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written by Carmen Sinclair, a founding member

There are very few people around now, who were here at the beginning of our Club, so I will enjoy passing on some of our background.

I first became interested in gundogs generally and their working abilities specifically quite a few years ago in Canberra.  I was secretary of the ACT Gundog Society for a couple of years and enjoyed helping at the Non Slip Retrieving Trials.  I came to Darwin for the second time early in 1974 (just in time to settle in before Cyclone Tracy) and shortly afterwards was asked to join the North Australian Canine Association.

It was as a Councillor of this body that I asked the NACA to investigate the interest in the Retrieving Trials locally.  It was a sub - committee of the NACA (which included myself & Rink Van Der Velde) that looked at various Constitutions etc from clubs already around Australia.  The NACA subsequently called a public meeting to access the interest in our general membership.

There had been two attempts to start a Gundog Club in Darwin, but neither one had ever actually gotten to the stage of affiliation with the NACA.  I went to one of their "training session" shortly after our arrival in Darwin in early 1974.  It was an experience I never forgot.  The "birds" the dogs were training on, were actually small wallabies - wallabies which had been gutted and beheaded, and were then thrown up in the air to encourage the dogs to retrieve.  Needless to say, I never went back and this group faded away over the next year or two.

The public meeting was held at the Red Cross shop/meeting room at Mitchell St., Darwin City in February 1977.  There was a very large turnout and a Committee was quickly formed.  Inaugural President was Brian Hammond (GSP's) and the Secretary was myself (Carmen Sinclair).  Because of the preparatory work done by the sub - committee, a Constitution was tabled and accepted on the night and formally accepted by the NACA Council at their March 1977 meeting.

Other members involved for the sometime in the early Committees included:
*  Joe & Doreen Kane (Curly Coated Retrievers) - now retired and living in Palmerston.
*  Terry O'Brien (GSP's) - has been living in South Australia for some years and is a Retrieving Trial Judge in the State.
*  Lois & Colin Glen (Curly Coated Retrievers) - unfortunately both have passed away.

In the early days, there was a tremendous fund raising involved.  We certainly worked on many, many cake stalls among various raffles and even catering at shows back then.  Our Club brought, up to six (6) interstate judges a year up for retrieving trials.  Our members were higher then.  For quite a number of years we could field an average of 6 - 8 dog Novice Stakes and 4 - 6 dogs in Restricted Stake.  At that time our club also conducted a special NT trial class called Intermediate Stake.  This was for dogs and handlers that had qualified out of Beginners Test but did not feel they were yet up to Novice.  We haven't used this option for a number of years now.

Our venues have also changed over the years.  At one good spot at Humpty Doo we first had to chase a wild buffalo away before we could trial our dogs.  On another day at Howard Springs, we had a visiting Judge from South Australia (Geoff Oakes).  His friend accompanied him and acted as Steward.  He ignored our suggestions for wearing a hat, and consequently spent 3 days in Hospital recovering from Sunstroke.

Many of our venues we can no longer use for a variety of reasons.  As most of you would be aware, our primary concern is to have swimming depth of water to test our dogs but to also be free of our local "large geckos" aka our crocodiles.

Many of breeds have changed over the years.  In the early days, breeds regularly trialled included: 
Labrador, German Shorthaired Pointer, Curly Coated Retriever, English Springer Spaniels, Irish Setter, Golden Retriever and Brittany Spaniel

As I have said, our numbers of actual working dogs has varied over the years.  Even when
our numbers were good, we never quite had enough to hold an All Age Stake.  By the time we had 4 dogs through Restricted, the earlier ones who had graduated were too old to compete.  After a few quiet years our numbers appear to be on the increase again and this of course is great.

As most of you will be aware, the awards gained in Retrieving are obviously unique.  The Qualifying Certificate (QC) is gained for a dog shot over in the field, has shown it is not gun shy and able to retrieve the bird.  For sometime now, a dog needs to complete its  Stake (ie 3 runs) to be eligible for this award.  A QC is not part of a dog's title and therefore cannot be placed after its name.

A Certificate of Merit on the other hand is an official ANKC title.  The wording states it is for dogs showing "exceptional ability" and is not awarded to  dogs in less than a Retricted Stake. There are dogs in Australia who maybe a Retrieving Trial Champion but still do not have a Certificate of Merit (CM).  Only one dog has ever won in the Northern Territory and that was a black Labrador bitch
"Ch Strangways Georgina (N) CD, CM" owned by Rob & Carmen Sinclair, trained and handled by Carmen.  'George' has always been a hard act to follow.  As triallers would be aware, each run can score a total of 55 points.  "George" achieved this on more than one occasion and regularly scored over 50 points.

A great many other people have contibuted over the years to help make the Club the continuing success that it is.  Some have only been around for a couple of years, others seem to have been around since Noah was a boy.  These members have contibuted consistently over many years:  Tom Rees, Sally Blyton, Bruce Robinson, Anne O'Mahony, Alan Robb and Merrilyn Robb.

Other consistent supporters over the years have been:  Geoff Oakes (from South Australia) has judged several trials for us over the years and has always been happy to help with advice and tips and  Bob Boodnikoff (Queensland) who lived here for a couple of years and was very strong on regular and form training.

Well, that is just a small background of the Club.  It is not a complete history, because that would indicate a finish product.  Our Club will be around for a long time yet and there is a lot more history yet to come.  I started the Club because having been introduced to retrieving in Canberra, it was field I thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to continue.  I have enjoyed the many aspects of Gundog work over the years and still get great satisfaction over seeing a good working dog, for the purpose for which they were bred.

Keep enjoying your dogs,  as companions and as a working dog.

Carmen Sinclair

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Gundog Breeds

Michelle Robbins
PO Box 38851
Northern Territory
Australia   0821
0401 460 643
08 8988 2291 (ah)

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Merrilyn Robb
0411 297 692
08 8988 6084 (ah)