by Aiden, this dog had two quickish finds during a shortish handy run and handled both with effortless ease.

Following on was dog No.13. Mr.C.Myer’s ESSD Whitehope Liquorice of Gannowfell. Showing good speed and style, coupled with application, this bitch had a very fine run with good finds and retrieves. A nice dog with good pace and fine hunting ablility.

Mr J. King’s No.15. ESSD Tito’s Follow The Leader (Iced Prince x Jenny’s Rose of Tawnyhill) was next into the line. A short quick run wherein the dog was showing some very nice pace and application ended abruptly when Judge Taaffe deemed that the dog had passed game - a hen bird that flushed behind dogs and handler.
Wickedly punishing bramble required dogs that were fearless in cover

Dog No.17., Mr.M.Smee’s ESSB Annickview Carina (Ftch. Millshadow Aster x Ftch. Edwardiana Tweed) was next up.

Next dog into the line was No.19. Mr .J. Butler’s ESSB Ftch. Carrigaunnroe Bushwacker (Castlemagner Butler x Carrigaunroe Fizz). With two good finds and accompanying retrieves, this bitch can certainly apply herself to cover showing very good application and drive.

No.21. Mr. P.McMahon’s ESSB Clonduff Falcon (Ftch. Millshadow Aster x Popeshall Lass) was next dog under the Judge. Handled exceptionally well by by Mr.P.Caragher, she showed some excellent controlled hunting; quietly handled, she gave a fine demonstration of hunting and retrieving with two nice finds and two accompanying retrieves. A first class performance.. a bitch to certainly note for the future!

Moving on to varying parcels of ground, the next dog in was David Lissett with No.25. Ftch. Annickview Anna (Ftch. Steadroc Sker x Rytex Ricicle). Controlled hunting, with virtually no assistance from her handler, she has a fairly longish run before finding . “Anna” works virtually unaided and seems totally genuine and trustworthy; the least amount of whistle and handling is required from her astute handler. A bird was flushed, shot and fell over a nearby pathway and into a wood. The Judge took dog and handler closer to line up a retrieve. Anna was sent out for the bird. She jumped a dodgy looking wire fence and hung herself up by the toes, in a way that looked quite serious to begin with. Her handler rushed to her aid expecting the worst. Anna hit the ground running and, without any handling or assistance, within a moment was back to hand with a beautifully picked bird! It all could have been a different story had her handler not been in close proximity to her when she became entangled. It certainly is a joy to watch both “Anna” and her handler at work. They demonstrate a very tight bond and take everything thrown at them in their stride - performing virtually every task asked off them with consumate ease.
Norman Blakeney's Ftch. Hattonswood Broc
prepares to cast off under the watchful eye of
Judge Larry Taaffe

A lot of walking seemed to be the order of the day. In fact, on both days, as fresh game holding ground was sought on a constant basis. Game at times was certainly patchy and, with the trial proper limited to certain areas of the estate, time was at a premium as darkness began to creep in.

Next dog to come under the Judge was No.27. Mr. G. R.D. Lett’s quality hunting ESSB Lunarstar of Beggarbush (Ftch.Clarburg Art x Tir-Adam-Uchaf Helen). Handled supremely well by Mr. W. Thomas, this bitch moved over her ground at a fast and furious pace. She possesses quality hunting ability and her prowess in the thickest of cover was a testament to her bravery and to her guts. As far as hunting ability goes, she has the lot. Speed... drive... application and style, she tore up cover with ease. She had good solid finds and retrieves and put in an excellent performance.

Mr. N. Blakeney’s No31. ESSD Ftch. Hattonswood Broc (Int.Ftch. Millshadow Aster x Ftch.Merlinsbrook Evita) was the next dog I had the pleasure of seeing. Starting off on some patchy ground under Judge Taaffe, the dog showed good pace and application. Again, a longish run with shortage of game supply. Eventually a find - where a bird was shot which fell onto higher ground positioned in a small nearby wood. Dog and handler were brought over by Judge Taaffe to try for the bird which the dog retrieved readily. After a short deliberation, the dog was eliminated.

Following on from this, Mr.M.Finglas’ No.33.ESSD Skrondale Glaris (Hattonswood Broc x Merlinsbrook Sorrel) took the stage. Again, fast and furious hunting, a rabbit on his patch upped the dog’s game and he began to rake slightly and pull on his beat.

