Reprinted from the Summer, 1984 issue of The Deerhound Club newsletter. Copyright The Deerhound Club. Reprinted with permission. Many thanks to The Deerhound Club for the use of their materials.
Miss Noble [AMEN] talking at the home of Dr Poyner-Wall [PW] on the eve of Bath Championship Show 28 May 1983, with Mary Girling [MG] at the recorder.
AMEN: We’re in action then Mary? We’re off! Now when did I get my first hound?
MG: Yes. When did you start, and why?
AMEN: Well, why I started was very odd. Just by pure chance I was riding home from the station taking a pony back, and I saw about four or five deerhounds being led along by the forestry keeper whom I knew slightly. And the funny thing – in view of recent discussions – one of them happened to be a hairless deerhound. It was an Enterkine bitch and the others were her offspring, and the keeper told me the bitch was the better worker, and I think the offspring were by Spey [of the Foothills] – I think, I’m not sure.
MG: Is that the one that went to Canada?
AMEN: Went to Canada and came back – with Mr. Gordon. But I’m not sure. Certainly they were from an Enterkine bitch because this keeper not only knew it was an Enterkine bitch but he knew where Miss Bell lived at that time at Maidenhead – Ray Rise. And I don’t know, I’d never really thought about getting a dog – let alone a deerhound. I remember coming home and I remember looking in the Encyclopedia Britannica and reading about deerhounds and presumably I wrote to Marjorie and she must have written and said she had this bitch puppy, Nora of Enterkine, I don’t know if it was called after Norah Hartley! The funny thing is, I remember absolutely nothing about it coming up, I presume she’d been on the train and it came to Arrochar –
I just don’t remember. But I remember it arriving. And I remember telling my mother “I’m getting a dog” and she said “oh” – you know! And it lived outside so it didn’t really impinge on them at all. But anyhow, every single hound that I have goes back to Nora of Enterkine. And that was the autumn – November of 1930 that she arrived, or was it 1931?
MG: And did you join in the showing?
AMEN: Well, the first show I was going to go to, I was showing a horse at Ayr Show so I thought I’d take my deerhound. And I entered her. Well then I discovered – I woke up one morning and looked at the schedule – and found it was the wrong day I was going to go. One of the better things is, that I sent a telegram to the Secretary to say that I wasn’t coming! He must have thought I was sort of round the bend!
Anyhow, I showed at Ayr once or twice, because it was handy. It used to be a championship show – we didn’t have certificates but we had classes and I showed there. I’ve a photograph there with Roxanne, I called her, and then Marjorie [Bell] who was a great one for encouraging people to do everything, she encouraged me to show a bit. I remember going with her and staying with someone or other for Manchester show. I went to quite a few shows, but not a great many before the War. And I bred two litters, I think, from Roxanne – one of which was unintentional! I was away from home, and the groom had inadvertently let the dog with the bitch, and she had a litter of puppies. Both times Marjorie had the bitch to have puppies because I was in London at the time, and the third time the bitch died and Marjorie and her very good kennel maid, Hilda, hand-reared them and I think that was the litter that produced Aphra [Aphra Dubh] that I had, and Aphra was the mother of Monarch, and Tessa – but she was a different litter. Because I hadn’t registered a prefix until Monarch – Tessa was just Tessa and not Tessa of Ardkinglas.
MG: Could you register them?
AMEN: Oh yes, you could then. Now you have to put Kenstaff on I think, but you could register them. It is more difficult to register them without a prefix. But when Monarch came along, I had registered a prefix by that time.
MG: And he was your first Champion? The first dog you’d campaigned enough to make a champion?
