BRITISH & IRISH DOG BREEDS PRESERVATION TRUST
An Interview With Billy Browne-Cole
Fionnuala Malone Introduces Roger Good
Fionnuala Malone Introduces Tony Manning
Fionnuala Malone Introduces Ted Barry
Fionnuala Malone Introduces John Foley
Fionnuala Malone Introduces Don Munro
Beverley Cuddy Meets Billy Browne-Cole 1987
"The Days Of Queuing Up For Your Beer Afterwards With The Judge Are All Over.
All The Atmosphere's Gone Out Of Showing."
A well dressed gentleman with a West Country lilt in his voice addresses the hotel bar. It is the eve of the Bournemouth Championship Show and most of those enjoying a drink are either officers, committee members or exhibitors.
The Focus of attention shifts when Billy Browne-Cole junior notices that I'm scribbling frantically.
"You're not writing this down are you?" he asks in mock terror. Reading my notes back I realise that it's not necessarily the dialogue which is holding everyones attention, its the style in which the lines are delivered.
His sense of timing, facial expressions and gestures suggest that a career on the stage would not be out of the question.
In many cases a man talking about his father's life could be as exciting as watchng someone elseshome movies. However, this story had the whole bar captivated. Billy was named after his father.
Having two people in this story called 'Billy Browne-Cole' is going to be pretty confusing. Billy informs me that his Dad was known as W.B. by the Professional Handlers. I'll refer to him in the same way.
Billy's story telling xpertise does not eclipse the fact that W.B. is an extraordianry man. I am assured that he bred more Champions than anyone else, a total in excess of 50!
But as W.Bs daughter, Hillary McQuaid points out, even with such a record it's not the dogs that you remember. Hillary, like her brother is very well endowed with social skills. They look you straight in the eye when they talk to you and seem very genuine, charismatic and friendly.
Billy tried to give me an impression of the level of success that W.B. had enjoyed. "He kept his CCs in a cardboard box, it's dreadful really they get covered with dust. They used to say he'd just put his hand in the kennel and pull out another Champion.
During the First World War W.B. followed in his fathers footsteps by becoming a 'Horse Vet.'He reached the rank of Major and served in France. In 1922 he opened up a practice in Bristol. And in the thirties he married Dorothy. W.B. was obviously extremely popular and well known to the population of the bar.
Bournemoth's Chairman and Show Manager Lou Horder encouraged Billy to tell a favourite story about his dad.
"He had a wicked sense of humour. He had a calves afterbirth and he found a really fancy box to put it in and left it outside next to the dustbin. All the old ladies going past couldn't resist lifting the lid and looking inside. you should have seen their faces." I think I'll gloss over what he used to do with dead cats!
Back to the plot. W.B. was obviously a bit of an entrepreneur owning a chain of Pet Shops and Grooming Parlours in the area. It was his sharp thinking that got him involved with dogs. While on his rounds he heard some distressed
barking and went to investigate. He discovered two Wire Fox Terriers in a chicken pen so small that the dogs were having to stand on top of eac other. After warning the farmer about the RSPCA's interest in such cases he bought the pair. The two dogs mated together and produced Ch. Travella Strike, who Billy assures me was the nearest thing to a
perfect Wire Fox.
Billy spent most of his formative years working in the kennels (or at least it seemed like it!) The presentation of the dogs was second to none and some of the most famous Prfessional Handlers were employed such as Bob Barlow, George Bartley and Billy Mitchell (Vincents father). W.B. only ever
showed his dogs in the open class in order to leave the other classesfree for the other handlers.
MostTravella's were Champions before
they were 12 months of age!I was interested in the philosophy of the breeding program that had produced over 50 champions. For once I got a serious answer, no jokes. "Being a Vet Conformation and soundness had to come first.He also believed in breding close. after all, the greatest cattle and race horses are. He once mated a brother and sister together by accident. They produced five Champions."
Any successful kennel attracts their fair share of overseas interest. Travella's were exported to nearly every country in the world. Billy can remember being taken by his dad to the Savoy hotel in 1954. The Commissioner wouldn't let him
leave the car outside as it wasn't a Rolls Royce. The American gentleman they were meeting brought a brace
of unshown Wire Fox's for £3,000.
Not all deals went to plan however. a Japanese customer paid £750.00 for a bitch with two CCs on condition that it wasn't sent to him until it had won its third CC. It never gained its title and the dog and the £750.00 stayed put.
The name of Browne-Cole is synonymous with Bournemouth. For over thirty years W.B. was President and
he is now the Patron. His wife Dorothy was Vice President for a time and his son Billy is currently a
W.B. had his first judging appointment ar Bournemouth and later it was the Venue for his first Championship Show Best In Show Judging engagement. Billy presided over the first Frank Bloom Memorial Stakes and Hillary drew a record entry in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for her first CC appointment.
Frank Bloom was Bournemouth's Secretary for many years. W.B. and Frank were like Brothers. It was occasionally
rather a volotile relationship as neither could bedescribed as 'yes' men. By all accounts W.B. was a great entertainer when amongst friends but he was surprisingly shy about public speaking. The brevity of his utterings at the Annual Dinner Dance became legendary He was obviously a complex personality.
Hillary thought that he was a very dominant father. It was only in recent years that she and Billy have felt the
shadow lifting. Hillary explained that W.B. wasn't very tolerant but if he like you he'd give you anything. He hated diplomatic socializing and was a proud man who trod his own path. For this he was either respected or disliked, there was no middle ground.
However, when W.B. judged he drew a good entry.
Billy senses that it's time for another story. "This really Pretty girl came into the Surgery and looked around and said to my dad, "Are you the Vet?" standing there in his white coat, he came back quick as a flash, "No I'm the painter and decorator!"
A Handfull of old photographs were passed around, the first that I'd ever seen of W.B. As you can see he is a very distinctive looking gentleman. Bily reads his mind. "Oh yes, he was a real Gentleman, 'used to lift his hat to all the ladies. If I didn't lift my hat a full foot off my head when Audrey Dallison walked past I'd be in trouble! Another thing that he would always do would be to call people be their correct title. Only very rarely would he use someone's first name. Some people wrongly interpreted his old fashioned manners as aloofness"
The families physical similarities are very marked. However, I'd never thought that a sense of humour could be hereditary.
W.B. is now 95 years old and resident in a nursing home. I wish i'd been around to meet him in his prime. Up until three years ago W.B.was still a practising Vet and in just seven months he wore out a pacemaker designed to last ten years!
Billy Browne-Cole senior comes from that much depleted rank of great all rounders. that combination of humour, style and knowledge just doesn't seem to be around these days. so many of the stories told by his friends and relatives concluded with that tantalizing remark, "Of course your'e not going to use that are you?"
Despite the joviality the evening was tinged with a note of regret. it seems that W.B. was never asked to judge at the Wire Fox Terrier Championship Show. To an outsider such a dream does not seem to be unrealistic.
The hours which had already grown shorter, were rapidly lengthening and the barman's hints were becoming too obvious to ignore.
The group dispersed, after all, the show must go on.
Go To Top Of Page