The Welsh Corgi League will celebrate their 75th anniversary with a Championship Show on May 4, 2013 at the Royal Court Hotel in Keresley, Nr. Coventry, followed by a gala dinner.
The following account by the late Thelma Gray will tell you how it all began:
The Birth of a Notion
1938 - 1959
When I look back - far back too - into 1938, it is hard to remember exactly when I became aware of the growing necessity for a second breed club. For one thing, Mrs. Douglas Redding (then Mrs. Fletcher), was so closely connected with these efforts, that she seemed a part of the League's "whelping complications" right from the start and we thought it all up together. We were both enthusiastic members of the Welsh Corgi Club, which was based in Wales. The long drives into the wilds of Pembrokeshire from our homes in Surrey were always enjoyable and memorable expeditions, but there were times when it was impossible to spend days away from home, and when we began to feel a little bit out of touch.
More and more shows outside Wales began to put on classes for Corgis, providing these were fully guaranteed. For a long time, Mrs. Redding and I had guaranteed many of the classifications ourselves, sometimes assisted by some of the gradually increasing number of enthusiasts this side of the Welsh border, but we often felt that a Club should really be shouldering some of this burden. The Welsh Corgi Club supported most of the Championship Shows, but the bulk of its membership lived in South Wales and obviously could not drain its resources, paying out for shows that would probably be attended only by a small handful of its members. Mrs. Redding and I decided that a Club was really needed which would meet in the London area and promote classes at shows in various parts of England.
We called upon Mr. Knapp, at that time professional Secretary for other dog societies, and he gave us helpful advice and offered to act as Secretary if required.
Our first thoughts were for the Welsh Corgi Club. Could we go ahead with this project without damaging our cordial relations with that excellent body? We were most anxious to start a Club that could work smoothly with it and be in no sense a rival concern. Accordingly, we wrote and explained what was in our minds. The suggestion was received with sympathy and understanding, so we went ahead with our arrangements.
A meeting was called at Mrs. Redding's home at Oxshott, Surrey, on 21st June, 1938. The following were present: Mrs. Redding, Mrs. and Miss Higgon (the latter now Mrs. Hill), Mrs. Gray, Miss Early (now Mrs. Lee), Mrs. Mathias, Miss Harle, Miss Peat, Mrs. and Miss Biddlccombc, Mr. and Mrs. Perrins, Mr. Lister-Kaye, Mrs. Moorman, Mrs. Croysdale, Miss Thomas, Mrs. Gale, Mrs. Bailward, Miss Cleland, Mr. Baverstock, Miss Curties, Miss Perks, Miss Gilbey and Mr. Alan Fletcher.
Four of the founding members photographed at the Golden Jubilee 1988
(from left to right Jessie Fitzwilliams (Fitzdown), Pat Curties (Lees),
John Holmes (Formakin), Rosemary Lee (Cogges)
Perhaps the nicest send-off on this happy and successful occasion was the number of letters received from members of the Welsh Corgi Club, sending apologies for absence and good wishes, not the least being an especially kind letter from their Chairman, Mr. Sid Bowler.
A tremendous lot had to be done. A name chosen, rules drawn up, money and trophies collected, and officers elected. The Hon. Mrs. Alexander was our first President, and though she may not be known to many of our newer members (as she now resides in Eire), she still exhibits her Corgis there. Vice-Presidents were Mesdames Croysdale, Firbank, Biddlecombe, Mathias, Watts-Russell and Mr. Bowler. The Chairman was Mrs. Gray and the Committee consisted of Mesdames Gale, Redding, Lister-Kaye, Lee and Hill, Miss Peat and Mr. Holbrook.
This meeting was followed by others and in due course badges were designed and made, a judges list prepared and the question of a League Show discussed. Everybody voted for one, but felt apprehensive about jeopardising the still slender funds by running a show which might very well make a loss.
It was then that two of our Vice-Presidents, with the generosity which characterised everything they did for the League, both then and in the future, kindly offered to share in making a substantial guarantee. So, thanks to Mrs. Biddlecombc and Mrs. Croysdale, our first breed show was held on 20th April, 1939.
It was a Twenty-Class Open Show. It drew a tremendous entry for those days and it made a profit. Mr. Bowler judged, an appointment which sealed the happy relationship between the Club and the League. A most popular innovation was an all-Corgi Obedience Class and it was won by Rozavel Wild Rose who was also the Best in Show Winner.
The first Annual General Meeting was held at Mrs. Croysdale's house at Maidenhead and was attended by twenty members, among them Mrs. Roesler (later Mrs. Renner), on a visit to this country from the U.S.A. It was a happy occasion, for our "baby club" was prospering and probably none of us even guessed what lay ahead. Eight months later, we were calling a special General Meeting to decide on an emergency policy and to arrange for the custody of the League Trophies in some safe place. Yet even then - it was February 1940 - conditions were sufficiently normal for us to plan and hold a Limited Show. Held in May 1940 and judged by Miss Curties, the Best in Show award went to Ch. Rozavel Red Dragon.
After that, the war came down on us with a vengence and we ceased to function until June 1945, when we met once more in London to re-arrange our affairs and to hold our first show after so long an interval. Mr. Lister-Kaye judged for us, making Int. Ch. Formakin Orangeman Best in Show.
Int.Ch. Formakin Orangeman
Other shows followed, the most exciting for most of us being the Lime Grove, Shepherds Bush Championship Show which was attended by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose. Miss Fitz-Williams made the awards. It was the first time that the Queen had attended a dog show since His Majesty had ascended the throne. The League officers were presented and some took tea with the Royal party on the platform, while the judging took place down below.
Then of course, the various Sections were born and began to hold their many enjoyable area shows, while parties and social events were also organised successfully.
In 1946, the League produced its first Handbook, a modest affair which was very well received and became an annual publication (except for 1948), distributed to members free of charge. They have become bigger and better with the years and go all over the world, being tremendously appreciated by old hands and novices alike.
The most recent excitement of course, has been the production of Corgwn Sir Benfro, the documentary, sound film in colour which is being shown to Corgi lovers all over the world. We, in this country, have seen it in small halls, large halls, ballrooms and private houses. Her Majesty the Queen has had it shown in her cinema at Buckingham Palace and has said that she very much enjoyed it.
And now our baby, born in a Surrey drawing room to twenty-four mothers and fathers, celebrates its Coming of Age, having grown, in wisdom we hope, to maturity with a membership approaching one thousand. Twenty-one and getting the key of the door. Which door will this key unlock?
We hope it will be the door that leads to the continued support of the Pembrokeshire Welsh Corgi and a means of ensuring that the admirable qualities of this lovely breed will be perpetuated. We hope that it will show the way too, to many more years of good fellowship and congenial friendships among people who love the Corgi. Some of the Founder Members are still working with the League to this end and with them, many worthy successors who have joined over the years. May they turn the key with a firm hand and may the path beyond the door lead to prosperity and happiness.
Welsh Corgi League, we salute you. Happy Birthday to you!
(Published in The Welsh Corgi League Handbook 1959).
* * * * *
The film "Corgwyn Sir Benfro" from 1956 is now available on DVD (PAL format). It runs for 20 minutes and its age is obvious. However, it is still of great interest as it clearly shows how much the Pembroke Corgi has changed during the almost 60 years since the making of the film. The DVD can be ordered from Mr J.G. Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org, at £5.00 a piece plus shipping.