AMEN: I think Tessa was the first. Certainly Monarch was the first dog. They were both at the same time. During the War, I had some of Marjorie Bell’s [Enterkine] – I started off with four or five of her puppies. And a young bitch who died, I think of poisoning, and the puppies were sold. And then I had Patrick of Enterkine for most of the War really, and he was the sire of Tessa. And then of course Marjorie took him back and made him a Champion when he was ten years old – which was quite remarkable for a deerhound really. After the War, when championship shows started up in about 1948 or so, I had Tessa and Monarch and they really put me on the map because they were good dogs, a good dog and a good bitch and I was very lucky, and did very well with them. The Loughreys [Ross] took me up in quite a big way.
MG: They approved of you?
AMEN: Yes – because I hadn’t really shown very much before the War against them, so I was fairly new and as I was half Irish they quite liked me! And they really pushed me quite a lot. And it made a difference, no doubt that it helped.
MG: Because they didn’t like everybody did they?
AMEN: Oh no, by no means. But who does? I remember Norah and Nessie [Linton (Geltsdale)] and other people were amazed when I said to Bird Loughrey “would you mind carrying this while I….” Nobody else had ever dreamt of saying anything like that! You see I was a sort of different generation. I had shown a bit when they were showing but not very much and then I came in and they had given up showing by then.
MG: So you weren’t really in competition as such?
AMEN: No. They’d given up. And they disapproved of Norah very much because I think when they gave up the Club, they were disappointed that the Club didn’t fold up, really. I mean they were so convinced that large dogs and the whole thing was going to close down. And it went from strength to strength. And they never stopped criticizing everybody else. But they really took to me, and it did help a lot because they knew a lot of the people and they sort of said, Miss Noble, and you know! And, also, having two rather good hounds – and once you get known if you have good hounds – or one good hound, it does help a lot. And I had Tessa, the funny thing was I liked bitches better even then, and Monarch whom Norah particularly loved and was a very nice dog, but he was much more difficult to show and he would go dead in the ring, absolutely dead come the big ring. And in those days it wasn’t a group system you mostly had every best of breed, and very often the best dog and the best bitch so it took hours to judge, and the dog would go dead. Whereas Tessa came into the ring saying “Here am I – look at me!”, and this made such a difference.
MG: I haven’t got Tessa – I’d made a note of your dogs that had become champions, was that her real name?
AMEN: Yes, just Tessa. I liked her very much, I think she was a very good bitch. Monarch was a very nice dog too.
MG: I remember James Cummings [o’ the Pentlands] saying that Monarch was a beautiful mover but he hadn’t got a very deep body.
AMEN: No, he could have done with more depth of body. But he was very quality, he was doggy but had great quality. He was a very bad stud dog. He bred quite well, but he was very inefficient at mating, and I was inexperienced and latterly he always went to Norah to a marvelous railway man who, as Norah said, “could mate a clothes peg”! Mind you, considering he’d actually been judged Best in Show twice and he did produce some nice hounds, he was very seldom used because, of course, there were less hounds being bred at that time. I think he only had six bitches in his lifetime, but he used to go down to Norah and all the railway people knew him.
MG: Two Best in Shows must have been quite something?
AMEN: Yes, but he was – both times he lost it. You see he was disqualified in Glasgow because he’d been in a variety class and beaten. A judge called McDonald put him down to a borzoi, and he was called in for Best in Show and I knew he could get the Scottish Cup for the best Scottish dog but he couldn’t go best in show. But he was judged Best in Show and disqualified. And the thing I really minded was losing the gold medallion with the deerhound head on it! I had to give that up, and there were only two or three more given out. They’ve given them up now. And the same year, because in those days Glasgow was in March, the same year he went to Ayr in April and he won Reserve Best in Show the first day, and Hindley Taylor with his Peke won Best in Show and he went home, and so Monarch came in on the second day to be judged – I thought he might get Reserve Best in Show but the judges asked Binney, who was the Kennel Club representative there, and he said yes, they could give it to Monarch – which they did and then it was annulled, it wasn’t disqualified. It was just annulled, there was no award because the Kennel Club man had said…So he was twice judged best in show, but he never got it.
MG: He must have been very fine, because a deerhound never shows that well.
