Price Jessup of Blackamoor Labradors shares his thoughts about the first lady in Labradors, the late Mrs. Gwen Broadley of Sandylands Kennels.
Erica Jayes called with the sad news that Mrs. Broadley had just died. I knew her health was slipping fast and, in fact, had reservations to fly to England to pay my respects before the inevitable. I attended her funeral instead.
It has been my pleasure and privelege to know the very best Labrador Retriever breeder in the world for the last twelve years of her life. She was the very best for a very long period of time although experts could argue whether it was for 40, 50 or 60 years. Imagine being at the top in one's chosen field for that length of time!
Gwen Broadley came along in my life shortly after my mother died in 1987 and although I had mostly a mail and telephone relationship with her, I lover her dearly. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember telling her that I was "up for adoption." She sold me, a rank novice in Labradors, and for a very reasonable price, a beautiful and wonderful stud dog that changed my and my companion Sherry McMahon's (now Jessup) life forever and for the better.
Sherry and I planned a trip to England to visit our dogs' gene pool and Mrs. Broadley asked us to stay with her for a few days at Sandylands. This was in June of 1992 and we were flattered to be asked to stay at the home of the grande dame of Labradors.
Sandylands Cottage, in Lower Shuckburgh, is marked by a flat metal outline of Sandylands Tween with a cutout of Sandylands underneath, attached to a post next to the road (A425) between Daventry and Southam in Midlands. It is a modest and comfortable cottage and the entrance from the parking lot is through a mud room into the kitchen after passing several kennels on both sides of the walkway. I really wanted to make a good first impression on this wonderful lady because she had done me a great personal favor, because she was the Queen Victoria of Labrador breeders and because we were getting ready to spend three or four days as her guests. We arrived in time for cocktails before dinner. (There is a drink known in that part of the world as the "Sandylands Special." It is closely associated with an atomic attack or an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale.) Mrs. Broadley, Erica Smith (nee and now Jayes) and Mrs. Broadley's husband, Frank ("Gaffer") Truslove, prepared a delicious meal of roast lamb, and after a drink or so we all sat down at the kitchen table to enjoy supper.
I unfolded my napkin, laid it in my lap as mother taught me, picked up my fork and got ready to ... oh no, there were teeth on top of my mashed potatoes! I thought that Mrs. Broadley had lost her false teeth while preparing dinner and that she would be so embarrassed that she would never be comfortable with us... and that our stay with her would be ruined before it started! As an afterthought, I turned my head and gauchely stuck my finger in my mouth and, lo and behold, my Maryland (three-tooth) bridge was missing. Better my teeth than those of my hostess! The awkward retrieval of my dentures from the potatoes broke the ice and set the stage for a wonderful visit.
The next day, Mrs. Broadley, Sherry and I were off to visit the Trenow Kennel of Tony Floyd and his wife, Maureen, for lunch. Mrs Broadley had beautiful siblings, a yellow bitch and yellow dog, Sandylands Bliss and Sandylands Broom, from a mating with the Floyd's Eng. Champion Trenow Brigadier. With our 85 year old hostess at the wheel of the small Ford station wagon, we crossed the Midlands at 75-plus mph with the driver complaining about the lack of horsepower... and that she hoped that the next car would have a bigger engine. The ride was safe but breathtaking and my only defense in the front seat was to take a nap. We were served a nice lunch and had an opportunity to get our hands on Brigadier and his beautiful dam and sister. The trip home was at the same speed but, for me, without the benefit of a nap.
Margaret and Harold Clayton (Ardmargha) and Mary Roslin-Williams (Mansergh) came to lunch the next day as well as a couple who had brought a recent litter to be graded by Mrs. Broadley. Imagine having your puppies evaluated by that group, with Erica Jayes thrown in for good luck! The luncheon, sprinkled with zippy remarks by Mrs. Williams and Mr. Clayton, was just great and it was especially interesting seeing these Labrador breeders, the best on earth, interact with each other. After all, they had known each other for 50 years or more! They all picked the same "best puppy" but, unbelievably, the owners of the litter disagreed with their collective choice! Mrs. Williams ("Black Mary") also informed us that Mansergh Swan Song was from the last litter she would ever breed. Apparently, it had become too difficult for her to get back up on her feet after kneeling down to tend to new puppies.
