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Early Days of the Kerry in the United States


© Edith Izant, copyright 1982

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Edith Izant, copyright .

A few pet Kerries not eligible for registration were imported as early as 1918, but the first Kerry Blue Terrier registered with The American Kennel Club was Brian of Muchia, who was registered in 1922. Owned by Elizabeth Swords, Brian of Muchia completed his championship in November 1923 with Percy Roberts handling him. The first American-bred champion was Tammany, bred by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst and owned and shown by E. P. O'Brien of New York. Mrs. Hearst gave the breed much publicity through her husband's newspapers. Pictures taken aboard an Atlantic liner arriving in New York show her with two of her early imports, Ch. Seumas Creina and Kenmare Peggy, small dogs probably not over eighteen inches tall, Her dogs were shown in the East, being kept by Mrs. W. A. Richards of Long Island, but there was also a kennel for them at Hearst Castle near Monterey, California. Mr. Hearst was quoted as saying that they had eighty dogs in their kennel, and that the Kerries were his favorites.

In the 1920s several kennels that became the foundation of Kerries in the United States began their breeding programs. Among them were B. J. Megargee's Bluevale Kennels in Pennsylvania; Madame Lillian Soresi's Oakerest Kennels in New York; Colonel Louis Conley's Outpost Farms Kennels in Connecticut; the C. H. Jacksons' Blue Leader Kennels in California; Mrs, William Randolph Hearts's kennels on Long Island; Dexter Stevens' Esmond Kennels in Rhode Island; and James McCashin's kennels in New Jersey. (Like Bill Daly, Mr. McCashin used no kennel name.) Mr. 0. C. Harriman of California, later an American Kennel Club all-breed judge, kept his Ancon Kennels in Paris. Among his Kerries were Ch. Breezehurst Blue Beryl and Ch. Gorse Gammin.

The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America was founded in New York City in 1925 and held its first Specialty in February 1927, This club drew up the American Standard, which called for trimming as in the English Standard, and which was approved by The American Kennel Club in 1926. The founders of this club were Edmond O'Brien; B. J. Megargee, the club's first president; Mrs. Peter Knopf; the Reverend W. D. Bradley; the Sullivan brothers; Walter Gibson; Edwin Sayres, Sr.; and Miss Dagmar Summers. After becoming almost inactive, this club merged in 1936 with a new group, the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club.

Luckily, many of the early Kerries were from the best English and Irish stock, which became the foundation stock of Kerries in America, and their wins put the breed close to the top in the Terrier Group in a few years. This is especially true of the many champions imported from the Ben Edar Kennels of the Misses Henry and the Chevin Kennels of Miss Hope Toft. These two kennels, unfortunately, closed during World War II.

Five litter brothers are to be found in most of our basic pedigrees. They are Ch. Ben Edar Blaise, imported by Dr. Edward Cunniffe of New York; Ch. Muircroft Victa, imported by Joseph Reynolds; Ch. Ben Edar Bawcock, owned by Dr. Cunniffe and Dr. Flynn; Ch. Ben Edar Beau of Orr, owned by Orrin Baker; and Canadian Ch. Ben Edar Birkie, owned by Malcolm Bell. By Ch. Watteau Prince Padriac ex English Ch, Ben Edar Beetle, these five dogs were whelped July 9, 1931.

Ch. Ben Edar Blaise had won five firsts in England before he was imported. In the United States he was first shown in Maryland, where he won the Group. Ten days later at Westminster, he was second in the Open Class to Blue Leader's Helter Skelter. This was Blaise's only defeat. Shown by Edwin "Pop" Sayres, Sr., he was Best of Breed at Westminister from 1934 to 1938. He won Best in Show fifteen times and the Specialty once, and won Best of Breed sixty-two times. In Group competition forty-five times, he won first six times and second nineteen times. He sired ten champions. For more than twenty years a head study of Blaise topped the Kerry column in The American Kennel Gazette-with his lower, English-style ears suitably pasted to have the American expression,

From the Chevin Kennels, in a ten year period beginning in 1925, came Ch. Crispin of the Chevin, Ch. Patty of the Chevin, Ch. Watteau Prince Padriac ' and Ch. Watteau Prince of Blues. Chevin Kennels' most famous export was Ch. Black Prince of the Chevin, who was owned in the United States by Blue Leader Kennels and who was the first Kerry to go Best in Show in England at a championship show. He also was Best in Show in the United States a number of times.

