The Londonderry Canine Association celebrated its seventieth birthday this weekend with both their annual show in St Columb’s Park and a change in the Association’s long established name.
The group will, as of yesterday, be known as, the Lough Foyle Canine Association.
According to those at the club the name change was in order to; “Better reflect, both our geographical location and the diversity of our membership.
“The name change allows us to encompass members’ from County Donegal, which currently has no active or registered dog club,” a spokesperson said.
The first registered dog club in the city was established in the late 19th Century, not long after the Kennel Club was founded in London.
The first show of the Londonderry Canine Association was held in the Derry Cattle Market on April 7, 1942. Even then, according to Helena Quigg of the Lough Foyle Canine Association; “The organisers referred to the long and proud history of dog breeding and showing in Derry. The winning dog was a Kerry Blue Terrier, Tailteann Sonata, owned by Mr and Mrs Fottrell from Dublin. The Fottrells were instrumental in the development of the Irish Kennel Club, whose headquarters today bears their name.”
From the Cattle Market, the annual dog show then moved to the Brandywell Showgrounds and was held in association with the North West of Ireland Agricultural Society Show.
A feature of the 1955 show was a “Sensational International Boxer Race”, known as the Boxer Derby. Eight dogs competed in the race and the winner was Nurdoc Charm, a dog owned by Mrs V. Lond from Connecticut, USA. The US forces based in Derry during and after the Second World War were also keen supporters of Derry’s dog club.
The popularity of the event continued to grow and by 1960, the annual Derry show was too big for the Brandywell. The club took it’s showpiece from The Lone Moor Road to the transit sheds of Queen’s Quay. That year more than 600 dogs competed for the top prize which was the North West Stakes Trophy.
Older dog lovers will remember the dismay, felt when their prestigious trophy left the city. In 1960 it was won by Mr T. Lindsay from Ballymena with his Lakeland Terrier, Briadboro Miss Marigold.
Reflecting the growing interest in different breeds of dog, the club introduced new classes to the show programme each year. In 1961, the Chihuahua made its first appearance and in 1962, the Samoyed was presented.
Few present will forget when Mr C. Hall, a local breeder of Samoyeds, told the admiring crowd that he had the combings from his dogs’ hair spun into wool as fine as angora and knit into jumpers.
The annual show did not escape the Troubles however.
For a period in the 1970s, the show moved to the Limavady showgrounds, before relocating to St Columb’s Park Leisure Centre in the late 70s.
St. Columb’s Park has been home to the club ever since.
In 1977, the club hosted a pet dog show during Civic Week to raise funds for the Stradreagh Hydrotherapy Pool. Judge on that occasion was novelist Jennifer Johnston.
At various points throughout its history, the Londonderry Canine Association has claimed to be the largest and oldest dog club in Ireland.
While there continues to be some dispute about thie claim, Helena Quigg from the club argues that the recently renamed club: “Is the only club in Ireland to have weathered the storm of the current recession and it has also seen an increase in entries year on year for the past five years.”
Ms. Quigg concluded “To celebrate our 70th birthday, we have opened a new chapter in our prestigious history and will continue to develop the club, hopefully ensuring it lasts another 70 years.”