Dog no.35. Mr. A. Cunningham’s ESSD Edwardiana Robb (Ftch. Knockmany Jumbo x Edwardiana Bella of Ringspear). This imposing son of Jumbo’s showed good application to his job. He was very stylish and was very well handled. A good find with an accompanying effortless retrieve followed some excellent controlled hunting.

Mr. T. Crother’s ESSD No.37 Swift Bill of Birdrowe (Ftch.Kelmscott Kostas x Birdrowe Kutie) followed next. A shortish to medium run culminated in finds and retrieve. Darkness had begun to fall by now and light was minimal when Mr. E. Scott’s spaniel, No.39. C.S.B. Ftch. Willowbee Wren (Ftch. Jenorel Dougal x Norleigh Carron) came into the line to commence their run. “Wren”, last year’s cocker championship winner had more or less just began to get into her stride with some excellent hunting, when Master of the Beat, Mr. B. Storer called time on the day’s preceedings.
Mr. A. Cunningham's stylish dog Edwardiana Rob took a well
deserved 4th prize in the c'ship

The Honorary Secretary; Vinnie Cauldwell announced the dogs being called back for the second day of the championship were as follows: 1, 5, 8, 11, 13, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44.

With a few dogs still to come in for their first runs and the remainder of called back dogs, the championship had now been whittled down to 24 competitiors from a total of 44 spaniels - comprising initially of 30 bitches and 14 dogs.

The first spaniel I had the pleasure to see on the second day was Mr. D. McKeeman’s ESSB Ftch. Kenmar Una (Int.Ftch.Anahoe Dusty x Ftch. Kenmar Melissa). A hard going little black and white bitch, she started her run along a narrow strip of ground bordered by two tightly packed double ditches where birds were holding tight and proving stubborn. Pacy, stylish and looking polished, she soon had a find and retrieve. Both “Una” and the following dog, Mr.W. Edgar’s ESSD Iced Prince (Ftch. Toonarmy Tirator of Snailsden x Swallowlaw Firefly), both fell by the wayside and were eliminated from the trial through judging decisions.

No.8. Mr. Ian English’s quality little ESSB Ftch. Craighaar Charisma (Ftch.Kettlestang Comet x Ftch. Moonreed Amy) was next to enter the fray. Another very long run was the order of the day for this consistent bitch. She really had to work hard and long for her finds as game yet again seemed to dry up. Eventually moving onto fresh ground, she had a nice find and retrieved readily. Controlled hunting with a nice pattern, she looked like a spaniel that could be well there.

The Duke of Buccleugh’s No.43 ESSB Edwardiana Tearaway (Ftch. Knockmany Jumbo x Ftch.Toonarmy Torrent) running along side was the next dog I had the pleasure to view. Handled by David Lissett, she had a fairly shortish run in lighter, more patchy bramble. Her handler was not happy with the effort being made by the dog and intimating to the Judge his intention, he lifted the dog and retired the dog from the trial.
An enthusiastic gallery of spectators followed the action throughout two gruelling days

No.24. Mr.B. McCallister’s ESSB Gola Glenarm Goddess (Ftch.Knockmany Jumbo x Tygore Fly) had quite a longish run where eventually her steadiness let her down and she ran into a retrieve on open ground.

Mr.John Howden’s No.28 ESSB Caulliechat Blanc (Broomfield Samson x Frandy Loch) was next to be seen. Given a more open type of ground, she applied herself reasonably well. Eventually, after a fruitless search and moving onto fresher ground, she had some good finds and two reasonable retrieves which required a little handling on open ground. Overall, she had an admirable run in which she took all in her stride.

Dog No.42. The Duke of Buccleugh’s ESSB Ftch. Annickview Breeze (Ftch. Clarburg Art x Ftch. Edwardiana Tweed) was next to be seen. Again handled effortlessly by D.Lissett, she looked extremely well schooled, showing some fine hunting ability, she soon found and retrieved..
Award winning dogs had to pass the requisite water test at
the culmination of the c'ship

Dog No.32. Mr. D. Kyle’s ESSB Perdita’s Prize (Ftch. Kenine Robb of Rytex x Finknottle Fantasy) is a bitch that always catches the eye. Looking totally reliable and trustworthy, she always puts her best foot forward and gives of her best. She has quite a long run in which she hit cover with alacrity. Some super finds, coupled with controlled pacy hunting, she had three excellent retrieves under Judge Taaffe and without doubt was well tested as to her ability. A very good bitch!

