Australian Pointer Heritage

This text is translated from part of an article I wrote in the Norwegian magazine FUGLEHUNDEN in 1999.

The solid black Lucknow Rubra (Stamford Celebrity – Lydia), born in April 1951, for a very long time regarded as the best field bitch seen in Australia.

In December 1998 I had the opportunity to visit the fascinatingly eccentric pointer breeder Owen Dawson in Victoria, Australia. He had contacted me after I had moved from Europe to NZ six months earlier, after having written an article for the NZ Pointer Club magazine. The last time I had been to Australia’s greenest state was in 1990. At that visit I was studying sheep dogs at Victoria’s largest sheep farm outside Geelong. Back then I lived in Sweden and didn’t realise that it’s the country’s leading district for bird dogs.  

When I visited him he was 80 years old and had his 228th litter of pointer pups in his kennel Lucknow. He had then bred pointers for nearly 50 years.
After his wife died four years earlier, he had moved to a small cabin near the small township of Nyora, south-east of Melbourne. I had brought my girlfriend and Owen had told me not to have lunch before we came, because he was “an excellent cook”. In my correspondence with him leading up to our meeting, and through his many articles about dogs and pointer breeding (he was a prolific article writer), I knew he was not shy about bragging about his or his dogs abilities.

Early 1950s Victoria. Left: UK imp. Stonethorpe Swift (by US imp. Herewithem Moscow Spirit), Middle: a note on the first braced trial held in Australia with Owen as runner-up with Debonair Monarch of Kinkora & Lucknow Prima Donna, Right: Jack Pontin’s trial winner Craigaise King.

Pictured top: Owen Dawson with Lucknow Black Magic, at the time mother of his 228th pointer litter (sired by FTCh Rocca Gesy). 2nd photo: Lucknow Pep by Lucknow Paddy (Tiernenoug Ranger – Lucknow Rubra) – Lucknow Ladybird (Lucknow Bosambo – Yenda Ray), born May 1959. 3rd photo: FTCh Lucknow Sleet (Dual Ch Montenero Algonquin – Glenvada Viola), one of the top pointers in the mid 1980s.

Above: Owen Dawson with his best dog in 1998.

Pictured below: Marlais Marksman (Ferndale Faro – Fancy Me (a daughter of His Majesty)), the NZ bred Stamford Celebrity (Kincardie of Kinkora – Stamford Symphony) and Jack Pontin’s influental import Blackfield Garry (Paatsan Earl – Stonethorpe Blossom of Cromlix). Garry’s sister Blackfield Gem won the 1968 Champion Stake in the UK.

Owen wasn’t only a dedicated pointer man, he was also a naturalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of insects, birds and plants. I came across a description of him from a Victoria naturalist club, which described him perfectly:
“One of the major characters of the club was Owen Dawson. He was a real bushie, usually wearing his favourite overalls, with his hessian gunny bag over his shoulder, and with a fragrance of goats. He was a judge of Anglo Nubian goats for many years, and long after he stopped keeping them retained the fragrance.”
At his cabin Owen was dedicated at growing roses and vegetables, painting animals and landscapes and taking photographs with some well-kept professional cameras from pre-WW2. In the past he always kept and bred goats on a big scale. He gave lectures about animal breeding and anatomy. He still had a basement full of animal skeletons (also pointers) to illustrate.
His pointers were spoken to in English and German. I already knew that he had great respect for Waldemar Marr and Owen often quoted him as Herr Marr. While he had a lot on his mind to talk about, he was still a fairly difficult interview subject as he would rarely answer your questions but take off on a different tangent. Sometimes he would still eventually get back to things I had brought up. In between he would suddenly tell himself to “Cheer up! You’re soon dead!” and at other times suddenly sing entire arias from “Figaro” in fluent Italian. Incidentally, he had a very good voice.

At the time of my visit, Victoria was experiencing a lengthy heat wave with temperatures in the mid 40s. Even at night time the temperatures were barely dropping. Owen said that at his age he struggled with the temperatures. The pointer has done well in Australian condition, in the big open fields. A local Weimaraner had a few days earlier been killed by a snake but Owen insisted they weren’t a big problem, the Weimaraner had been unlucky. The heat was a bigger problem. 