AMEN: Well, he was sort of lucky. At the time in Glasgow, in the Kelvin Hall there used to be a big main ring with tiered seats where they had boxing and things, and this was where they did the best in show, and there had been an obedience display and alsatians in the ring, and Monarch came in ‘looking’, he saw these alsatians – which he never did normally – he was sort of ‘eee eee’, you know, and he looked magnificent because he was just alert “Here we are” so that helped a big lot that time. But those two dogs really put me on the map and once you’ve had one or two good ones people start to look at you. But Monarch didn’t breed a lot. Tessa had one litter of which I sold all of them, thinking I would breed some more and she never had another live puppy. That’s when I bought her sister, Amoret. No, I sold Amoret during the War to Miss Gardiner, then Marjorie got her and then I borrowed her from Marjorie to breed a litter and to keep the line.
PW: Amoret was a daughter of Tessa?
AMEN: No, she was a sister.
MG: Probably your best hound was Aurora?
AMEN: Yes, well she came on a little bit later. Now Aurora was Lydia’s daughter, and Lydia was rather smaller – well a lot of people would have thought she was a bit small, but very sound. I loved her type. And she was mated to an out-an-out woolly called Ulric who was charming, a lovely dog, but a real woolly. He never produced any woollies though.
MG: But he did have a beautiful body didn’t he?
AMEN: Yes, good body and wonderful quarters. A beautiful big dog and lovely thick quarters, he was marvelous in that way. And he produced Aurora among others, a very good litter altogether. And then I was very unfortunate with Aurora’s breeding, because when I mated her and she had a litter – which turned out to be a super litter – but the bitch I was going to keep died of leptospiral jaundice and I only had Fitzroy and as everybody knows, I like bitches much better! And it has to be admitted that I was very annoyed, now it’s past history, with Miss Macpherson who had a bitch from the litter because she wanted to show it and when she decided she couldn’t because of family reasons and one thing and another, instead of offering it back to me, she gave it to Nessie Linton on the condition that she would not part with it. OK, Nessie made her into a champion, but I never had the chance of having her and breeding from her. So I’ve lost the female line or nearly in a way, I mean from that litter, a lot of mine have Fitzroy – Idol comes down from Aurora, a lot of my stuff comes from Aurora but mostly through Fitzroy although I still have Dazzle for instance, who comes down from Aurora through Nadia. Aurora only had two litters: she had one very good litter and one rather indifferent litter. She was twice mated to a Rotherwood hound – which one I am now not quite sure, and missed both times and I think was mated to something else and she was finally mated to Bosun of Geltsdale, and I regret to state that I blame the upright shoulders and the ring tail on Bosun! Because it doesn’t come through the other line – I mean Fyne and that lot have not got it, or the Fitzroy ones. And of course Aurora was far and away the biggest winning hound I’ve ever had, the best hound in my opinion that I have ever had.
MG: She was a good hound as well as a good winner?
AMEN: Oh yes, well, I think she was a very good hound. Norah always says there is one fault she had, but she never tells me what it is! But she was quite narked that she was around then. I mean you know, like one is if there is a good hound being shown against one of your good ones, it is very annoying to keep coming up against them. Aurora didn’t have a particularly good temperament for some reason, she was quite nervous. And it has come on down through the line in some cases.
MG: She probably showed very well though?
AMEN: Very much easier, very much so. She was always on the alert and looking beautiful. She had plenty of substance, she was big and she had great quality as well. I thought she had tremendous quality. And I loved her as a hound. She also loved coursing and won the Dava Quaich.
PW: I thought she was lovely, and in fact that was the reason when I started that I wanted my foundation bitch to be from Aurora – and she was Fyne.
AMEN: And your one, I always remember Marjorie saying to me, “I think Phyllis’s bitch, Fyne, that she got from you, a bit disappointing”. And I said well, I didn’t think so because I think it is just as well that she didn’t win too well to begin with, because if you win straight away you are out of all the lower classes and smaller shows. And in fact she did extremely well for you, in the end, didn’t she?
