Bernese News 17th December 2016
Bernice with some of the Meadowpark Double E litter - a couple of which became champions.
Bernice Mair “Meadowpark" (1933 – 2016) - a tribute by Helen Davenport-Willis
Bernice Hemthorne was a true Lancashire lass, she loved dogs all her life, growing up with them
as her father ran a small boarding kennels next to the family home in Bentmeadows, Rochdale.
She left school in 1948 to become a kennel maid and worked for the Greyhound Racing
Association at their track in Rochdale. Subsequently and without telling her parents this attractive,
determined young lady joined the WRAF (Womans Royal Air Force).
It was during this time she met John Mair, they fell in love, eventually married and she became Mrs
Mair - much to the disappointment of her commanding officers who had predicted a high flying
career in the service for the talented Miss Hemthorne! In time two sons, John and Euan and a
daughter Carole completed the family.
Despite being a wife and mother, Bernice's interest in matters canine never dwindled and in those
early days, she enjoyed and owned many breeds, including Shetland Sheepdogs, Rogh Collies,
Pembroke Corgis, Cavaliers, American Cocker Spaniels and Poodles.
In 1958, when looking to register a kennel name she chose the name "Meadowpark" derived
from the family's association with Bentmeadows which was near a park.
She supported the local canine societies showing her different breeds of dogs with success at local
Match meetings, Sanction, Limit and Open shows. Carole had shown an interest in the dogs from
an early age and had been encouraged to do so, accompanied her mum and dad to the shows.
Bernice joined the local canine society - Rochdale and District Canine Society - serving as secretary
for over a decade. The then Chairman Mr Foizey was looking to retire and sell his business/property
in Trows Lane, Castleton. Bernice heard about it and in 1977 the Mair family purchased Lawn
Cottage Boarding Kennels and Cattery - Carole joining John and Bernice in the venture, working together on a daily basis.
However, prior to that move, some years previously Carole had asked the family for a special breed
of dog for her 21st birthday gift. She wanted a Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy and as there were not
that many breeders around at the time Bernice did some research before the purchase. She wanted
to buy from a reputable kennel that hip scored their breeding stock and openly discussed the faults
and virtues of their dogs. She contacted Diana Cochrane of "Duntiblae" fame and the Duntiblae
Nalle grandson, “Clint” - Duntiblae Dark and Handsome was purchased for Carole.
Bernice and Carole decided they wanted to breed and show Bernese so the next step was to
purchase a female. They did this in the form of Clint's dam, "Helga" - Duntiblae Dark and Endearing
(Duntiblae Nalle ex Duntiblae Eva). Both “Clint” and his dam had BVA/KC clear certificates. Bernice
said of “Helga” that although she was not typiest of bitches, she was well bred, had excellent
orthopaedic results and a lovely temperament and put to the right dog she would produce something
better than herself. The stud they chose for Helga was Ch Duntiblae Forgemen Fusilier (a Duntiblae
Nalle son). A singleton puppy resulted from the union and in 1985 he became the kennel's first home
bred title holder, Ch Meadowpark The Brigadier and John's constant companion. They then purchased
Mixbury Modern Millie (born 1979) and she became the first female champion for the kennel. She
was sired by Ch Tarncred Tarquin of Temeraire, also a Nalle son ex a Nalle daughter, Duntiblae
Dark Ember of Mixbury. When looking to breed Millie, they decided on an outcross and chose Brian
and Jude Simonds' Swiss import, Ch Jumbo v Waldacker at Coliburn. This mating produced Ch
Meadowpark Captivation, who made up in 1986. From Don and Brenda Griffiths they purchased
Forgeman Freelance, (1982 – 1989) – whose dam Ch Folkdance at Forgeman had not only won the
Working Group at Crufts in 1980, but also went on to produce the first Breed Record holder - Ch
Forgeman Footpad. "Baxter" became a champion in 1984 and really put the kennel on the map
since not only was he successful in the ring, he was also a top producer siring 7 champions in total
and numerous otherr Championship show winners. In 1998 he was Top Stud Dog all breeds in the
Working Group and to commemorate this Bernice was presented with a memorial shield - the names
of all his champion children engraved on it. She treasured this.
It was a bitter disappointment when he was found to be a carrier of the rare inherited disease
Hypomyelinogenis (Trembler). Once this status had been confirmed, Bernice acted accordingly.
He was withdrawn from stud and subsequently castrated, living the remainder of his life as a house
dog at Lawn Cottage. Bernice was extremely proud of the fact that his son Ch Meadowpark
Lancelot, born 1984 and owned by Kate McDuff, was chosen to represent the breed in the Kennel
Club's Illustrated Breed Standard book.
With the family taking an increasingly more active interest in BMD Carole and Bernice joined the
The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of GB, Bernice being elected to committee in 1982. Through the
club she was actively involved in getting the breed incorporated in the BVA/KC hip scoring scheme
alongside GSD and other breeds. She talked at length to Dr Malcolm Willis about hip scoring and
the genetic aspects of dog breeding. She became club secretary in 1984, was diligent during her
time in office, only retiring in 1989 in order to spend more time with her family. They had been dealt
a devastating blow when Carole and Richard's second son Ben was diagnosed with Congenital
Cerebral Palsy. For many years Bernice and John were to play a major supporting role in Ben's life,
alongside his parents.
Bernice was delighted to be made an Honorary Life member of the GB club in 2015. In 1985 she
was a founder member of the Northern BMD Club and eventual Patron. In that role, for a time, she
regularly attended committee meetings and was financially/generously supportive of the club's
annual “SuperLeague Finals” from its inception in 1999.
