Regulars at the Fleece hotel in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders could have been forgiven for thinking they had had one too many ‘wee drams’ on Sunday June 4th when their favourite watering hole was suddenly invaded by dozens of Dandie Dinmont Terriers, described by devotees as ‘Scotland’s forgotten dog breed’.
The historic dogs and their owners began to arrive in the bar area of the hotel at around 11am in readiness for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the formation of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club (DDTC) at the Fleece in 1875. The club is the world’s second oldest breed club, having been formed a matter of weeks after a club for Bulldog owners and enthusiasts was established in London. Both clubs have maintained their affiliation to the Kennel Club to this day.
The Fleece is today known officially as the Fleece Bar & Kitchen, but its links to the Dandie Dinmont Terrier breed remain as strong as ever.
The Dandie Dinmont has been on the Kennel Club’s vulnerable British and Irish native breeds list (for breeds with 300 or fewer puppy registrations per year) since the list’s inception in 2005. In 2016, the Kennel Club registered just 79 Dandie puppies. The breed’s distinctive name is derived from a character in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novel, Guy Mannering, published in 1815.
The unveiling was part of a three-day festival for the breed in its native Selkirk area, arranged by enthusiasts concerned about the breed’s dwindling numbers. Other events included the opening of a Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre at the Haining Estate in the town’s centre, part-funded by a grant from the Kennel Club Educational Trust. More than 125 Dandies were in attendance, the largest ever informal gathering of the breed anywhere in the world.
Unique within the world of dogs, the Discovery Centre not only provides visitors with expert information on the Dandie Dinmont but also has details of all 30 vulnerable native breeds as well as all 12 Scottish breeds. A statue located nearby paying homage to Old Ginger, the breed’s ‘founding father’ who was bred at the Haining in 1842, was unveiled later in the day. It was the work of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Stoddart, the Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland since 2008.
Doing the honours at the Fleece was the present DDTC chairman, Paul Eardley, who is also on the Board of the Kennel Club. He said: “The unveiling of the plaque was a precursor to the opening of the Dandie Dinmont Discovery Centre and the unveiling of the Old Ginger statue later in the day. However, we could not let the occasion of Old Ginger’s 175th birthday pass without recording where the DDTC was formed way back in 1875.”
Joining in the spirit of the festival, the Fleece had produced a special souvenir Dandie Dinmont menu which was available throughout the event. Choices included Abbotsford Appetisers, Sir Walter Scott’s Grills and Old Ginger’s Sweet Treats – all references to the breed’s colourful local history.
Fleece manager Tracey Ward said: “We were delighted to have the Dandie Dinmont Terriers and their owners with us for the whole three days of the festival. Trevor and I are immensely proud of the history of the Fleece and we promise to take good care of the special plaque. It was a fun-filled few days and we bid the Dandies and their owners a warm welcome to return to our restaurant any time they want.”