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The Guisachan Gathering 2013

A sea of 222 Golden Retrievers, their owners and enthusiasts descended on a derelict old building in a remote part of the Highlands of Scotland.

But it was not just any old building, it is the remains of Guisachan House, the iconic birthplace of the breed.

The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland (GRCS) hosted a gathering at the venue and its annual championship show at nearby Cannich during a four-day celebration which included a dinner dance, torchlight procession and a gundog training demonstration and workshop. These events were a great success, attracting people from across Britain and the world, including Spain, South Africa, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland held a celebration at Guisachan House in the Scottish Highlands, home of the breed. Photo (c) Dog World-UK.

The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland held a summer celebration at Guisachan House in the Scottish Highlands, the home of the breed. Photo © Dog World-UK.

Lord Tweedmouth started his breeding programme of the Yellow Retriever in 1865 which later developed into the Golden Retriever as we know it today. In 1939, Guisachan House was purchased by Lady Islington, the owner of the nearby Hilton Lodge, who wasn’t impressed with the house being used as a training centre by the National Fitness Campaign so had the roof removed, and the house became a ruin.

The events started with a torchlight walk on Tuesday evening to the house and photographs. On Wednesday there was a gundog demonstration and workshop organised by Lin Mitchell teaching novices what working Golden Retrievers can do; it also gave people the opportunity to gain gundog skills with their own dogs.

On Wednesday night there was a dinner dance where everyone put on their best frocks and danced the night away. It was a very special night for all the Golden enthusiasts who enjoyed each other’s company, but it was an especially memorable night for Carron Jenkins of the Rannaleroch Kennel from Dundee, when her partner of ten years Jeremy Barron knelt down on one knee and proposed.

Thursday morning the sun was beating down and everyone was getting ready to arrive at the house. Leaving at ten o’clock, I, probably along with everyone else attending, was feeling very excited about being on the grounds of Guisachan House. Once everyone had arrived and walked the dreaded mile towards the house, people started setting up and getting organised for the afternoon events.

Everyone was raring to get involved with these activities. The haggis hurling saw many people stand on top of a whisky barrel, either kilted or not, down a shot of whisky and toss a haggis as far as they possibly could. Wayne McGrath, the winner of the haggis hurling in 2006, came back to defend his title but was beaten by Tracey Best this year.

Next thing on the agenda was the competitive tug of war. The team of eight ladies on the English team beat the Scottish ladies in a tough final, which later resulted in many of the competitors gaining big bruises the next day. Even though it was very competitive, fun was had by all with fits of laughter, kind insults and big smiles all round.

Everyone then congregated in a massive line for the official count of the dogs, a guard of honour was prepared and then the first dog took its first steps through the archway. This special moment was also captured on film by the BBC who had been recording most of the day for a documentary called The Wonder of Dogs which will be aired in late August on BBC2. In 2006 they also had an official count of all the dogs present which came to a total of 188, but this year Jim Richardson, the vice chairman of the Club, had the great pleasure of announcing that the new record was now 222 dogs.

Once the count had been done and the official photograph taken, people packed up their belongings and started the long walk back to the car park. Everybody was in high spirits and discussing the day’s events, which made the walk enjoyable.

The sun was still beating down an incredible 32C on the Friday for the championship show. With the championship show being so far in the north and not being in its usual place, they still had a really good entry of 384 and spookily the best in show winner was exhibitor number 222. The main winners of the championship show were Jane Wild’s Fenwood Ell Masterpiece at Bluewaters who gained the dog CC and best in show, reserve best in show was Susanna Zubair’s Thornywait Billie Jean, best veteran was Mandy McDonald’s Flyngalee Whispering and best puppy was Dawn Rose’s Deltamore Frankel by Gaytonwood.

Over the few days that everyone celebrated at Guisachan, the atmosphere was electric and emotional, new friendships were made and a good time was had by everyone. Congratulations to everyone who made this such a special event.

Article reprinted with the permission of our partner, Dog World-UK.

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