Bernice mentored a goodly number of successful people in the breed including Julie Baldwin
whose “Fortonpark” foundations were built on Meadowpark lines and continues to this day to work
closelwith the kennel. Bernice also had a great relationship with Lyn Brand of the "Branbern"
kennels in Sydney, Australia. By working together they exchanged dogs/bloodlines successfully
to mutual benefit and breed improvement. Bernice visited the USA for the Bernese National
Speciality on a number of occasions and enjoyed her time “over the pond” talking dogs, Bernese
Mountain Dogs in particular. The last time she flew the Atlantic was with Carole and their family
friend Beryl, in fact there was a crowd of us – 13 in total - to Gettysberg on 2009. We had a great
time that week!
Bernice always had an interest in dog books, bloodlines and breeding stock. She kept up to date
with her contemporaries activities overseas before the advent of the internet or Facebook! Always
looking to improve her canine knowledge, she embarked upon a couple of correspondence
courses run by David Cavill under the umbrella of The Animal Care College - "The Dog Judging
Certificate” and “Dog Breeding Certificate” attaining a Distinction in both! But you would never
have known from her as she never bragged about it or any of her achievements in or out of the
She awarded Challenge Certificates in both Shetland Sheepdogs and Bernese, judging the latter
at Crufts in 1993. In recent years Bernice and Carole, became interested in Japanese Spitz through
the family's long lasting friendship with Mary and the late Gerry Fallas, (staunch supporters of The
Ben Hartley Trust). Although they have not “pushed” this breed as such, a champion, bred by
Dalsetter, handled by Carole, was Best of Breed at Crufts in 2013.
To date there have been over thirty Bernese Mountain Dog champions (more than any other kennel
in the history of the breed in the UK) bred from a combination of the kennel's established UK
bloodlines and imported bloodstock. Bernice shared her bounty and many other people had
Meadowpark championsThere have been many others bred at Lawn Cottage who had never seen
the inside of the show ring who gave, and continue to give, endless pleasure to their owners. Her
maxim was, “Enjoy your dog for his own sake, whether he wins or not, living with him is more
important than showing him.”
She was extremely skilled at stud work, even with most reticent of canine males; this attribute she
has passed on to Carole. So too the art of grooming and coat presentation. Running a busy
grooming parlour from the kennels, mother and daughter perfected this art and the Meadowparks
are renowned for their expertise in this area. As the years have rolled on John and Bernice started
to take more of a back seat approach. They “retired” - in that they moved out of Lawn Cottage to a
little house round the corner from the kennels whilst Carole not only took over the business but also
came more to the helm with the show team. John still went to Lawn Cottage every morning
continuing in the way he had done all those years previously.
In recent years the Meadowpark kennel has gone from strength to strength, attaining the highest
accolades in the show ring, for example at Working and Pastoral Breeds of Wales in April this year
Ch Meadowpark High Class - “Milo” piloted by Carole won Best in Show. Only the third time a
Bernese has won this accolade.
Fifteen years ago a “dog mad” school boy by the name of Gary Dybdall went to Lawn Cottage,
eager to learn the rudiments of dogs, went for work experience learning about showing,breeding etc.
Immediately treated as one othe family, Bernice took him under her wing, he was mentored well and
a mutual, long lasting respect developed between the two of them. A few years ago this same young
man graduated as a Veterinary Surgeon from Edinburgh University. (We can only imagine her pride
in Gary when MRCVS was added to his name!). It is he who piloted Ch Meadowpark Whispers
Breeze to her Group win at Crufts in 2013 (they also won the Breeders Group) - same show - same
same year!) and who now works solidly alongside Carole in team “Meadowpark”. This combination
has proved to be a phenomenal partnership, breaking records and making breed history. The spade
work that Bernice (and John) did all those years ago, with the Swiss breed the family took to their
heart, has paid dividends, the evidence of which is in the continued success over recent years. She
was a true “dyed in the wool" dog woman; she always believed the success of any kennel lay in the
strength and quality of its bitches. She was good natured both in success and failure and always
congratulated fellow exhibitors on their achievements. On occasions she could be a little "frosty" on
first meeting but once you got to know her she was easy to be with and excellent company. You
could always be sure of a warm welcome, a “cuppa” and a good dog natter whenever you called at
Lawn Cottage. Despite running a business, it was a family home, visitors always welcome. She was
generous with her time and thoughtful too; any correspondence received from her was always
clearly recognisable because of her beautiful handwriting.
Bernice celebrated her 83rd birthday on 16th November with her family. (She enjoyed the company
of “Breeze” as a house dog sleeping on the bed). Sadly soon afterwards she was admitted to
Fairfield Hospital in Bury, where after a short illness she passed away peacefully on 7th December.
Sincere condolences to her family, husband John, her children and grandchildren. She is quite
irreplaceable. However, she will never be forgotten since she was one of those individuals who made
a true impact during their lifetime and her legacy will serve to inspire us all, as well as the many more
individuals and breeders in the years to come.
Her funeral service will be held at 1.40pm - Rochdale Crematorium on Monday 19th December and
afterwards at Rochdale Rugby Club. Family flowers only please.
Donations in memory of Bernice can be made to Scope and/or Bernese Welfare UK. Cheques
can be sent to Carole Hartley-Mair, Lawn Cottage Kennels and Cattery, Trows Lane, Castleton,
Rochdale, Lancashire. OL11 2UD.