You are here23/03/08 : Short history of the silver Rabbit Club 1909 : T. B. Mason

23/03/08 : Short history of the silver Rabbit Club 1909 : T. B. Mason

By Anonymous - Posted on 23 March 2008

As we are at the latter part of this year, holding our Club Show in commemoration of the Silver Club coming into the twenty-first year of its existence It has been suggested that with our annual report, balance sheet, and list of members, we should this year also give a short outline of the rise and progress of the Club since its formation, together with the photos of all our officers, and a few of our old and prominent members, in the; form of a souvenir. I have the greatest possible pleasure in acceding to this request, as I feel sure it will be welcomed by both young and old members of our Club, and will be something for our members to take care of and use for reference in years to come. My space is limited, so I shall rest myself with only the principal events that have come under my own notice. I think it was in the year 1885 that the first mention was made of the formation of the Silver Club. The honor belongs to Mr A Whittam of Leeds, who at that time was one of our most successful breeders of Creams and Fawns. His letter appeared in “Poultry” the best paper at that date for Rabbit fanciers. Messrs McKay, Moses, Ellerton, "A Stockton Reader," Mr Handley, Mr. Sheffield, Mr Noble, Mr Purser, "Puck" (the" nom de plume of Mr J. E. Watmough, the founder of “Fur and Feather”, Sylvie, and myself took a leading part.

How the United Kingdom Rabbit Club was Formed

Some little time before this the Dutch Club had been formed, and several of the most prominent fanciers of the time were of opinion that the separation of the various varieties into clubs would be a bad move, and that what was needed was a united club for all varieties. However, I had been suggested (and had promised) to act as secretary of the Silver club pro tem, and had got some twenty names willing to form such a club. The desire for a separate club for Silvers was strong, in fact at this time Silvers were one of the strongest varieties in the fancy. In proof of this I have only to state that at the great Yorkshire Show, held at Leeds in 1884, with eight classes. and an entry fee of 2s. 6d. per pen, we had 162 and early in the New Year of 1885 at Darlington, we had 103 in seven classes. So it will be seen that at this time we were strong enough to have formed a club and worked it successfully. In order, however, to show our strong wish for a united force, we joined hands with the other varieties and the Dutch Club, to their credit be it said, wound up their dub; and we all united to form what, at that time was called the United Kingdom Rabbit Club.

For a few years this Club tried to govern the whole of the Rabbit Fancy. Why it failed is not a subject that can be dealt with here. With the advent of the "Rabbit Keeper" in May, 1888 which was afterwards called Small Pets and has been called Fur and Feather for so many years past, the Fur Fancy began to boom in such a manner that it was impossible to stop the idea of a specialist club for each variety from becoming a reality. Mr Noble and the Silver men at Grimsby who were strong in the variety at this time were going to start a Si1ver dub for the district, but gave up the idea in favour of a Silver club for the united Kingdom. Silver men residing in all parts of the country Were ready; they only required a man to take the reins of secretaryship. I was pressed to do this, but having to spend all my time with the “Rabbit-Keeper" being the first man engaged on the paper that made Rabbits the prominent feature, a position I shall always he proud of, I was unable to accede to the request. It was early in the year 1889 that Mr T Gilpin of Leeds gave us the names of the people who had written him, and desired him to form a Silver Club and enroll them as members.

