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How to Promote a Vulnerable Breed or Old Gingers Statue and the Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre

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written by Mike Macbeth

Although the Dandie Dinmont Terrier has one of the most fascinating and well documented histories of all British breeds, it is in a desperate situation with approximately only 315 puppies born annually, world-wide.

In February 2015 Paul Keevil, a British Art Dealer and Mike Macbeth, (both Dandie breeders, dog judges and passionate enthusiasts) organized a three-day event celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s novel Guy Mannering, in which the character called “Dandie Dinmont” ultimately named the breed. It was hoped that this would draw attention to the plight of the Dandie. Despite tremendous press and media coverage, it wasn’t enough. 2015 and 2016 produced Britain’s two lowest consecutive years of puppy registrations of all time (excluding war affected years). Something had to be done to halt the continued decline of the breed. 

Mike Macbeth and Paul Keevil at Sir Walter Scott’s library at Abbotsford, Scotland, 2015.
That year they visit Old Ginger’s kennels for the first time. 

PART ONE: THE HAINING

Every Dandie on earth goes back via their tail male line to a dog called Old Ginger, who was born on June 4th, 1842. Despite the breed being pure since the mid 1700’s, Old Ginger was the first Dandie Dinmont to have a known pedigree. During the research for the event, Mike and Paul were astonished to discover that Old Ginger’s actual kennel at The Haining in Selkirk, Scotland had against all odds, survived, deteriorating and in poor condition but virtually 100% intact. No other breed, anywhere, can point to the surviving kennel of the breed’s “founder”. A visit to The Haining was included on the event’s itinerary, was probably the first time that Dandies had returned to this palladium mansion since Old Ginger was born there.

Old Ginger’s actual but neglected kennel and kennel yard at The Haining, Selkirk
Old Ginger’s actual but neglected kennel and kennel yard at The Haining, Selkirk
Dandies return after 170 years
Dandies return after 170 years

In 2009, Andrew Nimmo-Smith, the last owner of The Haining, bequeathed the 160 acre property “for the benefit of the community of Selkirkshire and the wider public.” The Haining then became a Charitable Trust.  Mike and Paul recognised the importance of The Haining to the Dandie Dinmont’s unique and remarkable history. A warm relationship developed between the Dandie Dinmont and the trustees, who enthusiastically welcomed the 2015 return of the breed. As the rapport developed the trustees embraced the idea of making the estate dog friendly.  

But Mike and Paul had another ambitious idea – why not erect a statue of Old Ginger by his original kennel?  Old Ginger would be 175 years old in 2017. It was a perfect time to celebrate. The Trustees agreed, fundraising began and the Dandie community responded. A plaque, which now hangs in the Dandie Discovery Centre lists the major donors. The Canadian Dandie club proudly contributed more than any other Dandie club and there were as many generous Canadian donors as any other nation.

PART TWO:  THE SCULPTURE

In February of 2016, with some trepidation Mike Macbeth rather audaciously approached the renowned sculptor Alexander “Sandy” Stoddart, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland.  Mike told him of the plight of the endangered Dandie Dinmont, and how it was felt a commemorative statue created by such a famous sculptor would draw attention to the breed.
Mr. Stoddart generously accepted the commission to produce a bronze statue of “Old Ginger” to celebrate the Dandie’s 175th birthday.  

Scotland’s greatest living sculptor is best known for his immense civic monuments both nationally and internationally, including the 10 feet (3m) bronze statues of David Hume and Adam Smith, on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh; other Edinburgh statues such as James Clerk Maxwell, William Henry Playfair, and John Witherspoon, plus a scheme of architectural sculpture for the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.   “Sandy” Stoddart says of his own motivation, “My great ambition is to do sculpture for Scotland”.

Sandy Stoddart creating Old Ginger in his Paisley studio
Sandy Stoddart creating Old Ginger in his Paisley studio

It seems wholly appropriate that the statue of the most historically important of all Dandie Dinmont Terriers “Old Ginger” was created by Scotland’s foremost sculptor Sandy Stoddart. It now faces Old Ginger’s kennel run, which ironically was made by the notable Selkirk Dandie breeder and local blacksmith, John Stoddart.  Are the two related?  No one knows. But it does seem synchronistic.

PART THREE:  THE DANDIE DINMONT DISCOVERY CENTRE

Paul and Mike then realized that a statue without any explanation might not be enough. Old Ginger’s kennel building and run had seen better days, and were in need of a sympathetic restoration.

A grant application for “match funding” was submitted to the General Committee of The Kennel Club who saw the potential of the Old Ginger project for one of Britain’s most vulnerable breeds. The Kennel Club Educational Trust generously provided the funds to not only restore Old Ginger’s kennel but turn it into the Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre. Banners, donated by Mike’s husband now hang inside, and explain the significance of Old Ginger and the Dandie Dinmont’s extraordinary history. It also provides information about other Scottish and vulnerable breeds.