PW: Yes she did. The trouble was she hurt her stifle joint and I also went off to Africa, and she had about six weeks when she had very little exercise – which was a good thing for her stifle joint, and when she came out from kennels she looked awful, sort of weedy – and I had to wait. But then she did very well indeed.
AMEN: The lucky thing with that litter was that they were all shown, I mean I sent one to Miss McPherson because she said she wanted a good bitch to show – well, as it happened it went to Nessie who showed her, your one was shown, the other bitch went to Bryan Malcolm and of course he was killed, well then again that never came back to me, Miriam [Dickinson] got it and if you happen to get three bitches or three dogs, especially at that time when we had so few certificates, it is very difficult to make up a champion because they are always meeting each other. And it was very lucky that all the three owners plus of course Fitzroy, although he was a dog so of course he didn’t come against them, were made up because were all at the same period. And then Miriam went on showing Finetta till quite late and finally made her up. So I mean the fact of four champions in the litter depended a great deal on the persistence of the owners as well as the quality of the dogs. When Fyne and Fearn were shown they were always up and down – one time one judge, and one time another put them up.
PW: And there was also Virgilia [of Rotherwood] who was being shown at the time, I sometimes beat her and sometimes didn’t.
AMEN: Yes, it is obviously much more difficult with a lot of competition. Also I think, you know people say, a litter has three or four champions or two or whatever, but it all depends on how much the people who have them show them and the opposition at the time. You can get easy champions through – I’ve had easy champions getting through because there hasn’t been a great deal of opposition at that moment. Chieftain was a lucky champion.
MG: And he was a grandson of Fitzroy?
AMEN: That’s right. And he got his second ticket and I’m sure that was because the Loughrey’s helped me! Because Dill Loughrey was sitting at the ring side at WELKS, I think, and was saying, yes, I think it was when my brother died, and she mentioned – I’m sure she mentioned something to the judge and the judge put him up! I’m always convinced that she did that!
MG: That’s my friend Miss Noble’s dog!
AMEN: That’s right! You know, she’s had a bit of bad luck lately, give her a try. These things happen you know, you’ve no idea…
MG: Then there’s Nadia, who is she?
AMEN: She was from the second litter from Aurora by Bosun – a very, no, I wouldn’t say indifferent hound, but not really good I don’t think – she was a lucky champion if ever there was one. One judge said, ‘I like her very much but her expression is terrible, but I’ll give her the ticket’. She had a very mean expression and a not very nice eye and she wasn’t a very good bitch really. That litter was very disappointing. There were only four puppies. But the ones that came from Fitzroy were good. Then I was very lucky in getting Ailsa of Orbost who was by Fitzroy, well I then bred her to Tarquin [of Rotherwood] and got Justina: then I got Zuleika and Idol – they came down through Fitzroy that way.
MG: Justina was an unlucky bitch I thought. She was a nice hound, and got two CCs.
AMEN: Well, she wasn’t all that super. I adored her, but I don’t think she was a super super deerhound.
MG: She was a lovely worker.
AMEN: She was a marvelous worker. She had a lot going for her but she was not the best deerhound ever. And then she’s bred Zuleika, and from Zuleika, Idol. Funnily enough I see Idol at times extremely like Aurora – the way she looks at me, and her head. I know she’s not so good as Aurora but she puts me in mind of her at times.
MG: I think that is some of the fun of knowing the grandparents and parents.
AMEN: Yes, this is where I think it must be very odd for people who jump from one breed to another and only have a breed for two or three years, you never really get continuity, in a way.
MG: Do you find that personalities are inherited?