The First Sliver Club Meeting

The first meeting was held at Potovens Show, near Wakefield, on August 10th 1889. It was largely attended, and some very important matters relating to the rules were passed. The next meeting was held at Morley on August 31st 1889, at which a set of rules was passed round to all in attendance, and arrangements were made for the election of officers. At the meeting held at Leeds, on September 10th the result of the election was dec1ared :- President :- Mr Outhwaite, Secretary :- Mr T Gilpin, Vice-Presidents :- Messrs Mason, Noble, and Truss, Committee :- Messrs Roberts, Walker, Lumb, Sheffield, McKay, Constantine, Chandler, Jackson, Aldred, Craster, Honeybourne, Atkinson, Hedworth, Lockwood, Batty, JO Walker, Blackburn, J Walker, Abbott, and Patterson. It will be seen that our first committee consisted of twenty persons, residing in nearly every county. The judges appointed were Messrs Roberts, Mason, Aldred, Lumb, Gilpin, Noble, McKay, Sheffield, Hedworth, Abbott, Chandler, and H. Walker. Mr Sheffield declined to act. At the meeting held at Goole, on October 3rd a long time was spent in considering the rules and passing them. On November 5th we held a meeting at York. It was at this meeting our president Mr Winter commenced his generous policy by giving 30 shillings toward the expenses of forming the society. It was decided to hold a meeting at the Palace Show. Mr. Gilpin did not turn up at the Palace, and no meeting was held.

It will be seen that the start was made in right good earnest, but owing to Mr Gilpin losing interest or finding the work was more than he had anticipated, he let months go by without a move. Therefore on April 3rd 1890, I (as one of the vice-presidents) called upon him at his home, when he delivered up the books and papers belonging to the Club. He had done little or nothing for six months. I asked the consent of Mr Holdsworth, of Bradford, to propose him as the secretary. He agreed to act pro tem. At our Lincoln meeting held on April 26th Mr. Winter presided. We had a splendid gathering, and the meeting carried a vote for another election of officers to take place the first week in June. In the meantime Mr O. Moses, of Darlington, held a meeting of those who resided in that district, and who were in favour of becoming members. The result was ten new members. The officers elected in June 1890 were as follows:-President: - Mr Aconley, Vice-presidents:- Messrs Mason, Truss, and Sheffield, Secretary: - Mr J. E. Holdsworth, Judges: - Messrs Roberts, Mason, Aldred, Lumb, Noblc, McKay, Walter, Aconley, A. Walker, O Moses, Sheffield, and H. Walker. Committee :- Messrs Bottomley, Hartley, O. Moses, Lumb, Noble, Stubbs, Walter, H Walker, Chandler, Heslop, Knight, Roberts, J. Moses, McKay, Jackson, Templeman, Cade, Hankin, Cundall, Aldred, and Winter.

The Club's First Show

The first Club Show was held at Leeds on January 24th, 1891. Mr. Roberts judged Greys, Mr Aldred Fawns, and Mr. Noble Browns. The Greys had four classes, viz. 1) Light Shade 2) Dark or Medium Shade 3) Any Shade, under six months 4) Selling Class. The Fawns at this time were divided, and called Creams and Fawns. They had two classes each Adult and Youngsters, making four classes and a selling class. Browns, like the Greys, were divided into Shade classes, and had two Adult and one Young, with a Selling, making four classes, or thirteen c1asses in all. Greys had 62 entries, Fawns 72 entries, and Browns 59 entries. This with the entry in a Silver Selling Class (any colour) and Gift Class, made the total entry of 224 in the fifteen classes. After all expenses were paid a balance of 15shillings was left towards the funds of the Club. The hard work of a Club Show and working the society was the reason for Mr Holdsworth resigning the secretaryship. At a meeting held at Darlington on February 26th 1892 Mr C.Moses was elected to fill this important post, and he carried on the work for the year. He was also elected for the year 1893. Mr Moses called a meeting for Otley Show but owing to business engagements he was unable to attend.

A Vexed Question of Shades versus Sexes

The next meeting of the Club was held at Bradford; on June 18th it was at this meeting that the first discussion took place regarding the raising of funds for three silver challenge cups. Mr Noble and Mr Stubbs were at this time the chief movers in the discussion that was raging with regard to doing away with the Shade classes and substituting Sex c1asses. It had been a vexed question for many years. So far back as 1885 Mr Roberts, in judging at Darlington passed one of the best Silver Greys I ever bred, because he decided it was a medium shade, and ought not to have been entered in the light shade class. The humor of the thing was that Mr Roberts had given it two firsts in a light shade class before. It was one .of those tween shades that made it difficult to decide which class it ought really to be in, for in the light shade class it made the extra light ones look like meal-bags. The rabbit was the cause of much discussion, and it suffered an ignominious failure at Darlington from the fact that it had the very properties which a Silver required.

