| Emma Cowan
visits Ireland's latest state of the art boarding and training kennels
and talks to WILLIE BERRY, the man behind this imaginative venture.
Willie Berry's brand new, purpose-built training kennel on the
outskirts of Newry is destined for great things. With state-of-the-art
accommodation, superb ground alive with game and training from
a man who is undoubtedly one of Ireland's best gundog handlers,
surely this is where the champions of the future will emerge.
Champion Training Ground
After many years as an amateur, Willie Berry,
one of Ireland's most successful field triallers, is going professional.
With the final touches on his new kennel block in place, Willie
is hanging up his work boots to embark on a second career as a
full-time trainer and handler.
"I've got to the stage in my life where
I want to enjoy myself a bit more," explained Willie, "so
I'm combining my hobby with my future business interests to train
Luxury hygienic accommodation in purpose
The kennel block, which was designed
and built by Willie and his son, Alan, puts a new interpretation
on state-of-the art. Constructed in finished block work
inside and out, with galvanised steel grill fronts, the
twenty-four double kennel units certainly look the part,
but that is only the beginning. The entire kennel block
benefits from underfloor heating and air conditioning, combining
hygiene with supreme comfort and a very substantial outdoor
exercise area. There is also an isolation unit, entirely
separate from the main kennel block, and, with his thoughts
focused not just on the dogs, but also their owners, Willie
has designed the entire operation with disabled access.
The kennels even have their own dedicated
kitchen for food preparation, stocked as might be expected,
with the full range of Feedwell products. Willie also has
his own special recipe dog food, which he developed for
conditioning dogs and giving them that little extra that
his dogs so often display in the field.
While a man with Willie Berry's credentials
will naturally focus on field trial training,, Willie's
services will also extend to general obedience training,
and also the basic working training that show dogs require
to gain their gundog working certificates and, of course,
the kennels will make the ideal boarding spot for holidays.
Indeed, with nine acres of ground managed to maximise cover
and game (Willie rears and releases pheasant and duck),
a first class feeding regime and a grooming service to boot,
dogs kennelled with Willie will certainly enjoy a holiday
experience to equal their masters'!
As ever with Willie, he has set his sights
high for his new venture. "I've been lucky to be very successful
training part-time with my own dogs," he said. "Now
that I'm going full-time, I hope to pass on that success to many
others and establish what could will become the best training
kennel in the world."
Willie with Rover and Rod and some of the Trophies they won
This may seem a tall order, but perhaps not
for someone with Willie's credentials. He has not only been responsible
for training his own dogs, which have been some of the most successful
dogs in the UK and Ireland, but he has already assisted a good
many people with their own training and success.
He was given his first dog, a Cocker/Collie
cross, called Rover, when he was only seven years old, and Willie
has never been without a dogs since. In his early days, Willie
used English Pointers, though when he first moved into trials,
it was with Labradors - Loughbane Sam and Loughbane Flicks. The
preference for Labradors probably came from Willie's early experiences
learning under Jim Cranston, who Willie believes is very probably
the best handler in the world. Jim handled the famous golden retriever
International Dual Champion David of Westley and also handled
pointers. He trained dogs for Winston Churchill. Willie "served
his time" under Jim and he has been a very big influence
on Willie's own career as a handler.
Willie's move to Canada, where
he lived for ten years, widened his experience of hunting and
hunting dogs and, while he was there, he won five trials, three
with American Water Spaniels and two with Labradors.
Few people have one Championship win - Willie
Berry has two!