Several years later English Ch. Princeton Hell of a Fellow was imported. He was a son of Ch. Blue Leader's Helter Skelter ex Lady Blythe Colleen, a Ben Edar bitch. From this same kennel Harry Isaacs imported Ch. Princeton Fellow M'Lad, and then Ch. Tanjax Flying Scotsman and Ch. Tanjax Robin Goodfellow. Mr. and Mrs. Roessle McKinney imported Ch. Ben Edar Bridesmaid, and Mr. and Mrs. Ed Kelly imported Ch. Stocksmore Sendoff of Kelkerry. International Ch. Princeton Red Pepper stayed with Edwin Sayres, Sr., during World War II and was shown to his championship in the United States, then returned to his English owner, Major Nethersole. Mrs. Spiker of Canada imported International Ch. Lisnalea Enbuska, one of our most successful sires, who was later sold to Mrs. Nelle Smit Urmston of Trucote Terrier fame.

Also imported were International Ch. Prince Blue Steel of the Chevin, Jane of the Chevin, Ch. Brecia of Cluain, International and Field Trial Ch. Stolen Gem of Bushmont, International Ch. Downsview Dolphin, and Ch. Ben Edar Bonaccord.

In addition to the champions imported from England, several famous dogs were brought over from Ireland. These included Rebel, Ch. Garrybawn Bouchal, Ch. Grabhaire, Ch. Poulaphouca, Ch. Bregia of Blue Leader, International Ch. Grand Duchess, Ch. Grafton Belle, Ch. .Rose Marie of Cheriton, Ch. Leinster Leader, and International Ch. Blue Leader's Helter Skelter.


America has had the best basic stock of England and Ireland, and the American breeders have made the most of it. In the early days breeders knew the English and Irish lines, and what to expect from each one. Bob and his descendants were known for good conformation and soundness of quarters, but they often were slow to turn color-if they turned at all. Kerries from Rebel had good color but often had light or "sticky" eyes. Dogs of Chevin breeding also had good early color with correct soft coats, and long, strong heads and dark eyes. Ben Edar produced some very heavy coats, sometimes harsh in texture, but some heads were coarser than desirable.

One of the first prepotent sires was Ch. Sheepshead Lad, purchased by Madame Soresi from her manager, Ed Sayres, Sr. Bred by Peggy Gibbons, Lad was sired by B. J. Megargee's Ch. Grabhaire ex Blue Lady of Duroy, who was sired by Ch. Victor of Leysfield. Lad turned slowly, getting his color at about three years of age. He was the third recorded American-bred champion. He produced many champions, and they in turn were top producers. Bred to Ch. Princeton Dorinda, a daughter of Ch. Slievh Corrig, Lad sired Ch. Blue Noreen of Oakcrest. Mrs. Bellinger bred Noreen to Ch. Ben Edar Blaise, and in the litter was Ch. Peggy O'Neill, who, when bred to Ch. Ben Edar Bawcock, produced Topper of Belcrest, another of our famous sires. I saw Topper of Belcrest about 1946 when he was owned by Joseph Urmston of California. Topper never finished his championship. For those days he was tall-perhaps nineteen inches or a little more ' and looked rather long. He had a good gray blue coat. His eyelids turned in, causing his eyes to water. Among the most famous of his descendants were his son Ch. Michael of Som'set, a top winner and sire, and Michael's grandson Ch. Deed's Show Off, sire of more than forty Groupwinning and Best-in-Show champions. This was truly one of our great lines.

Ch. Michael of Som'Set

Ch. Michael of Som'Set. Bred by Walter M. Franklin. Owned by Mrs. David A. Morse.

Ch. Deed's Show Off

Ch. Deed's Show Off. Bred by Pop Sayres. Owned by Joe Urmston, Bill Fox, and Gladys Titcomb.