The light classes had a tendency to create a market for Silvers of such a mealy nature, that so far back as 1884 and 1885 Messrs Tomkinson of Doncaster and many other good breeders, wrote very strongly about meal bags winning over the better coloured ones that failed a little in silvering on ears and fore feet in those days. Mr Carvill, the late John Firth, and Mr H. E. Gilbert, with Mr Lumb (the present day secretary of the Belgian Club) did much to foster the desire for richer colour, and more even mixing of silvering and ticking on top in our Fawns and Creams, as they were called at this time. The result of all the discussion led to a vote being taken. Only thirty voted for sex classes and six for keeping on the shade classes. This was considered too small a vote to settle such great question. At our Mytholmroyd meeting it was decided to hold our next Club Show at Darlington.

A Faithful Friend of the Club

On January 2Rth, 1893, it was also decided that the annual meeting of the Club should take place at the time of the Club Show. The Club Show was a decided success messes Mason, Aldred, and Noble judged. The entry numbered 303 with 16 classes. Mr. T. Winter opened the show, and presided at the Club meeting, held the same day. Mr Craster, of Craster Tower, Northumberland who has always been a good friend to the Club, and who was spending a holiday abroad, sent 10s.6d, towards the funds, and it was resolved to send him the thanks of the meeting. Shortly after our show in 1893, we again lost our secretary, Mr O Moses, who, on account of pressing business engagements, had to retire. At the election, which took place in April, 1893, Mr R Stott, of Haughton-le-Skerne, Darlington, was elected in his place. Mr Winter was elected president.

In October 1893 Mr Craster wrote to Mr Stott offering £5 5s, if another £10 lOs, could be raised, towards three challenge cups. Mr Stott did not take up the matter, and did little work indeed for the Club. His interest in Silvers being almost nil. I was again asked to take on the secretaryship till the next election took place. That office I have held ever since, viz., for fifteen Years, and I may here also say that Mr Winter has been the president all the time, and, with one exception, has attended all our Club Shows, no matter where they have been held. I took up Mr Craster's offer, and by the end of 1893 I had got promises for challenge cups amounting to £18 18s 6d. It was suggested that we try to raise £33, so that our cups would be Valued at £10 10s. each. I am glad to say that we got this amount before our Lincoln meeting in 1894.

The Challenge Cups and First Winners

At this meeting specimens of challenge cups were on view. messes Fattorini and Sons, of Bradford, secured the order, and so satisfied have the committee been with the manner in which they carried out the contract that our champion challenge vase, costing £26, and our Tunbridge Wells challenge cup were purchased from. this firm, also our gold medals, which are given with the cups, and are spoken very highly of by all who see them. Just a line of thanks to those who have held the cups and taken so much care of them. I had them all at my house to get photographed and can honestly say they are in fine condition, in fact, as good as new. The rules to govern the cups were given in Fur and Feather on April 19th, 1894, and at our Lincoln Meeting, on April 26th, these rules were passed. I t was also decided that the cups should he first put into competition at Grimsby.

Our next Club Show was held at Worthing, on January 15th and 16th 1896 Mr. Armstrong won the Grey cup, Messrs Barkham and Stones the Fawn cup, and Messrs. Overend and Sutton the Brown Cup. It will be seen that only the Brown cup changed hands, and was won by a Durham firm. We had only 13 classes at this show, the idea being that the show was held in January, and so far removed from the great number of members, that the young classes would not fill. This proved correct, as we had only 17 entries in the three young c1asses provided, yet our entry was an average one of 199 in 13 classes, On January 14th, 1897, Mr. Armstrong raised the question of three challenge cups for young Silvers and promised £2 2s, Capt Banaster, the following week, promised to give a cup value £7 7s., if the other two cups could be raised. I at once got the matter in hand, so that by our Lincoln meeting, held on April 24th, I had got £21 1s promised, including Capt Banaster's £7 7s, which was allotted to the young Silver Browns, and called the Banaster Cup. Two other cups were purchased, A vote of thanks was given to the Captain, and it was decided that the Club Show be held at Leicester, Oct. 27th and 28th 1897, at which we had a splendid entry of 271in the 17 classes. The team classes were a great success, Messrs. Naylor, Bell, and Bemrose won the adult cups, and Messrs Armstrong, Barkham and Stones, and McDowell the young challenge cups.