Mr.L.Rice’s lightly made spaniel, No.30.ESSB Cheweky Lightening (Kettlestang Clipper x Caulliechat Warbler of Cheweky), is a little bitch that always puts in a tingling performance. Hunting extremely well, she applied herself to the heaviest cover with ease. Moving around again to seek for fresher ground and bird supply, she eventually bumped into a large head of game. A really hot corner, she had a nice find, but her passion just got the better of her, moving a little more than the Judge would have preferred, she was eliminated from the trial..

Mr. I. English’s No.40 ESSB Deniro Demi (Dolgarreg General x Dolau Nair) was the penultimate dog I was able to catch. Again, a fairly longish run, the bitch hunted exceptionally well. Showing really good application and purpose, she had some nice finds and accompanying retrieves and put in a above average performance.

Finishing off the runs proper that I was able to catch was dog No.42 ESSB Annickview Breeze (Ftch. Clarburg Art x Ftch. Edwardiana Tweed). Showing some nice pace and drive on this her final run and going extremely well, she was hunting a thick bank of cover, and to my eyes, she seemed to double hunt and put game up from ground she had covered.

All dogs having received their final runs, both Judges retired to deliberate their verdicts. A run off between three dogs was called for to determine placings:

  • No.23. Swanway Tornado(ESSD)
  • No.8. FT.CH Craighaar Charisma(ESSB)
  • No.35. Edwardiana Rob(ESSD)

All dogs qualifying for awards were then taken to the obligatory water test, where all were tested as to their ability to take water. All passed. The championship proper was concluded. The cortège made their way to the championship headquarters located at a local hotel where the prizes were awarded.
Winning handler David Lissett (Scotland) accepts another
trophy on behalf of his championship winning bitch
FT.CH Annickview Anna


  • 1st No.25. FT.CH Annickview Anna (ESSB) owned by The Duke of Buccleuch and handled by Mr.D. H. Lissett (awarded The J.McGrath Perpetual Cup to the winne & The Cathageinne Perpetual Trophy for the Best Retrieve of the Championship)
  • 2nd No.23. Swanway Tornado (ESSD) owner/handler Mr. R Chapple (awarded The Parkmaple Perpetual Trophy)
  • 3rd No.8. FT.CH Craighaar Charisma (ESSB) owner/handler Mr. I English (awarded The Combined Spaniel Clubs of Ireland Perpetual Trophy)
  • 4th No.35. Edwardiana Rob (ESSD) owner/handler Mr. A Cunningham (awarded The Cretoka Perpetual Trophy)

Diplomas of Merit

  • No.11. Ballyfindra Stamp (ESSD) owner/handler Mr. A Patterson
  • No.13. Whitehope Liquorice of Gannowfell (ESSD) owner/handler Mr. C Myers
  • No.19. FT.CH Carrigaunroe Bushwacker (ESSB) owner/handler Mr. J Butler
  • No.20. Whitehope Reval (ESSD) owner/handler Mr. J O'Neill
  • No.21. Clonduff Falcon (ESSB) owner/Mr. P Mc.Mahon and handler Mr.P.Caragher (awarded The R.McElhinney Perpetual Cup to the best Irish dog. The Eastern Region Army Game Perpetual Cup awarded to Mr.S.McKinstrey to the breeder resident in Ireland - the produce of whose kennel is placed highest in the championship)
  • No.27. Lunar Star of Beggarbush (ESSB) owner/Mr. G.R.D. Letts and handler Mr. W Thomas (awarded The Chubby Williams Memorial Perpetual Prize - The Guns Award to the dog the guns enjoyed shooting over)
  • No.32. Perdita's Prize (ESSB) owner/handler Mr. D Kyle
  • No.39. FT.CH Willowbee Wren (CSB) owner/handler Mr. E Scott
  • No.40. Deniro Demi (ESSB) owner/handler Mr. I English
Last year's cocker c'ship winner FT.CH Willowbee Wren
put in an admirable performance over the two days and
was awarded with a diploma of merit

Mel Vage having acquired his first spaniel at the age of seven, a cocker of questionable parentage, Tickety Boo has had a lifelong passion for spaniels. Although training both spaniels and retrievers, his first love are spaniels - and in particular, springers.

"What divides the quality spaniels from the mediocre?"

"The quality spaniels have hunting in their souls."

Mel Vage presently runs the successful online spaniel group Spaniels 4 Sport.

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