History of The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club

There have been two Clubs with the name of The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club. The original Club was formed in May 1906 following an unsuccessful attempt in February 1906 to raise funds for the only Club devoted to the Irish Water Spaniel at the time, The Irish Water Spaniel Club, from Ireland. The original Irish Water Spaniel Club, formed in 1890 had ceased to exist in 1897 when all of its members resigned following an argument with The Spaniel Club over the appointment of a judge at a dog show. In 1902 a new club also called "The Irish Water Spaniel Club" was formed with many of the old club's committee members. In 1903 the Committee instigated legal proceedings against a member of the old Club who was in possession of two silver challenge cups (the property of the old club) each worth 20 guineas. However, after an appeal and incurring legal costs of more than £150 ( a large sum in those days) The Club lost, primarily because the new Club was not merely a resurrection of the old club but an entirely new club and therefore not entitled to the cups.

Unhappiness with the action of the committee both in pursuing the legal action and in not carrying out much for its members resulted in the failure of the fund raising exercise for the Irish Water Spaniel Club, but did not diminish the enthusiasm for a Club serving the interests of the Irish Water Spaniel.

And so  with sufficient support being forthcoming a new club was started "under the style of The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club."

Lady Dunleath, Norah Mulholland, from Ballywalter Park, Ballywalter County Down was elected President and Mr Charles Edward Wright from Yately in Hampshire was elected Secretary.

During the rest of 1906 The Club organised show classes for Irish Water Spaniels at five shows: the first being The Ladies Kennel Association show at Regent's Park, London; followed up by The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society at Belfast; Eastbourne; Edinburgh and finally The Ulster Dog Association at Belfast.

In October 1908, 1909 and 1910 the Club held working trials on ground at Tuddenham St Mary near Mildenhall in Suffolk.


 The first trial in 1908 was won by Lady Dunleath's dog, Ballywalter Avick, pictured here on the right retrieving in turnips. Ballywalter Avick had shared the prize money in the first Field Trial stakes held for the breed in 1907. It would appear that The Club struggled both with its classes in shows, that were poorly attended and in its working trials. In 1909, for example of the seven dogs entered four were scratched at the last minute leaving just three dogs and two handlers to compete, and a trial scheduled for two days took less than a day to complete. 

In January 1911 Mr Charles Wright resigned and by 1910 Lady Dunleath was vice President of a reinvigorated Irish Water Spaniel Club. These two events, particularly Mr Wright's resignation appears to have spelled the end of The Club.


In the 1950s the Kennel Club changed the status quo regarding the status of IWS for Field Trials. Up to this point they allowed the IWS to run in both Spaniel and Retriever trials and it was up to individuals (who had their own views about which of the KC’s categories the breed was most suited) to decide which trials to enter into. However, during the 50s the KC decreed that the breed had to be one or the other (Spaniel or Retriever) and despite much opposition at the time the IWS was classified purely as a Spaniel.

For about 30 years this situation continued until in the 1980s this was changed so that the IWS was then reclassified as a Retriever. Like in the 1950s, this decision caused much opposition and as a direct consequence of this, and the fact that the Irish Water Spaniel Association had started running Retriever  Field Trials, those that opposed the decision sought to start a Club purely for the IWS as an all round gundog. Thus, on 14th May 1989, in Newbury in Berkshire an inaugural meeting was held with the purpose of reforming the historic, Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club.

Officers and Committee members were elected and

in the Autumn of 1989 the Club’s first newsletter was published stating membership numbers stood at 72 and six of the founding members are still with the Club today: Martyn Ford, Jennie Menage (previously Thomas), Paul and Pat Farrington and John and Di Rolfe, indeed 2 of those are on the current Committee.

The Club fully recognises the Kennel Club's classification of the IWS as a Retriever but points out the all round abilities of the IWS for many shooting activities.