Some of the Australian pointer lines can be traced back to 1870 or earlier, where the foxhound cross Bang (739) as well as the famous Drake appeared several times. In 1902 came the perhaps most important import to establish the Australian pointer, when Sandford Model (Molton Brett – Sandford Mirth) was acquired from E. C. Norrish.
In 1929 the breeding matador Marlais Marksman was born in England. He went on to be one of the most influential sires of the 1930s, for pointer lines around the globe. His son Glenviggan Dream was born in 1935 and was sold to New Zealand for 2000 guineas – a record price at the time. Behind this there were line bred on the highly influential His Majesty (Stylish Touchstone – Queen Grouse) and also heavily carried Ferndale breeding.
In New Zealand a breeder called Sid Geary made great use of Glenviggan Dream in his kennel Stamford. From this the Australians imported Stamford Celebrity (whelped 17/11/1947), a dog linebred on Glenviggan Dream and who had a big impact on their pointer breeding. Sid Geary kept the two sisters of Celebrity called Shirley and Sherry. They were by Kincardine of Kinkora (Stamford Super Ex – Dark Lady) – Stamford Symphony (Ch Stamford Statesman – Ch Peggy O’Neil). Glenviggan Dream was the sire of Super Ex, Statesman and Peggy O’Neil.
Owen Dawson line bred further on several Stamford Celebrity offspring and mixed this with the Sandford Model line and American Herewithem blood.
After the war, the only lemon & whites in Australia were owned by Hatfield kennel in Adelaide. Most other lemons, tri-colours and black & whites were removed at birth. There was a lot of prejudice in favour of liver & white. However, another cornerstone of the breed in Australia, was a Hertha coloured bitched called Bell (born 1939). Owen got hold of four of her pups, most importantly the daughter Lydia. With Stamford Celebrity she produced Lucknow Rubra in 1951, the all-important foundation for the 23 generations he had bred at the time of my visit. From these lines the kiwis imported Lucknow Lilac (Debonair Monarch of Kinkora – Ch Yenda Ray) in 1953. Other dogs were exported to Hawaii, Japan and Hong Kong.

Since 1957 Owen Dawson had been in touch with Joe Dub in Ireland, who had taken over the Blackfield kennel after Waldemar Marr. Owen assisted the leading Australian trialist, Jack Pontin (kennel Marnissa), in importing Blackfield Firefly (Kilt of Cromlix – Janka von der Karthaus) in 1962 and Blackfield Garry (Paatsan Earl – Stonethorpe Blossom of Cromlix) the following year. While Firefly had a good pedigree, Dawson claimed she couldn’t smell a roast dinner and was a disappointment. Garry on the other hand was as a dual champion a success and even more so at stud. More British imports followed, with Finch of Cromlix (who produced Baronsfield Lord, sired by Blackfield Garry) and the important Fearn Rowda (Ellebaeks Nicki – Fearn Rubbo) from Eppie Buist. He was made into a dual champion by Jack Pontin.
In the early 1970s came another important British import when David Wong imported Isle of Arran Poker (Langwell Joe – Isle of Arran Dice) from Lady Jean Fforde in Scotland. Langwell Joe’s mother FTCh Blackfield Gem (Champion Stake winner 1964) was a litter sister of Blackfield Garry. Isle of Arran Poker was in 1974 transferred to Bruno Pollini who trained and handled him to be the top dog in Australia, winning the National Championship in 1976. Pollini had founded his kennel on a bitch from Owen called Lucknow Lilla. She was mated with with Isle of Arran Poker. Owen in turn used a Poker son Montenero Algonquin with good results. 
Several of the pointer people who were doing well in Australia were of Italian origin. In addition to Bruno Pollini (kennel Montenero) in New South Wales were Owen’s mate Giuseppe Bernardi (kennel Rocca) and Stefano Capizzi (kennel Glenvada) in Victoria. Later also Vince Pino who had FTCh Rocca Diesel (Whitesmoke Jag – Rocca Silla). Jag and Silla were sired by the two brothers Rocca Gesy and Rocca Scupe. Another very active pointer man is Joe Camilleri, himself of Maltese heritage, who has bred in Italian imported lines. But he started with a female called Rumiecella Quartie (Tintookie Youknow Oono – Tintookie Walteela), her mother by Dual Ch Montenero Dougal and also first bred her with Rocca Gesy. FTCh Rocca Gesy was the sire of the litter Owen had when I was visiting (line bred on Blackfield Garry), on his solid black bitch Lucknow Black Magic. Owen’s lines consisted both of solid coloured dogs and white pointers. 

The knowledge of his own lines were so in-depth that Owen’s predictions about his litters had become frighteningly accurate. Owen put out some tame quail in a field to show me some of the dogs working. The one that appealed most to me was a white & orange male. But he had to admit that his dog material had peaked twenty years earlier. However, a couple of breeders who had used his dogs in recent times had still got dual champions out of it. And he kept going, even though he claimed that in his family they all lost their marbles when they passed eighty.
Owen Dawson had at least three more litters, even though he increasingly kept to himself and the curiosity and journey was all his own. He was a great personality and while many don’t know who he was, he has the Owen Dawson Walking Track in Frankston named after him. He had been one of the driving forces behind getting the Langwarrin Military Reserve made into a National Park, which eventually happened. Having the walking track through it given his name had pleased him greatly.
Owen Dawson passed away in August 2005.

Some of Joe Bernardi’s Rocca dogs of the 1990s, from the Australian lines described: Rocca Gesy (Rocca Reno – Rocca Lia), Rocca Silla (Rocca Scupe – Rocca Lia), Rocca Silla again, Rocca Silla & Rocca Tarra, Rocca Tarra, Rocca Diesel (Whitesmoke Jag – Rocca Silla). 

Whitesmoke Jag was by Rocca Gesy – Ywurrie Hilda. Gesy & Scupe were brothers born December 1st 1987. Their sire Rocca Reno by Baronsfield Lord (Blackfield Garry – Finch of Cromlix) – Wingflash Tessa (Fearn Rowda – Wingflash Tina) and mother Rocca Lia by Marnissa Macey (Fearn Rowda – Marnissa Mardi) – Wingflash Tessa (Fearn Rowda – Wingflash Tina).