Before the foundation of the Irish Kennel Club, all dog events in Ireland were held under licence from the English Kennel Club. However, the recently founded Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club – which included Michael Collins and Oliver St. John Gogarty among its members – broke with this system by holding the first breed show outside the English club’s jurisdiction on October 16, 1920.
Attendees included figures from both sides of the independence divide, including Captain Wyndham Quinn from the Vice Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park, and the Under Secretary for Ireland, Sir James McMahon. They witnessed a show featuring dogs such as ‘Convict 224’ (Michael Collins’ dog), Trotsky, Munster Fusilier, and Markavich, presided over by judges Con O’Herlihy and Dan Nolan. From those colourful beginnings sprang the Wyndham Quinn Perpetual Cup, which is still awarded to this day, and the Michael Collins Perpetual Cup.
More importantly, the event led to a further show featuring other breeds on Saint Patrick’s Day 1921 in the Concert Rooms of Dublin’s North Brunswick Street. That show’s success spurred the foundation of the Irish Kennel Club on January 20 1922. The freedom fighters who drove the club’s foundation reached across the political divide once again, electing independence opponent and dog lover Justice Henry Hanna as the Chairman. The first meeting of An Ard Chomhairle (Council) took place on the 3rd February 1922.
The election of Justice Hanna was an inspirational choice. The Founders faced many challenges as is evidenced by Justice Hanna’s comments at the time.
“We made few friends, some enemies, and some would gladly have seen us go under. Our mistakes were proclaimed, sometimes not without exaggeration, and any little merit we had was given scanty recognition.”
However, Justice Hanna and the other elected committee members remained resolute.
“The delegates associated with me in the administration of the kennel government have shown themselves during this difficult period to be full of courage, ability, optimism and fidelity to the trust they had undertaken. They insisted that friend and foe alike should get the strict letter of kennel law, to the dismay of many. Often when others were wavering, their earnestness would bring delegates back to a sense of their duty to the kennel community – that right should be done.”
The Founders were very clear on what constituted the Irish Kennel Club.
“Often the position of the Irish Kennel Club is misunderstood. Some fanciers regard it with the natural hostility of an Irishman to any government. It is forgotten that the democratic foundation of the Irish Kennel Club is the specialist clubs, without which it cannot legally exist. They control it. They are its constituencies from which the representative delegates are provided.”
A democratic and inclusive IKC was the way forward.
“It is, therefore, essential that every club should affiliate and send a delegate, so that the personnel of the Ard Chomhairle (Executive Council) should be as varied as possible. But the delegates are, and must be, independent in there deliberations, and prepared to decide if necessary, against their own club. The election by the club of a delegate is merely a method of obtaining for Ard Chomhairle skilled, able and independent persons to guide the general interests of all. The delegate who thinks that he or she attends merely to look after the interests of a particular club misconceive his or her duty .”
There was a clear understanding that they had a duty to hold the Irish Kennel Club in trust for future generations.
“We humbly think that the footprints we are leaving behind may encourage other Irishmen to believe that they need not be dismayed to have any burden thrown on their shoulders, if they, as we, with honest endeavor and goodwill, join hands in a united effort. Having laid the foundation , we now propose to build a worthy superstructure”
The vision that the Founders had in 1922 remains as relevant today as it did back then.
Hanna, who retired in 1936 after sterling work to set the club on a solid foundation, was succeeded by Henry Fottrell, who held office until 1978. The Kennel Club’s current office, Fottrell House, is named in his honour. J.G. (Sonny) Plunkett held the chair until his death in 1987, followed by Bill O’Herlihy (son of Con O’Herlihy) and Tom Creamer. The title was changed to President in 1998, during Mr Creamer’s tenure, and Mr S. Delmar currently fills the role.
The present Secretary, Marion Campbell, has several predecessors. Tony O’Neill, Mr W. Cahill, Mr H.B. Fottrell, Mr L.G. Quirke, Miss M. Fox, Mr D.J. Smyth, Mr R. E. Martin all served in this role as the club grew. Today, the Irish Kennel Club is a company limited by guarantee and based in Fottrell House at Harold’s Cross Bridge. It is governed by an elected Board of Directors, while many members are active in the club through several voluntary committees.