AMEN: Yes, very much. Well, I think it’s like people – certain things come through tremendously. I mean for instance, Aurora’s line, a lot of the nervous hounds come from Aurora and through Strachan [Champflower Strachan of Melchior] – that comes down I think. But also I have a bitch line, Bride, Neva, all these ones they have exactly the same temperament, exactly the same habits, they put their head down, and won’t have the lead put on. They won’t go into their kennels they just stand like and ‘….’ – you know! And they are all the same – ‘dumb blonds’ I call them, every single one!
we pause for thought, and then
AMEN: It’s funny that Marjorie Bells’ kennels have definitely started more kennels than anybody else.
MG: I know when I first came in, Marjorie gave a prize to encourage newcomers. Poor Barbara Butler didn’t want to give me the prize at all, but I was the person that Marjorie Bell wanted to win it, and even then she was trying to encourage new people.
AMEN: Well she did, several people have been started with her hounds.
MG: Marjorie must have been quite a character?
AMEN: Oh she was great fun. The stories I could tell about Marjorie Bell are just legion. She was a character – a great character, and she certainly encouraged in the early days – I mean people who had a hound, presumably like me – she encouraged and said go to this, and do that, do something else and kept you going. She had this fierce mother whom I didn’t know very well, but was very difficult, and I believe a very unattractive character.
MG: You were telling a marvelous story about Jimmy Garrow the other day – he was, what, a judge after the War?
AMEN: Yes, he was a judge long before the War too – a great character. In these days, well, I suppose people are characters now but Jimmy Garrow was definitely one then. He wore an enormous hat – he’d been on the stage, he judged everything from guinea-pigs to deerhounds – anything! And he had a wonderful wonderful memory. And he was always telling extraordinary stories. He said to me once when I went to talk to him, “Don’t talk to me now Miss Noble, I’m not fit for the likes of you” – he was well away! And another time when I was wearing red shoes – it was the Bath show incidentally – and he said “Don’t think because you’ve got red shoes on you’re going to get the first prize – go down there”! I’ve still got those shoes as a matter of fact!
MG: Who else was a character when you started?
AMEN: Well, Warner Hill of course – he went on for a long time. There were masses of people, there were people in Scotland – you had Scott, and Alec Murray – whom I hated! – they had a rip-roaring fight at one Ayr show – the two judges both got drunk but I mean that happens anywhere, you know. Of course there were a lot of characters in the deerhound world – the Loughreys were the biggest characters of the lot really.
MG: I never quite worked out which one was the Bird and which one was Dill.
AMEN: Bird was the older, Dill was the one who judged the dogs.
PW: Dill was the one with the hat, and Bird was the pretty one.
MG: Dill must have been the one that was still President when I started?
AMEN: Yes that’s right, Our President, Our President.
MG: And she burnt all her records?
AMEN: Yes, she destroyed all her deerhound records. Nobody quite knows why. I think you were the one who asked her not to, weren’t you Phyllis?
PW: Yes, I suggested she gave them to the Club and she didn’t want to do that. So I then wrote and said why not give them to somebody that you’d like to give them to, and they can then keep them on but she said that would cause ill feeling.
AMEN: And didn’t she say to you that she had agreed with Bird, that they should destroy them? And therefore she didn’t want to go back on that. Her maid Therese told me, “Oh, it was a terrible thing, all those lovely red leather-bound books being burnt”. I didn’t really mind about the leather bound books, but what was in them. Norah said she thought possibly there were comments and things they used to write in books but that wouldn’t have mattered, once they were dead, it wouldn’t have mattered what they said about anybody!