Sex Classes Adopted

At our Lincoln meeting, in 1898, it was decided to again take a vote upon the question of sex or shade classes. The result was that from this time sex classes have been the classification of the Silver Club. One great cry against this change was that if sex classes were made instead of shade classes, we should soon see the last of our light shades. The mediums would rule the roost. In a measure this has come true, and I am a little afraid our breeders are not trying as they ought to do to breed and pen those most lovely shades of grey which we call the tween shades. I hope my word of warning about this matter will receive more attention, both at the hands of our breeders and judges, than it has done the last few years, or we may lose what, in my opinion, is the true ideal Silver, a tween shade, full of quality. By this change Messrs Noble and Stubbs won a battle that they had been writing about for many years.

Our next Club show was held at Dewsbury, in 1898, and the new c1assification was a great success, the 17 classes having an entry of 317. Again, we had to thank Mr Armstrong for his interest in the Club. At the Palace show he raised the question of a champion challenge vase, to cost 25 guineas. On my invitation he consented to act as secretary in getting up this trophy. The response was splendid, so much so that the trophy was purchased and offered at the Palace show the following year, and Mr Armstrong was the exhibitor to have the honour of winning it. That was the year 1899 since that time it has been won by Messrs Jackson and Son, W Walter, S Dickinson, AC Barnes, H Hammerton, J Manley, CR Berry, and at the Palace on November 17th 1908 by Messrs Morris and Son.

We have also raised a silver challenge cup, which is offered each year at the Tunbridge Wells show for the best Silver. Our Club Show, in 1899, was held at Belle Vue, Manchester. We had 20 classes, and our entry numbered 317. The adult cups were won by Messrs. Stone, Exelby, and Lawton. The young cups by Messrs Maxted, Exelby, and Tee and Son. This was considered one of the best managed shows we ever held.

A Record Entry

In 1900, we held our Club show at the Palace, on November 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th. In the nine classes provided we had 208 entries. Messrs Lack, Exelby, and Armstrong Won the adult cups, and Messrs Armstrong, Exelby, and Lawton, the young cups. The year 1901 saw us once more at Darlington. We had a record entry of 354 in the 19 classes. Mr Armstrong won the adult Grey and both Brown challenge cups, Mr Exelby won both Fawn challenge cups, and Mr Lack the young Grey cup. Again we visited Grimsby in 1902 where we had another capital entry of 298 in 17 classes. Mr Austin won both the adult and young Grey cups. Messrs Jackson and Son and Mr Exelby the Fawn cups, and messes. Bemrose and Carnelly the Brown cups. In 1903 our show was held at Burnley, on September 18th and 19th. We left out of our classification the Selling class. So that our entry of 290 with 18 classes was quite up to the average of other Club Shows. The three adult Cups were won by messes. Crawshaw, Foster Bros, and Salisbury. Young cups by messes Attree, Exelby, and Crabtree and Atherton. It was at the annual meeting of members, held at this show that a presentation of a gold medal and gold mounted walking stick with tortoiseshell handle, suitably inscribed, was made to our president Mr Winter for the interest taken in and work done for the Silver Club. Mr Walter made the presentation in well chosen words, and Mr Winter who was not in on the secret, made a most pleasing reply.

We were again at the Palace in 1904, our 12 classes had the excellent entry of 225. When we consider that the entry fee was 4s per pen, l think we can all agree that our members are loyal to the calls the club makes upon them from time to time.

By Mr TB Mason