This is a tale from the early 1960`s when life was much different and far less complicated for working dogs and their
owners. In those not-so-far-off days, the Irish Kennel Club organised Working trails for Terriers in two sections, Strong
Dogs and Sounders. Both were tests against live quarry - the badger. Both were well organised in a sportsmanlike manner and
both took place with srict rules under public scrunity.
Kilwilkie Lad was a strong dog, a first-rate badger dog. Supreme in many trails. he gained a host of awards but he was
equally at home working out in the field, in natural conditions.
My grandfather, James Creaney, was at a hunt in Southern Ireland with the terrier club. They had a great days sport
and, as they often did, stopped at a pub on the way home to enjoy a pint and discuss the days events. The pub was in Dundalk,
a working dog stronghold, and my grandfather was offered a Stafford bitch. He would never buy on impulse - he was a market
dealer by trade and would always wait and haggle - but anyway, he bought the bitch and, bringing her home that night, kenneled
her in the yard.
Two weeks later the club were out at a local dig and James tried the bitch, but she showed no intrest at all and he thought
he had been caught with a dud dog. Weeks passed until one day, at a market at a local fair, he spotted a lad with an English
Bull Terrier. Naturally, he engaged the boy in conversation to find out all he could about the dog and he discovered that
it was a full bred pedigree dog wich belonged to the ladīs mother. James made it his business to go see her about having a
service for his bitch and the woman agreed, asking a small fee instead of the usual pup from the litter.
In due time, Stafford bitch whelped eight pups and most were purchased by club members. Harry, my grandfatherīs brother,
ended up with the last of the pups and took it home to his wife, Annie, who looked after it and treated it like a child of
As time passed the dog grew strong and powerful, and James and his friend, Ned, took it out to see if it would kill rats.
The dog was almost two years of age and had a great temperament. Anyway, they put Harry`s dog into a barrel with two rats
and it made no attempt to kill them. I have heard it said that a terrier which doesnīt kill rats isnīt much of a dog but certainly,
in this case, that proved to be a load of rubbish. James and Ned, probably dissapointed, took the dog back home to Harry.
Two months later the club was out hunting and Harry was there with the dog, and you can be sure that he had to endure
a deal of taunting and comment over the strong dog which would not kill a rat. Such news travel fast in the working dog world!
As the day progressed, two foxes were dug and Harry was offered to start his dog on one of them. He entered the dog with
the club members watching and the dog took a grip of the fox at the head and immediately killed it outright. The members were
amazed a silenced to see what had happened and the dog drew the dead fox from the earth, refusing to part with his prize.
With great difficulty, he was eventually removed from the carcass and during the whole process he made no sound at all. Later,
this was to become his hallmark and during his career, Harry never once heard the dog make any sound while working. This,
of course, meant that he was ideally suited to the strong dog trails.
As the name suggests, the trails for sounders were a contest for the more usual, earth working, baying terriers. While
being tried these dogs had to continually give tongue, to stop doing so was to fail the test but for strong dogs, catch dogs
really, the reverse applied. They had to enter the earth and remain, working all the time but never making the slightest sound
while doing so. If they also succeded in drawing the badger from the earth, so much better. It was a test of sheer gameness
before the almighty badger.
Patch, or formally, Kilwilkie Lad, won many cups, trophies and certificates. He was entered as full bred dog, for the
trials, organised by the Irish Kennel Club, were for the benefit of pedigree dogs rather than crosses. When it was discovered
that Kilwilkie Lad was an English Bull X Stafford, he was barred from taking further part but by then he had made his name
and brought honour and fame to all involved with him. It was the end of his trial cereer but he continued to work naturally
for many years until he was retired to enjoy his leisure at home.
People sought the service of the famous dog and many bitches were brought to him, but unfortunately he never sired a
single pup. He spent his remaining years in comfort, honoured and pampered as one of the family and it is a fact that game
digs adapt well to such treatment and enjoy and travel in their place of honour.
The tail has a sad and mysterious ending. Patch had grown old and sick and could hardly walk, and one day Harry let the
dog out of the house to lie in the garden. He was never seen again. Somehow, he left the confines of the garden and wanished
and though Harry searched for many weeks, no trace of him was ever found and the circumstances surrounding his dissapearance
have remained a mystery ever since.
Harry still has very fond memorries of the tremendous dog and shows great pride vevery time he talks about his old warrior
favourite - Kilwilkie Lad.
By Barry Liggett