Celtic Farms &
THE PUREST CHALLENGE
"STRIVE FOR PERFECTION IN EVERYTHING. TAKE THE BEST THAT EXISTS AND MAKE IT BETTER. IF IT DOESN'T EXIST, CREATE IT. ACCEPT NOTHING NEARLY RIGHT OR GOOD ENOUGH."
Sir Henry Royce,
Co-founder of Rolls Royce
The thoughts above were first expressed by Sir Henry Royce, Co-founder of the Rolls Royce Automobile Company. It was with precisely those thoughts in mind that we at Celtic Kennels first undertook the purest challenge in sports:
The development of a truly competitive Irish Setter, both in the field and in field trials.
That effort was to take us through literally hundreds of matings and thousands of dogs.
Shortly after embarking on the program, it was realized that others had already plowed some of this ground: W.E. "Ned" Le Grande had searched the country through dozens of newspaper ads for an Irish Setter which would point birds and point them with a reasonably high tail. He began that quest in 1948 and continued until retiring from the sport in the mid 1970's. Along the way, he produced a variety of Irish Setter which was competent under the gun and competitive in field trials but which was so different from the lanky show variety that he coined a new name to differentiate the field-competent Irish Setter from the Irish which only existed to be pretty: the Red Setter.
Today, the accomplishments of Ned Le Grande are legendary: his first Red Setter, Askew's Carolina Lady, was elected by popular vote to the Field Trial Hall of Fame, the first and only bird dog other than English Setters and English Pointers, to be so elected. Without Ned, there would be no Red Setter nor would Celtic Kennels exist.
Like most hunters who have owned Irish Setters as hunting dogs, Celtic Kennels started with a show type Irish in 1966. Unlike most hunters, however, we should have known better: Granddad had had an abiding love of Irish Setter gun dogs: he kept, trained and hunted them throughout his lifetime.
Fortunately, during our youth, we were exposed to Granddad's fine hunting Irish Setters and came to share Granddad's belief that a fine Irish Setter gun dog was like a Purdey shotgun: "Comfortable and sweet in your hands and joyful at your shoulder." Unfortunately, the first time we went looking for an Irish Setter, Granddad was long in his grave, as were Granddad's dogs. Thus, the show dog.
It took three years of valiant efforts to turn that show dog into a capable hunter before that project was abandoned. Then the search commenced in earnest for a dog from true Field Irish stock to develop. Fortune smiled: a bitch by Saturday Night Ed out of Hamilton's Bonnie Girl was acquired as a four month old puppy from Joe Hamilton, then of Aiken, South Carolina. That puppy not only opened our eyes to the possibilities available in Field Irish, but also opened the eyes of the field trial and hunting fraternity in the Georgia area: Celtic's Saturday Shame was the Tri-State Circuit Field Trial Puppy of the Year in 1970.
More important, in 1970 and 1971, Shame pointed birds ten hours a day, three or more days a week on the Fort Gordon Army Base property.
Before leaving Georgia and returning to Pennsylvania, we had bred Shame and sold her first litter of Field Irish to eight gentlemen and gentleladies in the Augusta, Georgia area; most of them remain firm friends and continue to hunt regularly over Celtic Irish Setters.
One of the men almost as instrumental as Ned Le Grande in development of Field Irish Setters was Colonel Ed Schnettler of Minnesota. Col. Ed, after retiring from the Marine Corps, became a full time dog trainer. We first met him in North Carolina where Col. Ed had his winter training headquarters. Col. Ed was more than willing to share both his love and his knowledge of Field Irish Setters and it was he who responded to the question: "If you wanted to acquire the best Red Setter bitch in the country and breed her to the best Red Setter male, who would you buy?" Col. Ed didn't even hesitate in his response: Bridey's Norse D'Or was the bitch and Clancy O'Ryan was the dog to breed to.
Within weeks after that conversation, we acquired Bridey and bred her to Clancy. That mating produced Celtic's Executrix who has become the blue hen of the Celtic breeding program. Executrix, in her first litter (by Runner-up Champion County Clare's Country Squire) produced eight puppies, seven of which won in All Breed Shooting Dog competition, two of which placed second and third in the first AKC Futurity, one of which won the fourth NRSFTC Futurity, one of which won four Red Setter Championships and all of which were hunted constantly, almost from weaning.