PW: A great loss. She sent me a photograph of one of the dogs because I had won a little compact – Dramatic of Ross I think, whom Nessie had, and she said ‘I have torn this out of my book, but as they are all going to be burnt it won’t matter’. That’s how I first knew…
AMEN: It is extraordinary, amazing, but she must have had odd ideas because when Dill was there before she died, Theresa told me at the sale that I went to, where there were a lot of skins – nothing to do with deerhounds – but there were tiger skins and things made into rugs, their brother had shot them in the Sudan and apparently quite a lot of them, Dill had said no, she wouldn’t have them sold, she’d burn them along with the other things. It’s amazing. Imagine her sitting and thinking, well, I don’t think I’ll let those go…
MG: But that generation didn’t go in for destroying things – I didn’t think…
AMEN: Well, it seems a funny thing. When you are dead, what the heck about a few lion skins or what. It didn’t matter. Amazing sort of mentality. But they were very Irish and they were great characters. I liked them very much, although I used to get annoyed. Bird was much the most difficult. If you got Dill on her own you could always deal with Dill, but Bird was extremely difficult. She got more and more cantankerous and more and more difficult! But they liked me because I was half Irish and I understand their character. The average English person couldn’t understand what they were at. When they were moaning about what Miss Doxford did in 1923 or something, Norah said why are they worrying about 1923? I said my dear Norah, the Irish bother about the Battle of the Boyne. It’s not 1923, it’s only yesterday to them. It is absolutely true – it’s the same in the Highlands. English people don’t understand that, but I enjoyed them. And I suppose they undoubtedly did a lot for the Deerhound Club in the lean years after the 1914-18 War. Then when the Club restarted after the Second War, Norah and Nessie and people did everything. We had the first Breed Show which Norah thought up, I don’t know how she had this idea of getting it, it was a championship show, and it had 38 entries – I’ve just been looking it up, and Jimmy Garrow judged it and I think the Loughreys again were not all that keen on the idea, but I’m not sure about that. And then of course it was the A.G.M. to get the Club going again, and they resigned. They were convinced that big dogs would not take on.
MG: They felt so strongly that they resigned?
AMEN: No, they had given up and they thought there wouldn’t be any food, and people wouldn’t have big dogs and they then resigned. And then a new committee was elected, with Norah as Secretary, I cannot remember who the Treasurer was – I think Marjorie Bell. No, was she then? No, I don’t think so – she certainly was later. And then there was a man called Colonel McConnell who was also Irish, who was Chairman, and the Loughreys rather approved of that because he was Irish, and also because he was a man – they had a tremendous feeling that a man should be in charge. He didn’t last very long – I really cannot remember how he came into the picture – Norah would remember that better than me. I was a beginner at that stage.
MG: Was that about 1945?
AMEN: 1947 – the Show was in 1947. And the meeting was then. And the whole thing was re-started and for ever after that the Loughreys had their knife into Norah – I think because the Club went from success to success! They thought it was all going to close down because they had resigned. I may be wrong about this but that was the impression. And when the Club went on, Bird especially was always picking at Norah.
MG: Norah had taken over from Bird as secretary?
AMEN: The Loughreys were secretary and treasurer – they ran it. And then Norah took over the secretaryship, but I cannot remember whether Marjorie took over as treasurer right away.
Shows were very different of course, the Deerhound Club was so small and the number of classes, and the number of Certificates we had, it was a totally different picture from now.
MG: You’d have had about eight sets of certificates a year?
AMEN: Six I think. Five or six I think when I started.
MG: You really had to have a good dog to get them through?
AMEN: Yes. I won, I think I equalled the record for a dog winning Certificates with Monarch, but of course several of them were with the same judge, repeat judges, which you almost had to do. It was Norah then, who said when I had won quite a lot and who encouraged me to show Monarch, because she loved Monarch, she thought he was marvelous. And I must have been one of the most unpopular exhibitors! There was one woman – I don’t know how many reserves she won below Monarch – she must have hated me and Monarch! Monarch got twenty CCs, he might have got 21. He was in quarantine because I had distemper in my kennel, then he got spleen trouble, it was enlarged and was removed, and I showed him after that and he wasn’t in good form and he was beaten – one of the few times he was ever beaten and then he died of kidney trouble. So he only equaled the record, he didn’t beat it. Warner Hill judged him, and put him down, and he said “Oh it had to be me, it had to be me.”