The restoration began on Old Ginger’s kennels in March 2017.  It included a new roof, new doors and repair of stone work inside and out.
The restoration began on Old Ginger’s kennels in March 2017.  It included a new roof, new doors and repair of stone work inside and out.

THE THREE DAY EVENT:

Paul and Mike then set to work creating an ambitious three-day event in the Border region of Scotland.  Once it was announced, the host hotel, the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel sold out in 5 days. With over 150 guests from 14 different nations staying at other local Selkirk and area hotels, and 140 Dandies and more attending just on the Sunday it is believed this was the largest informal gathering of Dandie Dinmonts and enthusiasts – ever!  It proved overwhelming support for the event and the breed within the Dandie Community.

Photo: Rob Gray

On June 2nd, the first day there was a tour of the Lochcarron of Scotland tartan factory. Others visited  Abbotsford the beautiful estate of Sir Walter Scott. The writer left just two surviving, living legacies – the trees he planted at Abbotsford and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier which he was responsible for naming. A wonderful Dandie Fashion Show of the Scott Tartan (for humans and dogs) called “Barking Plaid” organized by Scotch Tweed was held in the evening at the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, next to the Abbey where Scott Is buried.
On the second day, His Grace, Richard 10th Duke of Buccleuch greeted everyone at Bowhill. The Duke, as head of the Scott clan, had previously given permission for the Dandie Dinmont to adopt Sir Walter Scott’s private black and white tartan. It is the only dog on earth with its own tartan. People toured Duke Richard’s magnificent Bowhill home and grounds.  

Old Ginger’s sire, Old Pepper, was discovered in a trap on the Bowhill estate. He was likely abandoned by gypsies or poachers. A lecture about 19th century Gamekeeping by actual gamekeepers taught us how and why Old Pepper would have been trapped. Later a visit to the grave of the unsung hero, James Kerss, the 5th Duke’s gamekeeper who found Old Pepper. Had he not discovered Old Pepper, there would not have been an Old Ginger! The local vicar conducted a service of remembrance, a blessing of the Dandies and a solemn ceremony with wreaths placed at Kerss’ gravestone. A sociable evening BBQ where Dandie folks met and chatted was held outdoors by the River Tweed at the Dryburgh Hotel.

Day three: June 4th – Old Ginger’s 175th birthday. The visitors congregated in Selkirk square, and were surprised when “Sir Walter Scott” (local actor John Nichol) invited them into his Courthouse.  

Photo: Rob Gray

Next, a visit to The Fleece, the site of the founding of the world’s second oldest dog club, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club in 1875. Now an excellent restaurant, current DDTC Chairman, Paul Eardley unveiled a commemorative plaque. All then participated in a procession to The Haining, and after a welcoming ceremony, the visitors followed the Highland piper to the kennel area.  
An introduction by Paul Keevil and the ribbon cutting by a Kennel Club representative opened the Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre. 

Then the moment all were waiting for, the unveiling of Sandy Stoddart’s Old Ginger Bronze statue. Mike Macbeth introduced Sandy Stoddart to the assembled, then Michelle Ballantyne the Managing Trustee of The Haining, pulled off the cover and revealed Old Ginger.
Old Ginger now stands most appropriately adjacent to the kennel at The Haining where the real Old Ginger originally was housed.

Sandy Stoddart noted that usually at unveilings of his statues there is cheering and applause. He said that when Old Ginger was revealed to all, what he heard instead was a loving “Ahhhhhhhhhh”, the sound one makes when looking at a sweet puppy. 

He added that this was the most enjoyable of any of his unveilings. Immediately Dandie owners wanted their dog’s photo with Sandy and his bronze Old Ginger.

Photo: Rob Gray

The three wonderful days in Scotland which fortunately were blessed by no rain, ended with the Dandie Dinmont Derby, now an annual event. More than 125 Dandies raced on the grounds of The Haining.

Photo: Rob Gray
Photo: Rob Gray

Canadians should be proud of both the individual contributions and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of Canada’s support of this important initiative. Sandy Stoddart’s extraordinary statue of Old Ginger and the Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre now has a continuing stream of tourists. It is hoped it will not only promote but help The Haining thrive, as that wonderful estate is ground zero for the Dandie breed and thus the catalyst for the revival of the breed.  

AFTERMATH

A third and final event, featuring the 250th anniversary of the famous Gainsborough portrait, the first known painting of a Dandie Dinmont, sitting on the knee of the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch was organized to celebrate the Dandie in History and Art. Like so many others, the July 2020 event has been postponed to July 2021, due to the COVID-19 virus. But the passion to promote and perpetuate one of the world’s rarest terriers remains.

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