CLUB HISTORYThe history of the club dates back to the early 1920s. it has not been an easy task to piece together this history, as there has been no official record kept of early club activities and the foundation member of the club are now deceased. However, by piecing together some oral histories and wading through old newspaper articles and catalogues an interesting history has evolved.
The club had its origins in the early 1920s when a group of shooting enthusiasts who owned gundogs got together and organised shooting days in the field. Outings were arranged and since travel to trials was difficult in those days, transport was arranged in furniture vans that had seats on both sides for passengers. The owners, dogs, stewards, judges and spectators would all travel to the trial site together in these vans.
The outings were not only organised field trials but also social days for all involved and usually finished with songs and sometimes a stop on the way home for a game of "Two-Up".
The dogs competing in these field trials were predominantly Pointers and English & Irish Setters. Game was not shot in these field trials but the dogs were required to seek, scent and track. The "gentlemen" members also organised special days for shooting game and live shoots on pigeons and starlings that were released for the gun.
Sporting Dog Club of Victoria
This original group formed a club call "The Sporting Dog Club of Victoria" and meetings were officially organised and held in meeting rooms at Flinders Street Station making travel easier for members. The first recorded results of Field Trials conducted are from 1924. In 1928 the club was going strong and held a One-Day Members' Championship Show for Pointers, Setters, Spaniels and Retrievers. This club show was held under special club show regulations.
The Office-bearers for the year 1928-1929 were President: V. Street, Esq.; Vice Presidents: Messrs. M. Gawen, Dr J. C. Lewis, S. Hallard, R.H. Sutton; Treasurer: Mr. E. Simpson; Hon. Secretary: L. Neuendorf. Committee: Messrs A.H. Hocking, C.O. Rolls, F. Thorne, J.C. Eldred, C. Beherendt, A.E. Prentice, C.W. Hopkins, R. MCGowan.
Victorian Gun-Dog Club
Near the end of the 1930s the 'Sporting Dog Club" disbanded and a new club called the Victorian Gun-Dog Club was formed. (The exact date of the name change is not documented.) This club seems to have adopted the same objectives as the Sporting Dog Club and continued to hold field trials and members' shoots. It became affiliated with the Kennel Control Council (K.C.C.)which may be the reason it changed its name, to encompass more Gundog activities and to focus more on dog activities than shooting. The early years of the club predominantly involved field trials for setters and pointers and sometimes spaniels. These were held at Open and Novice levels and were held under Kennel Control Council rules. In the late 1930s the K.C.C. allowed retrievers to compete against spaniels in field trials.
The club also conducted organised meetings and shoots as well as trials. Retrievers became more involved in the late 1930s when Hilda Lascelles imported two working Labradors from the United Kingdom and wanted to work them in the field. Field Trials were held at Bacchus Marsh, Craigieburn, Somerton, Balliang East, Romsey, Toolern Vale and even at the Showground's at Ascot Vale. Water tests were held at the Burke Road Bridge Invanhoe, on the Maribyrnong River and at Bulla.
The Second World War interrupted competitive field trials, but during this time interest in retrieving developed among Labrador owners who trained on the Yarra River at Ivanhoe. At the end of the war returning servicemen were attracted to various shooting sports, including duck hunting for which a retriever was almost a necessity. Because of the increased interest in retrieving work the Water Test once again became an important event in the V.G.C. calendar. The first official Water Test for the V.G.C. was held in 1942 while the field trials continued to be popular.
Victorian Retriever Club
Retrieving Trial developed from these meager beginnings on the Yarra River, but some field trial purists in the V.G.C. did not believe that such retrieving work was a real test as it was not natural field shooting. They would not consider a proposal to develop Retrieving Trials. The Victorian Retriever Club (later the Labrador Retriever Club of Victoria) was formed in 1952 to develop this type of trial.
The committee at the time of re-affiliation were President: A.S. Penrose; Vice-Presidents, Messrs J.L. Swan, R.H. Philp, P.A. Ward and G.P. Whitaker; Hon Treasurer, L.H. Brownridge; Hon Secretary A.S. Crouch; Committee, Messrs C.R. Bridgford, J.P. Carolin, E. Dosser, N. Guy, H. Mills, C. Patterson, W. Peverill and J. Stewart.
The club continued to grow during the 1950s and 60s with membership increasing to more than 250 members in the 1970s. Events for all aspects of working gundogs were held as well as many social events during this time and into the 1980s. Membership started to drop off in the late 1980s and this fall in member participation at members' meetings and social events was a continuing theme of the newsletter. Attendance at members meetings was always an issue and they slowly disappeared or became joint events with other clubs like the Labrador Retriever Club. The decrease in member participation was possibly due to the development of more specialist breed clubs during the 1970s.
1980 saw the introduction of a 'Restricted to Breed' Obedience trial being held in conjunction with the 35th Championship Show. The club became incorporated on March 19, 1986, and the Inaugural Gundog Obedience Trial and Inaugural Tracking Trial were held in 1987.
Even with decreased membership participation the club continually increased its activities in all aspects of working gundog activities. The club has conducted many and varied events over the years including members' meetings, members' competitions, dog matches, puppy nights, annual target shots, training days, obedience trials, tracking trials, Christmas break-up parties, social evenings, shows, published a monthly newsletter and, of course, held field and retrieving trials. In the early 1990s the club membership stood at 165 members.
The Victorian Gundog Club is still an active and viable club in the 21st century with membership now at about 120. It has a large calendar of events each year including a Championship Show, Open Show, two Pointer & Setter Field Trials, two Spaniel & Retriever Field Trials, two Utility Gundog Field Trials, four Retrieving Trials. It still caters for all types of gundogs and is used as a specialty Championship Show for letter known gundog breeds. Annual awards are presented each year for outstanding dogs in show, field and retrieving.
Many specialty gundog breed clubs have developed over the past 60 years, but the Victorian Gundog Club still survived as the only Group 3 club for all gundog clubs to cater for both show and working events.
The Victorian Gundog Club may have been the first club developed to promote Gundogs in Victoria but over the years different breed clubs have develop to promote their individual breed and special interests. One of the earliest breed clubs was the Cocker Spaniel Club which had its origins in 1931, and one of the most recent is the Irish Water Spaniel Club which became affiliated with the Victorian Canine Association (formally the K.C.C.) in 1994. The V.G.C. still serves many of the gundog breeds as some are too small to develop breed clubs of their own, it will therefore always have a place in the dog world.
There have been a large number of people who have been responsible for the continuation of this club over the years. There are far too many people to mention, but is has been the dedication of these people that has kept the club viable. There have been ups and downs, but the one continuing interest off all members has kept it going over the years. That interest is "A LOVE OF GUNDOGS AND THEIR WORKING ABILITY".