The Crufts catalogues show that among the Cocker Spaniel exhibitors at the show at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington in February 1939 was Miss P M Athelstan-Chard, of the Athelstan Dogs Bureau and Kennels, 84 Elgin Avenue, London W9.
She was showing Black Watch of Broomleaf in undergraduate and graduate dog.
Now I happen to know that the enterprising Miss Chard was just 19 years old at the time. How do I know that? Well, the lady concerned celebrates her hundredth birthday on Friday, and is known to us all as Peggy Grayson.
We all wish her and her ever-caring daughter Storm a wonderful day and send our love.
It may very well be the Peggy is the only person around today to have shown dogs before the second world war. Whether that’s the case or not, she has put an enormous amount back into both the canine and equine worlds and converted her phenomenal knowledge of spaniels in particular into a wonderful permanent record of their history.
Peggy’s family had long been involved in dogs; her grandfather had Mastiffs and Great Danes and her mother was a well known breeder of Yorkshire Terriers. But for young Peggy it was the spaniels that caught her eye.
After the war, during which she served as a Land Girl, her best known dog was an outstanding example of what was then a very rare breed, the Field Spaniel. Renoir of Westwind became a full champion and a key link in the breed’s very precarious survival.
That was in the early ‘50s and Peggy’s next decade or two (by now now married to Bob, an actor) were devoted to the equine world; she became a well known judge of ponies. Meanwhile the Field breed had lost its CC status and extinction loomed. Thankfully a handful of breeders brought it back from the brink, eventually regaining CCs.
Returning to dogs, Peggy obtained a dog from one of the significant litters of the breed’s revival and he became Ch Adam of Elmbury. Other titleholders followed under the Westacres affix, the Kennel Club not having allowed her to take out Westwind again, and these and others influenced the breed worldwide, many breeders thankful for her mentoring skills.
Peggy has written quite a number of enjoyable books (Buttercup Jill among them) based on her interesting and very varied life, all with a country theme.
More serious, indeed fascinatingly detailed, are her histories of several of the spaniel breeds, the Field of course, Cocker, Sussex and (with breed doyenne Rae Furness) the Clumber. Three of these breeds depended for much of their existence on just a very few breeders and Peggy brought these stalwarts to life through her narratives.
She wrote in depth about the tangled origins of these breeds (and occasion later crossbreeding), all of them descending from many of the same foundations.
With her Field book I vividly recall helping Peggy prepare for publication the breed’s family tree which took the modern dogs right back to the earliest days in one enormous chart.
Peggy also enjoyed the company of Border Terriers and has many friends in that breed too. She progressed from judging spaniels and Borders to become a much admired all-rounder, never afraid to select an unusual breed for top honours. I remember her giving her first ch show BIS award to a Tibetan Terrier and the Pup of the Year final to a powderpuff Chinese Crested, neither breed then as accustomed to top wins as they are nowadays.
Many people who perhaps never met Peggy will still know her virtually as a friend though the column she wrote at various times in Dog World or Our Dogs. These were always great fun but often with a serious edge too – she is a great advocate of rural traditions and many aspects of modern life saw steam emerging from her pen.
Among the societies Peggy has served is the Ladies’ Kennel Association. Before it celebrated its centenary she sat down with the archives and produced the history of its first hundred years. It was my job to edit the resulting booklet and what a fascinating story it was, especially in the early years involving the formidable Alice Stennard Robinson (of Australian gold-mining fame) whose rise and fall in the dog world Peggy vividly chronicled. For this and other services Peggy became president of the LKA for some years.
Throughout her life Peggy has taken its ups and downs with equanimity, cheerfulness and tremendous determination and I’m quite sure she still does. Have a great day Peggy!
Gretel Dieppe What a lovely read – an amazing lady with so much wealth of knowledge and always happy to impart some of it – with great insight and character – when I saw her recently she enjoyed recounting tales of when she used to work in London in the Radio world – such a varied life she has lead – Happy Birthday Peggy x
Becky Johnson Peggy is simply one of the best people. A true lady and a great judge. It was a sad day when she retired.
Mike Herwin Peggy is one of the most important people in my life, becoming so by inviting me to take interest in the Field Spaniel, when I was working on pedigrees for the Irish Water Spaniel Association. i then started my Field Spaniel database. At the same time, George and Mavis Lancaster inspired me to start on Sussex data.
Peggy is an amazing lady and I remember showing my IWS, when she was showing her Field against me in an AV Gundog class. The judge Called “Bring Out Your Sussex” and Peggy was there quick as a flash, only informing the judge after the red card had been safely awarded of the difference between the breeds.
