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Manchesters in Canada
Willowdale Kennels

By Pennyann Styles
Dogs in Canada "Breedlines"
Published in 2005

The Manchester Terrier has been in my family for over one hundred years.  Our love affair with this breed began in 1879 when my great-grandfather, Fred C. McLean, was only 15 years old. An American doctor vacationing and staying with the McLean family in the rural area of Ottawa, Ontario brought with him his small Black and Tan Terrier.  Great-grandfather fell in love with this little dog!  Whether it was the bond between the dog and the boy or an admiration for young Fred we’ll never know, but the doctor was so impressed that he gave his dog to my great-grandfather. The Manchester Magic for the McLeans had begun.  Three more generations, myself included, would succumb to the breed’s spell.

Fred wasn’t, however, satisfied with only one Manchester.  He was fiercely determined to have more of these black beauties.  In fact, he wanted to own and produce the finest of the breed.  Not just in Ottawa, Ontario or even Canada, but in all of North America!  And he would achieve it.  A man without means, without any prior involvement with dogs or the breed, living in a small village… even today, it would be a remarkable if not impossible dream, but in the 1880’s it was unbelievable.

Willowdale is Born

In the 1880’s, Fred McLean moved to Hull, Quebec, where he founded his now famous Willowdale Kennels.  As he wanted the best Manchesters to form the nucleus of his kennel, he began importing them from Great Britain, their country of origin.  I believe that the first imported dog was “Ringmaster” born in 1897 in Glasgow, Scotland.  Ch. Ringmaster became the sire of numerous other top-winning Manchesters in North America.  

Tragedy struck in 1900, when fire destroyed almost the entire city of Hull.  According to my grandfather Mac, then age five, Fred chained the dogs to the baby carriage (with baby brother inside), grabbed Mac’s hand and with his wife scrambled to safety.  He had to begin his dream again. Undaunted, the saved dogs became the foundation of the reorganized kennel.

The Manitoba Challenge Cup

The Manitoba Challenge Cup, presented by Mr. A.C. Cummings of Winnipeg, Manitoba represented a competition specifically for the best medium weight (17 lbs) Manchester Terrier. This beautiful large silver bowl has the Manitoba coat of arms on the front and two Manchesters on the sides.  It was competed for three times a year at shows in Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa. How they managed the travelling, I do not know, but certainly not by RV’s!  The wooden black base of the bowl contains silver crests with the names of winning dogs, owners and dates.  If won three times, by the same owner, the cup would be theirs.  It was last won by Fred in 1902 and I am proud to have it prominently displayed in my china cabinet.

In 1901, with other devoted fanciers, from both Canada and the United States, Fred established the first Manchester Terrier Club, known as the Black & Tan Terrier Club of North America.   He was elected the first president and held that office for many years.  The club published a booklet comprising the constitution and bylaws of the club, breed standard, scale of points, names of officers and executive committee, as well as various advertisements.  One ad lists Ch. Ringmaster at stud for ten dollars.  

Competitive Success

Willowdale dogs were very successful in both Canada and the United States and Fred MacLead bred numerous specialty and Westminster Best of Breed winners -- I have sterling silver Westminster breed awards in the form of coasters for 1938, 1941,1943, 1944, and 1949.  My grandfather, Mac, who would eventually take over breeding under the Willowdale prefix, was primarily involved in breeding toys but showed both.  His favourite dog, Ch. Little Ringmaster, was Best of Opposite Sex at Westminster in 1949.  My favourite, of course, was a toy named, Ch. Wee Pennyann, a multiple BIS winner.

Fred was not only a respected breeder and exhibitor, but also a judge at numerous shows.  He judged at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 1925 and 1928, as well as the first National American Kennel Club Toy Manchester Terrier Specialty Show held in 1938 in Chicago, Illinois Best of Breed at that show was awarded $20.00, Winners Male and Bitch $14.00, first prize for each class was $5.00, second, $3.00, and third $2.00, as well as other cash prizes and trophies. A competing dog was offered for sale for $250.00.

 Passing the Torch

The title of Fred McLean’s obituary in the February 1953 issue of Dogs in Canada magazine said it all: Manchester King, F.C. McLean Dead. The It read:

For upwards of 70 years, [Fred C. McLean] was a familiar figure and regular competitor at the leading dog shows on the continent.  He owned the very cream of the Manchesters and his Ch. Ringmaster, which can be found in many pedigrees, made a substantial contribution to the breed, the influence, being felt even today.  He was one of the great authorities in the dog world, an outstanding breeder and judge and the man who made the Black & Tan what it is today.  It would be impossible to evaluate the contribution Mr. McLean made in the interest of dogs in general and it is consoling to know that his son, M.C.(Mac)McLean, who is already well known in the dog world, is carrying on in his father's stead.

Exactly what fueled and sustained Fred McLean’s dream is unknown.  Was it the sleek beauty and keen intelligence of the Manchester?  Their superb athleticism and remarkable curiosity?  Or was it their unique love and devotion to family?  I can only speculate on the reasons. However, as I sit at my computer in the year 2005, with my three Toy Manchesters lying by my side, I can feel some of the same magic that must have inspired my great-grandfather's dream to produce the very best of this breed.  Perhaps, it is in the genes or maybe it is learned by association, but I too passionately love the Manchester Terrier, as have three generations before me.  I am very proud of the accomplishments of both Fred and Mac McLean, but more than that I am grateful for the legacy they left me in the form of love and passion for this wonderful breed.  


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