In the years just before and just after WWII the English setters were among the dominating breeds in New Zealand field trials. The following dogs are recorded as having won Championship trials:
1935 Waitapu Lass (1), Sally Horner (1).
1937 Arran Grouse (4), including New Zealand Pointer & Setter Championship.
1945 Don (2).
1947-48 Kentucky Blue (4).
1951 Blue Boy (1).
1952 True of Tawhere (1).
1954 Hakanoa Smooger (1).
After this there was a long gap with no English setters winning during the next 12 years, while they continued around the country as good hunting dogs, often they were bred unregistered. Hakanoa Smooger (mentioned above) was found in the pedigrees of Mr T King’s Tuhimata strain, one of the lines popular with hunters. Another dog with a great reputation as a sire of workers was Ranger of Rustemeade, used by kennels like Hillside and Sportsmans. The best known unregistered strain of hunting dogs were generally known as ‘North Auckland Pheasant Dogs’. The trial scene was in the meantime dominated by the German breeds and the English pointers.
During the 1950s several important things happened behind the scene. One of these things was that the retired farmer McNaughton imported Altnaharra Whip and Downsman’s Niobe from England. Niobe had already produced an excellent litter with Iliana Wind Wraith in 1956, giving top field trial winners like Downsman’s Thor, Downsman’s Odin, Downsman’s Baldur and Downsman’s Freya.
Before Niobe was sent to New Zealand she was mated with Downsman’s Brookfield. Both Brookfield and his litter brother FTCh Downsman’s Bracken had excellent trial results. Their parents were Iliana Wind Wraith and Adare Lady Beatrice (litter sister of Niobe’s father Adare Nima). (These lines also came to New Zealand later through the Sharnberry / Waygood connection.)
In New Zealand Downsman’s Niobe gave birth on 21.11.1957 in the Windfield kennel of Mr McNaughton, producing the two very influential sires Windfield Ace and Windfield Ashley. The old Danish dog trainer Tom Zachariassen, who moved to New Zealand, had one of his very best dogs in Snowman of Lyndameade (Windfield Ace – Melody of Wooladale), also he an influential sire. Leon Mortensen at the same time got hold of Awahuri Rock (Windfield Ashley – Hillside Lady). With Rock he won the North Island Pointer & Setter Championship in 1965 and 1966.
Rock became an influential dog to mark the return of the English setters at top level in field trials. In addition to the great pedigree behind his sire (see link to pedigree below), his mother was by the above-mentioned Ranger of Rustemeade and Hillside Lassie. Rock was a successful sire primarily in Leon’s own kennel and also in the Tuhimata strain mentioned above, producing Tuhimata Blue Boy.
In addition to all mentioned above, Leon in this period also found his foundation bitch First Lady, out of the ‘North Auckland Pheasant Dog’ stock. During a three year period he ran weekly adverts in the Auckland Herald that he would pay $200 for a good bird-dog (equivalent to more than $2000 today). Most weekends were spent travelling around the country seeing dogs. In this period he tried 23 dogs, choosing 2 of them to be the quality he wanted as his foundation dogs: First Lady & Awahuri Rock. In the book he describes purchasing First Lady and seeing her mother Spot working: “That day was the first time I ever saw a really good bird-dog in action. Spot, as she was called, found birds at an incredible rate. None were flushed. Each bird was just where she said it was. She produced them when asked.” This was what he built the next 35 years of Wingfield setters from.
In the 1970s Awahuri Rock & First Lady’s daughter Wingfield Annie commenced the return of the English setters as a major trial force and with the importation of Sharnberry Shooter that success continued. Wingfield Annie dominated the trial scene for a whole decade. She became a Grand FTCh and among her many wins were the North Island Championship in 1970 – 1972 – 1978 & 1979, and the New Zealand Championship in 1973 – 1974 and 1976. Leon commented; “She was all business. She made finding birds look easy.”
Leon’s Australian imported pointer FTCh Marnissa Mariner was at the same time of near equal calibre. “….when they were at their best they went, as a team, unbeaten for two years. They were known, not entirely as a compliment, as ‘Mortensen’s machines’.”
FTCh Sharnberry Shooter won the North Island Championship in 1976. When people said he was the best dog seen in New Zealand, Leon said he was the most spectacular, but not the best. He had a huge impact though as a sire, and even more so as a grand-sire.
– Sharnberry Shooter x Wingfield Annie produced in 1975 dogs like Grand FTCh Wingfield Fabian and Wingfield Fleur.
– In 1977 Wingfield Gunman (Sharnberry Shooter – First Lady) x Wingfield Annie produced FTCh Wingfield Intrigue, Wingfield Intrepid and Wingfield Idol Q.C.
– In 1980 Tad of Colchicus (Sharnberry Shooter – Cushla of Westella) x Wingfield Honey (Sharnberrry Shooter – Wingfield Annie) produced FTCh Wingfield King and FTCh Wingfield Kandy.
Late 1970s at the Wingfield Farm, Tokoroa – from left to right: Grand FTCh Wingfield Fabian, FTCh Wingfield Intrigue, Grand FTCh Wingfield Annie and FTCh Sharnberry Shooter.