Peggy was a constant inspiration to me, both in pedigree work and in teaching me to judge the Field and other spaniels.
A never to be forgotten lady
Simon thank you for your tribute to her
Julie Williams Happy birthday, always in awe of her, loved her dry sense of humour but always gave youngsters the time of day and encouraged x
Simon Burton That’s a great tribute Simon. Love Peggy and her writings to bits. Happy 100th Birthday to an amazing lady and thank you for what you’ve given the dog world. One of my doggy heroines.💕
Frances Krall What a wonderful life Peggy has lived, have a most enjoyable day on your 100th Birthday.x
Sarah Amos-Jones What a wonderful lady! Happy 100th birthday Peggy!
Maria-Luise Doppelreiter If anybody here will be visiting Peggy Grayson for her birthday, please give her my best wishes on 100th birthday! Maria-Luise Doppelreiter from Austria. Peggy judged a clubshow here, which was organised in the memory of Rosemary Charrington, and the entry was so big, that Margreth Struthers, who accompanied Peggy had to take some of the classes to judge. This was in March 2000.
Pam Blay Simon you are so clever. Thank you for putting all into words for us xxxx
Sheila Atter I have fond memories of sharing a platform with her at an early Parson Russell seminar.
Sadly, with her very strong views on traditional breeds, I could never convert her to the charms of the Cesky Terrier!
Happy Birthday Peggy!
Alison Price I so enjoyed that interesting historical “story” , names l recall well.
Thank you so much Simon.
Colette Perkins What a fascinating life ❤️
Gareth Lawler Yet again penned by the master -describing one of the doyennes of spaniels in particular and definitely THE author of such fascinating histories. Thankyou Simon
Jackie Kitchener Privileged to say that Peggy became both a mentor and close friend in my youth, something which prevailed over our many years with LKA. We share a love of dogs, ponies, the written word and she gave me wonderful advice on raising my daughter too! Much love and birthday wishes to you Peggy, there will never be another like you x
Di Johnson What a full and interesting life . Peggy was always fun to be with and warmest feelings go to her on her 100 th birthday ………
Sheila Stoddart Lovely lady….always willing to encourage us new people..happy birthday.
Jenny Shorer-Wheeler How wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Ann Britton Whenever I had Labrador puppies, I always looked forward to Peggy and her pal, the late Sybil Churchill coming to see them and stay for lunch . On arrival they would tumble through the door like excited schoolgirls. So happy! Such fun! Peggy’s wisest words to me were ” Never keep a puppy that won’t look you straight in the eye”. So true!
Have a very happy day Peggy XX
Valerie Geddes Wishing You Very Happy 💯 Birthday 💐🎂🌟 Peggy Grayson ❤
Louise Pinkney What a truly wonderful lady. 🌹
Geir Flyckt A truly unique lady with a wealth of knowledge, in my case many talks about Fields and how they were restored !
But I also enjoyed her stories of her younger days working for a very famous terrier person !
Brenda Piears A very happy 100th birthday Peggy. Peggy lived in Herefordshire for quite a while and was a regular at local shows. Fascinating lady.
Kathy Spacey I exhibited under her years ago, a true dog person and loved her columns in the dog press!
Derek Allsopp Have a lovely birthday Peggy and I always enjoyed stewarding for you
Shani Hastings This photo is from 2009. Peggy with the late Mavis Lancaster at the SSA Ch Show. When these two got together, it was hilarious! Happy Birthday Peggy.
Johnny Richardson A claim to fame that I have is I featured once in one of Peggy’s weekly articles for Dog World when she highlighted my annual advert, specifically pointing out that along with the 3 champion ETTs in the photograph, that I was barefooted with flowers strewn at my feet.
Her flagging up of this sent many people looking at the advert.
I considered her input gave me a much welcome publicity boost.
Being, old school, she wasn’t much impressed with the photograph ( taken by Marc Henrie, of Hollywood fame), but all the same I thanked her personally for the mention, and in subsequent years we would often revisit the occasion and laugh about it.
Simon Parsons Johnny Richardson Sounds very Peggy, and very you!
Simon Parsons Can remember the ad brightened up the Annual that year! People certainly noticed it!
Gunilla Agronius Simon Parsons let us see it, please.
Simon Parsons Gunilla Agronius I don’t have a copy I’m afraid but am sure Johnny will.
Simon Burton I have all my back copies if Johnny knows the year…
Johnny Richardson Simon Burton about 1988, 1989 I think
Simon Burton I’ll have a look Johnny!