Several early breeders and their Kerries should be mentioned particularly. 'Me Bluevale Kennels of B. J. Megargee were started in the early 1920s. Grabhaire was imported from Ireland as a puppy and was shown to his championship in January 1927. In thirty-five times shown, he was undefeated. He was the first Kerry to win a Group-doing so in April 1927. His coat was a medium shade of clear blue with correct texture, and he was a natural showman.

The Blue Leader Kennels of Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Jackson, Jr., in Santa Barbara, California, were managed by Ben Brown with Harry Sangster as assistant. They later became two of our most famous professional handlers. Mr. Brown made many trips to England in search of top Kerries for the kennel, which also had some very good English Springer Spaniels. One of the kennels' imports, Ch. Leinster Leader, was the first Kerry Blue Terrier to go Best in Show in America. He made that win at Stockton, California, in 1929. Ben Brown considered him an outstanding Kerry, with beautiful color, sound legs and feet, and good eye and ear placement-and a good showman with lots of Terrier spirit. Blue Leader Kennels also imported Ch. Black Prince of the Chevin, who had a long, lean head, long reachy neck, coal black eyes, and light gray color. His name is in ninety percent of pedigrees of the great Kerry Blues of the day. He died soon after his arrival in the United States. Blue Leader Kennels felt their top Kerry was International Ch. Blue Leader's Helter Skelter. Purchased as a puppy from Dr. Pierse in Ireland, Helter Skelter stayed with Mrs. Violet Handy at her Princeton Kennels in England until he earned his English title. As noted earlier, he sired Ch. Princeton Hell of a Fellow, whose show record of more than forty challenge certificates is a record that has not been topped in the breed to date. Another of Blue Leader's imports was Ch. Ben Edar Brigid, who had seven Best-in-Show wins.

The Escondido Kennels of Cyrus and Lucy More were located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their first Kerry Blue was bred by Blue Leader Kennels. Because of his early death, Black Prince sired only one champion in America, Ch. Escondido Shadow. Many Escondido Kerries are to be found in early pedigrees. Ch. Escondido Shadow Boxer was the grandsire of Ch. Melbee's Blue Quink, foundation Kerry of the Melbee Kennels.

Kearnach Fergus Macroy

Ch. Kearnach Fergus Macroy, by Ch. Calkerry Defiant ex Boliva's Tamarind. Bred by Horace Perry. Owned by Nelle Urmston.

The Roessle McKinneys of Cloca Mora Kennels bought their foundation bitch, Ch. Deirdre of Ulster, in 1936. They imported International Ch. Ben Edar Bridesmaid and Ch. Bemel Embargo of Cloca Mora and produced several champions, including Ch. Fergus Macroy, Ch. Brigid Beg of Cloca Mora, Ch. Embargo's First Lady, Galley Girl of Cloca Mora, and Ch. Philospher of Cloca Mora. Upon the death of Katherine McKinney, most of the dogs were sold, but for twenty years Roessle was treasurer of the United States KBTC, and his daughter, Marian Ramsted, is a judge of Kerrys.William L. Day's first Kerry was Molly of Harewood, who was bred by James McCashin and was from the first Kerry litter registered by The American Kennel Club. Mr. Day was a charter member of the KBTC of America and was a founder of the United States KBTC and served as president. He never used a kennel name, but he was the breeder and importer of many champions, and he became one of our top Kerry judges. Among his importations were International Ch. Stolen Gem of Bushmont, from Ireland, and Ch. My Luck and International Ch. Prince Blue Steel of the Chevin, from England. Ch. Gulf Stream was one of his most famous show dogs and was the sire of many champions-as was Ch. The Bombardier. Ed Sayres, Jr., was handler for Mr. Day. When the kennel was closed in 1950, most of the dogs went to Frederick Schweppe. Included were Ch. Topman, Jr., Ch. Thundermaid, Ch. Gulf Raider, Ch. Seumus of Cobh, and Solo Flight. It was under the ownership of Mr. Schweppe that Topman, Jr., was successful as a sire.