My wife remembers that we sat with Mrs. Broadley in her cozy kitchen one evening during the visit and that she produced two boxes of photographs. She explained she had not looked at these pictures for many years as it mader her very sad to see pictures of Labradors that were no longer alive. As my wife explored the many photos, Mrs. Broadley spoke of many of the dogs with great warmth and melancholy. She told Sherry of the fire in her kennel and how devastating it was for her and her dear friends who helped her during that time. She also spoke of her judging trips to Africa, Australia and America, just to name a few of the countries in which she judged. She was a warm and gracious hostess and she could express herself well with very few words.
Basically, we used Sandylands as a base of operations for almost a week. Great breakfasts every morning followed by a day trip and then returning for cocktails, dinner and bedtime. One night we treated Mrs. Broadley and Erica to dinner at Mrs. Broadley's favorite restaurant, The Butchers Arms, in Priors Hardwick. It was, also, the favorite of Mr. and Mrs. Garner Anthony who always took her there when they visited. Another night we had typical English fare at The Bridge Inn, the Gaffer's pub.
Although Mrs. Broadley was not loquacious, she had an easy manner and always spoke softly. When asked questions, her answers were always thoughtful and to the point, but she did not mince words and she did not suffer fools gladly. Also, our discussions were not limited to dogs since she had a wide range of interests, including politics. She had great respect for Margaret Thatcher ("Attila the Hen") and her political values were very traditional, as one would expect.
I never heard her make disparaging remarks about any person in dogs and the worst thing I ever heard her say concerning a particular Labrador was that "He's as long as a drain." On the way to a show during our stay, I asked Mrs. Broadley, "Is so-and-so a good judge?" to which she replied, "How could one tell?" Think about it!
In the spring of 1996, Erica had planned a surprise 90th birthday for Mrs. Broadley and friends were going to fly in from just about everywhere. However, a breeder friend had a bit too much to drink and spilled the beans in front of the surprisee, who immediately put a stop to it. Although it was a great disappointment to everyone, Mrs. Broadley was self-effacing and did not want the attention people wanted to shower upon her.
In 1998-1999, there was also a movement afoot for Mrs. Broadley to be considered for the Order of the British Empire (OBE). I don't think she liked the idea to begin with but when she got wind of a smidgen of opposition to it, she put her foot down and said, "No." I unwittingly played a part in the premature announcement of the impeding honor and was addened by the fact that I had caused my friend discomfort and had made her unhappy toward the very end of her life.
Our next trip to England was in February 1998. Sherry and I had gotten married the previous October, and although we would have loved to have honeymooned at Sandylands, perhaps a first, Mrs. Broadley was less able to give us the attention she would have liked because of her declining health. Therefore, we all decided it would be best for us to stay at Erica's comfortable home, ruled by two Beagles, in Napton, a short mile or two away. That way we could go down to Sandylands for cocktails or visit when Mrs. Broadley was up to it. One evening we were invited down for coffee and dessert and I noticed that Mrs. Broadley's legs were swollen and that her feet were beginning to "weep." This was the same sure sign of heart failure I had seen the year before in George Bragaw, and I remember sitting on the edge of our bed that night and becoming very emotional. Her condition was made worse by the fact that her heart medicine was incompatible with her gout medicine... of which she had a severe case. I also think she was in pain from her hips, both of which had been replaced at least once.
In any case, there was a magic night on this trip when Margie Cairns (Blaircourt) and Roy Ellison (Konoboly), Erica Jayes' mother, Meg Jayes, Sherry and I and Mrs. Broadley and her husband had dinner together at Frank's pub. The Bridge Inn. The highlight of the evening was witnessing Margie Cairns and Gwen Broadley interact with each other. These were two of Labradors' great lionesses and boy, did they enjoy each other's company! What great fun it was to get a glimpse of the special relationship that existed between them!
Although Mrs. Broadley did not like people to take pictures of her and had chastised me for doing so on our previous trip, she did allow me to take a roll of film of her the afternoon that Margie Cairns visited. They were taken at Sandylands in her kitchen and in her sitting room and after they were developed, she choose a few of the pictures for herself. That pleased me greatly.