Back home again in Ireland, Willie to continued
to enjoy moderate success, with a range of Labradors, but it was
when he started working with Ulstare Oak (Rover), that his serious
success story began. Ulstare Oak's career saw him win the Irish
Championship, and this was followed with continual success. Willie's
next dog, Beaverbrook Tea (Spud), won her first trial at only
twelve months, was made up as a Champion and retired from competition
by fifteen months. Then came Tirgarve Oak, bred by Eddie Finn
by Ulstare Oak out of Loughbane Millie, who won six trials and
was also made up as a Champion. Next in line for success was Meadow
King (Rod), bred by Noel Cahill, again by Ulstare Oak, out of
Leacroft Shy Lass. Following in his father's footsteps, Rod also
won the Irish Championship and was made up as a dual champion,
with two two-day stake wins under Kennel Club rules and seven
trial wins under Irish Kennel Club rules. He also performed well
for Willie in summer tests, but that is hardly surprising, for
Willie is renowned for his ability to train dogs that perform
equally well in trials, test and the field.
This year, Willie is running Damolly Joe (Duke),
another son of Ulstare Oak's, this time out of Country Maiden,
and two other Labradors, Molly, the offspring of Rover and Spud
and Connie, by Tom Smith's Bandonian Barn out of Leacroft Shy
Lass. Since it seems that every dog Willie has competed with has
enjoyed some success, it will be no surprise if these dogs perform
well too, but then, with Willie training full-time, not just his
own dogs, but others as well, he might just find himself up against
Willie Berry's track record as a gundog
handler speaks for itself. He has had a great many successes in
field trials over the years, has twice won the Irish Retriever
Championship and has also won the CLA Game Fair International
Test. While Willie has run a good many dogs over the years and
has even had success in Canada, Ulstare Oak (Rover) and Meadow
King (Rod) are probably his best known gundog success stories.
"From little acorns"
International F.T.Ch. Ulstare Oak's first Open
Stake win was in the Republic of Ireland at Broadmeadows - a stake
organised by the Mid Louth Retriever Club in 1993 and judged by
Joe McGivern. The dog, bred by Michael McKee and Bert Thompson,
was only twelve months old at the time.
Under IKC Rules, Ulstare Oak (also known as
Rover) had ten Open Stake wins ( including winning the All Ireland
Golden Retriever Club's All Ireland A.V. Retriever Stake in 1994.
This was the first stake held under Irish Kennel Club rules to
be held in Northern Ireland for fifteen years), and one Novice
Stake win, while under English Kennel Club rules, he had one novice
win, one all aged, two two-day stakes and one Open Stake win.
He gained his International Field Trial title in October 1996
and finsihed off a tremendous career by winning the Irish Kennel
Club Championship at Ballinacor in 1997 . The only title to elude
this most accomplished of gundogs was the IGL Retriever Championships
where in spite of competing with merit three times he just could
not produce that little bit extra on the day to add this title.
"King of the Meadow"
International F.T.Ch. Meadow King (also known
as Rod) was bred by Noel Cahill, out of Leacroft Shy Lass by Ulstare
Oak. Trained and handled by Willie, his record is outstanding.
He won a novice and two two-day stake under British Kennel Club
rules, making him a Field Trial Champion under Kennel Club rules
and has no fewer than seven field trial wins to his credit under
Irish Kennel Club rules. He has won the Irish Retriever Championship.
Meadow King is equally distinguished in gundog tests, having won
every international, including the Northern Ireland Game Fair,
the Northern Ireland Inter Club Challenge, the Welsh Open, the
National Test at Gilford Castle and the CLA Game Fair.
In the very competitive world of Field
Trials few people make up a field trial Champion nevermind several;
even fewer make up an international field trial champion nevermind
two; few win a Championship title and it is only the very few
who can display two Irish Retriever Championship certificates
gained by two international Field Trial Champions.
Wille's ambitions for the future -
firstly to win the elusive " British " IGL Retriever
Championships - really the only major gundog prize to elude him
and secondly to make the Cloughanrammer Kennels the most famous
boarding and training Kennel in Ireland. With his pedigree of
success behind him few people would bet against Willie achieving
these objectives.We at Countrysports and Country Life wish Wille
and his new venture every success and we shall keep readers abreast
of this exciting new venture.