The Stud Book issue

Early in 2000 James Darley discovered during a visit to the Kennel Club’s library that “minor breeds” trials and the awards gained in them had ceased to be recorded in the Stud Book after the 1998 edition (covering the 1997-98 season). A KC official confirmed that the recipients of such awards were no longer receiving a Stud Book number.

This unprecedented discrimination, motivated it seems largely out of resentment in the KC’s corridors and committee rooms at the media attention gained by those undeserving upstarts with Clumber and other minority breed spaniels, posed a significant handicap to the movement to improve these breeds in the field by impoverishing the journal of record to publish only show awards and by denying field trial award winners any recognition of hard-won achievements vital to an objective demonstration of working quality.

As a campaign mounted to object to the move, led by James Darley on behalf of all four minority breeds, a “concession” was made by the KC in 2001 whereby winners of a first place would qualify for inclusion. It did not seem to occur to the KC to work out how to record a first place for a field trial that itself was not recorded! Neither of these steps had been taken with any prior consultation.

The issues raised and their implications were described by James Darley in a letter published by Country Illustrated, November 2001.

As the campaign continued, James Darley was able to show the KC that its intentions were flawed, the changes made were disallowed by its own rules and (using research of the Stud Book itself) that its arguments were baseless. A letter went to 60 members of the KC Field Trial Liaison Council (representing 115 field trial societies) to brief them and ask for their support in restoring the pre-1998 status quo. At its meeting in May 2002, with just two objections, the council overwhelmingly did just that.

I was born in occupied Germany and privately educated in England from the age of eight.

My career began as a junior reporter on a local paper in Woolwich, moving into PR by joining the UK’s largest consultancy at the time, F. J. Lyons. I also gained direct experience of property development, specialising in historic and agricultural buildings; I have worked as logger, navvy, trucker, whisky exporter, gundog trainer, credit salesman, ex-military vehicle exporter and (even now) freelance copy editor for book publishers, and built businesses as a publisher of limited edition prints of paintings since 1980, and for 25 years from the mid-1960s as the world’s primary source outside the USA of military vehicle manuals.

A meeting of invited delegates followed at the Kennel Club in August. Sensing that it was looking for a face-saving formula short of the Liaison Council’s resolution, James Darley firstly put on record his intention to make a formal complaint about the KC, its committees and members, to its own disciplinary process; he secondly rejected, on pain of leaving immediately, the request from the chairman for the meeting to be subject to rules of confidentiality.

The happy outcome was a notification from the KC in November 2002 that all its changes were to be reversed, all missing Stud Book content would be published as an erratum together with an explanation. After three years and a huge distraction in terms of time and effort, all aims had been achieved.