When we discussed PRA she said, "When I go to a show, no longer can I say to myself, 'now there's a dog that suits my bitch.'" She advised me not to breed my stud dogs to the daughters of PRA carriers but to take a chance with granddaughters if there were no other problems.
I can't remember if I asked her who were the most important or who were the most influential Labrador breeders in the United States, but her reply was the Warwicks and the Brainards.
Her favorite dog? Sh. Ch. Sandylands Katrinka of Keithray... a yellow bitch that Erica said was her constant companion. When I once asked why she didn't have any chocolates she replied. "Why would one bother? It's so hard to get good blacks and yellows."
Sherry and I always called her on Christmas Day but learned one time not to do so when The Queen was addressing the nation. I also called the day, unbeknownst to me, that her strikingly beautiful champion yellow bitch Bliss had just died as a result of childbirth. Mrs. Broadley answered the phone but could not speak. I thought to myself that after all these years, her reaction to such a tragedy was exactly the same as if she had only started yesterday.
I once sent Mrs. Broadley a list of the names of approximately 50 English Labradors that appeared in the pedigrees of my dogs and asked her to identify their colors. The list came back with colors and recessive colors. I tried it again with the names of another 50 but she tired of the job... enough was enough!
Mrs. Broadley's funeral service was held in the ancient "The Parish of St. Lawrence" on Monday, March 8, 1999 in Napton, the town in which Erica lived and only a few miles from Sandylands Cottage. As one would expect, the pews were filled with friends from around the world. The address was given by Mr. Peter James, Chairman, Kennel Club. One of the three hymns sung was "All Things Bright and Beautiful,? but to music with which I was not familiar. Everyone wanted this great lady to "make up" her 80th champion and live to be 100, but it was not to be. I know that many people were saddened by her death, but Erica Jayes' loss must have been the greatest.
A lot of the conversation at the funeral reception centered around the future of the Sandyland Kennel. It was one of Mrs. Broadley's wishes before she died that Sandylands continue in operation after she was gone. Thankfully, her loyal partner and supporter, Mr. Anthony, shared that wish and invited Erica to join a new partnership with him and his wife, leaving Erica to run the kennel in England. This partnership has been formally registered with the Kennel Club as a 50/50 partnership between Mr. and Mrs. Garner Anthony and Ms. Erica Jayes. Erica spent 45 years working for, with, and alongside Mrs. Broadley, and it is anticipated that there will be little or no change in the breeding philosophy, rearing, and showing of the Sandylands Labradors.
However, a new, larger, home has been found for Sandylands. With the tremendous support of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony, the paers were signed on September 1st to purchased a 75-acre farm located on the same road and only two miles from the present Sandylands. It is hoped that part of the property will be used to house much of the Sandylands memorabilia as a tribute to Mrs. Broadley and as a constant reminder of her vision of the labrador.
Mrs. Broadley always looked to the future. For her, the next mating and the next litter was always more exciting than any reminiscence of past achievement. If she was asked, she could recall each and every one of her dogs to the finest detail, but her eye and her ever-alert mind were always looking ahead.
Her desire was that Sandylands should continue. The generous support of the Anthonys and the enviable experience of Erica Jayes are already taking care of that wish. Anyone who has visited the English show ring in recent times can testify to that. Not only are the Sandylands dogs doing well but, also, so are the dogs of other people who have bred to Sandylands... the same as it has always been. Erica will get needed help in running the farm and kennel from her mother and her companion David Tayler, who recently retired from his postal job so he could work harder for Sandylands!
In closing, I would like to say that I do not write easily about personal relationships, least of all this one. And, if you should wonder why I refer to my lovely and delightful friend as Mrs. Broadley, it's only because I have always referred to her that way out of my consummate respect for her standing in the Labrador community and for her accomplishments which, by the way, will continue on for years. However, at some point in time, I did ask my friend if I could call her "Gwen" She replied. "Of course." Between you and me, every once in awhile I called her "Sweetie," which she undeniably was... especially when she put on her light blue eyeliner and had her beautiful white head of hair "done."
Just between us girls, she was beautiful! And, it gave me more pleasure than anyone will ever know that I was able to give this great lady a chuckle now and then.