Dr. Edward Cunniffe was president of the KBTC of America, and later of the United States KBTC. He purchased his first Kerry in 1930, and Edwin "Pop" Sayres was handler. When Colonel Conley of Outpost died in 1936, Dr. Cunniffe bought Ch. Princeton Blue Demon, Ch. Outpost Sheila, Princeton Blue Blossom, and others. Dr. Cunniffe also owned Ch. Ile Soarstat, Ch. Perfect Peach, and Ch. Alice Blue Gown, and he imported Terrance of Cluain, Ch. Watteau Prince of Blues, and Ch. Ben Edar Blaise. Blaise, whose outstanding show record was noted earlier in this chapter, is described as having a long, quality head, dark hazel eyes, well carried and well placed ears, perfect shoulders, good set-on of tail, good

spring of ribs, and well angulated hindquarters. He is said to have moved and shown beautifully and to have had a perfect disposition. He was a very light blue gray.

Ch. Rackety Packety Kilmenskeg

American and Canadian Ch. Rackety Packety Kilmenskeg, by Ch. Ben Edar Blue ex Koko the Blue Quill. Breeder: Ben Watson. Owners: Edwin Sayres, Sr., Miss Freddie Weiss and William Fox.

Lucy Horton started with Mountain Breeze and Blackwater Beauty, and from their daughter Blue Maid came the famous producers Ch. Sylvia and Roxy. Miss Freddie Weiss of California showed both Sylvia and her son International Ch. Blue King II, who was later owned by Bill Fox. Blue King won The American Kennel Club award for the most American-bred Terrier Group wins in 1939. Roxy was granddam of Ch. Rackety Packety Killmenskeg, Bill Fox's famous winner and producer. From Ch. Sylvia and Roxy came foundation stock for William Fox's Foxhill's Kennel, Orrin Baker's Orr Murr, Horace Perry's Kearnach, Mrs. Mary Britcher's Homeplace, Joseph Urmston's Bluemore, Gladys Titcomb's Blucote, Mrs. Carl Johnson's Kerrypatch, and Floyde and Ida Mae Pierce's Kerryland.

Madame Lillian Soresi of New York started her Oakcrest Kennels in the early 1920s, with Edwin "Pop" Sayres as her manager and handler. She imported all of her stock. First shown at Westminster, the imported Bantry Beauty of Oakcrest went from the classes to Best of Breed and later won Best in Show several times. Other Oakcrest imports were Ch. Kingdom Hero of Cheriton, June O'Dorney Abbey, Ch. Dolly of Cheriton, and Ch. Princeton Grey Dinah. Madame Soresi's Kerry breeding produced foundation stock for the kennels of William Fox, Orrin Baker, Dr. Cunniffe, William Randolph Hearst, and Mr. and Mrs. William Ensor. Later Madame Soresi bought from Ed Sayres the young Sheepshead Lad, who became a famous early sire.

Colonel Louis Conley of the Outpost Farms Kennels in Connecticut imported several dogs, including Poulaphouca, who made his championship title in nine weeks. 'Men Colonel Conley imported Ch. Biddy O'Dorney, who finished in 1929 and was the dam of several champions. Ch. Breezehurst Blue Buster, from England, then joined the kennel and became the sire of Ch. Outpost's Sheila, who is recorded as the first Americanbred champion Kerry bitch,

From Madame Soresi, Orrin and Myrtle Baker purchased their first puppies-Ch. Blue Chip of Oakcrest and Ch. Princess Blue of Oakcrest. They then imported Irish Ch. Ben Edar Beau of Orr Murr, who sired many champions, including the Best-in-Show winning Ch. Hither N'Yon of Orr Murr. Orrin Baker joined the KBTC of America in 1933 and was the first president of the United States KBTC. He was a respected judge of Kerrys.

John J. Powers of New Jersey was one of the early fanciers and served on the Board of Governors of the United States KBTC. Mr. Powers started with Ch. Outpost O'Dorney Lass and bred Ch. Glouthane Hero, Ch. Miss Cooldrishogue, Ch. Knight of Wardown, Ch. Bold Venture, and others.