Frances Barton Happy birthday Peggy lovely ladyx
Ria Nelis How wonderful! Peggy had an overnight stay with me when judging for our Society when I was Secretary. She had so many great stories and I always enjoyed her column in Dog World. Happy birthday Peggy!
Lorna England Happy birthday Peggy 🎂🍾🥂
Pamela Tibbs A lovely person and a well respected judge! Happy Birthday !
Christine Bexon Wonderful tribute to a really lovely lady. Happy 100th birthday Peggy xx
Joy Weslave Happy Birthday Peggy. Have. A lovely day ,- John & Joy Hartley x
Fran Glendinning A true “Dog” woman always interested in people and their dogs – I enjoyed a few of her spaniel talks and still have one of her long long pedigree going back to the year dot ! Wishing You a VERY VERY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY 100th BIRTHDAY. I do hope someone will be able to share all her wonderful birthday wishes
Sharon Pinkerton Such a wonderful lady she is – thank you Simon for this information 😁😁. Happy birthday Peggy x
Magi Henderson Lovely person. Terrific to know she’s celebrating her own centenary!! Happy birthday dear lady.
John Tiranti Happy Birthday Peggy
Dawn Kirby Peggy gave my field spaniel Ch Wedden Witch Doctor his first CC in 1998 , it was also my first ever CC , such a lovely kind soul , and gave me such encouragement on a dog I had nearly given up on X I would like to wish her the happiest of birthdays x x
David Winsley She also worked for Sir Jocelyn Lucas, Sealyhams and Lucas Terriers 😄
Dawne Deeley Fabulous❤️❤️. Thank you Simon Parsons…and have a wonderful day Peggy!!!!!!!!
Michael Ardern Mason GD.Simon,this tribute to Peggy is marvellous,Peggy will so much enjoy this being read to her.
Marilyn Anne Evill I loved her dog world column, lovely tribute Simon.
Christine McDonald Sending all the very best wishes for a wonderful Birthday, Peģgy. I have very fond memories of her and the highest respect for her dog knowledge and application
Jane Peakin Fabulous ! Many congratulations. I knew her from ponies before dogs, when I had natives and show ponies. Wonderful lady.
Celia Woodbridge And a very happy birthday from me. I recall fondly some of our chats while I was atDW and her enthusiasm for all things Spaniel!
Mandy Dance I remember how kind she was to me when I was a child showing at my first sanction show back in 1968. Happy birthday to a lovely lady!
Stella Clark I used to live 5 minutes away from the Blue Hall, that was what the locals used to call the hall as the entrance was blue mosaic.. my Dad showed his Pekes there.
Louise Richens Happy birthday have a lovely day
Carlos Saevich I recall having long chats about the Spaniels and reading her column in the Dog World.Wish her Happy Birthday from me!!.
Angela Cavill A wonderful lady. Always enjoyed her company. All the best to her
Jan Pain Happy birthday Peggy !
Chris Bristow Byrock I used to enjoy her column in dog world, I have three of her books, very good author
Michèle Lockwood Thank you for a lovely tribute.
A fascinating lady, I have her books here and thoroughly enjoyed them.…See more
Patricia Endersby Happy birthday to a wonderful lady xx
Alison Jones Happy Birthday Peggy 🎂🍷
Joy Baguley Happy Birthday Peggy. xxx
Mel Sharples She was and is a fantastic character and always had something interesting to impart. When I came back to the canine world a few years ago I was sad to not see her at the shows. Happy 100th birthday you great lady xxx
Jules Metselaar-Williams I had one of my best and truest critiques from Peggy. Happy birthday
Linda Mackenzie Lovely tribute, Happy Birthday!
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Carole Deans Lovely lady. Always brilliant with the dogs when judging
Denise Edwards I cannot claim to know her personally, but her judging was always fair and loved her articles in DW. What a great age and what a wealth of knowledge.
Carol Anne Daniels Many Congratulations on reaching a 100 ! Hope your birthday is a great as you are,you gave me lots of pleasure reading your column over the years 🍾🎂🍾🍰
Finuala Barnes One of the Greats!
Sally English How fantastic 😍
Sheila Ewan What a fascinating story and legacy, can I please share this post with cocker friends? 🙏 x I also wish Peggy a very happy birthday for Friday, here’s to many many more 🥂
Simon Parsons Sheila Ewan By all means.
Sheila Ewan Simon, thank you so much x
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Annie Snelgrove Happy Birthday Peggy, a lovely lady.