The Valleyfield Kennels of Miss Shannon and Miss Chesborough in California owned such famous Kerrys as Ch. Skatha, Ch. Valleyfield Alainn, Ch. Sheila Sinend, and Ch. 'Me Soarstat.

The owner of Delwin Kennels, Edwin "Pop" Sayres, Sr., bred, imported, and showed Kerrys for forty-five years, and was a charter member of the KBTC of America, He bred more than twenty Kerry champions, and he brought the breed to the top in Terriers by his methods of setting ears, trimming, and handling. His son Ed, Jr., managed the kennels of William Day, and later the kennels of Mrs. Geraldine Dodge, which had several breeds. Another son, Henry Sayres, was a famous Terrier handler, particularly of Kerrys, and his son Joe became a veterinarian. About 1943 it was exciting at Eastern shows to see all four Sayres in the Kerry ring fighting for Best of Breed. Pop showed for the last time in 1952. He was one of the pre-eminent breeders of Kerry Blues, advising the early breeders and importing many top Kerrys from England.

Frederick Schweppe of Cobh Kennels started in Kerry Blues in 1929 and later opened a pet store in New York. In 1975 he moved to Seattle with some of his Kerrys.

Foundation stock for his Cobh Kennels came from William Day and included Ch. Topman, Ch. Gulf Raider, Ch. Bloomer Girl, Ch. Tliunderbird, and others. Champions bred by Mr. Schweppe included Ch. Topman, Jr., Ch. Bill Day, Ch. Shule Agradh of Cobh, Ch. Barley Breeze, Ch. Trina of Cobh, and Ch. Finan of Cobh. Mr. Schweppe was the last owner of Ch. Princeton Fellow M'Lad. Fred was the author of How to Raise and Train a Kerry Blue Terrier.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pattison, Jr., owned International Ch. Drumhead Ballyshannon and her Best-in-Show winning brother, Ch. Kilderry Peat Smoke. Mr. Pattison was co-owner with William Day of International Ch. Downsview Dolphin. Mr. Pattison served as an officer in the United States KBTC and wrote a very good pamphlet on Kerrys. Many of his articles on Kerrys were published in Vogue and various dog magazines, publicizing this then comparatively rare breed.

When we bought our first Kerry in 1938, from a Blue Leader Kerry owned by Joe Urmston, many of the pioneers of the breed were still active. In addition to Joe Urmston, we knew Pearl Bank Steward, the Cyrus Mores, William Fox, Ben Brown, and Harry Sangster, all of whom were on the West Coast-as well as Gladys Titcomb, William Day, Roessle McKinney, Orrin Baker, all of the Sayres family, Ben Watson, Mrs. Britcher, Sirene and Arnold Rose, Eileen McEachren, and Casey Gardiner, in the East.

We were also able to see many of the dogs that are now realized to have been the prepotent sires of the early days. International Ch. Lisnalea Enbuska was of moderate size, very refined, with elegant narrow head, ears beautifully set, and silken blue -gray coat. Ch, Michael of Som'set was also refined, but he had a little more substance. He had a gray-blue wavy coat, an alert expression, and a very friendly disposition. Yet, he was every inch a showman. Neither was excessively short backed but had plenty of neck and head to balance their bodies, and both moved well. Ch. Deed's Show Off was shorter in back, full in rib, yet still elegant of head and neck. He had hazel-brown eyes, and a lovely, gray-blue wavy coat. Topper of Belcrest was taller than these three, being about nineteen and a quarter inches. He was a dog with long head, neck, and back, and had a gray coat. His eyelids turned in, yet he never seemed to pass this characteristic on. Ch. Bluemore High Fidelity was prepotent for excellent movement, with reach and drive, and with him we started running Kerrys in the ring. He was almost as tall as Topper, balanced, with very high tail set, and slow growing gray-blue coat.

We owe much of this early history to articles by Pearl Bank Steward which were published in the Western Kennel World, and to Gladys Titcomb's scrapbooks which are now owned by the United States KBTC and are available to local Kerry clubs.

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