National English Rabbit Club
Mr Phil Shaw
As a child our family did not have animals or pets, my Grandfather always had a cat who caught mice to leave by the leg of my Grandfather’s chair. We did have a budgerigar once and I remember my mother buying me a day old chick from the pet shop in Smithfield market, Belfast, sadly no longer there, having been burnt to the ground during the troubles. I can’t remember what happened to the chick or where it went.
When I had a family of my own, two boys, we bought them a Dutch rabbit and I made the hutch. The rabbit did not live very long , I supposed due to our inexperience of looking after it, a couple of years later a friend at work gave us a black rabbit, it was not very friendly and the boys lost interest, so dad (me) was left to look after it. The rabbit lived a good eight or nine years, the boys were fourteen and seventeen then, so dad was left to dig the whole to bury it. I found myself emotional doing the job.
I had another friend at work, he was a joiner, his nickname was Kipper, as he was born in the Isle of Man. Brian bred rabbits to show, what breed they were I had no idea. I mentioned to him that the rabbit had died and the only one crying was me. During the next week weeks Brian kept saying to me ”I think you miss that rabbit would you not like another one?” No thanks was my reply. He kept this up for some time and invited me to come and see this rabbit he was looking for a home for. One Friday after work I had reason to give Brian a lift home and went in to see the rabbit. It was a Charlie he called Snowy, a good sized doe, never before had I seen a rabbit like this or the English breed that he had. I could not help myself the rabbit went straight home with me.
Time passed and Brian kept rabbiting on at me about coming to a show. The next show was close to where I lived so I went down on the Saturday afternoon. As we were only five minutes from my home I invited Brian up to the house to see Snowy. When we went into my shed Brian said “what have you been doing with that rabbit?” I thought I must be neglecting it, I replied “feeding it and cleaning out the hutch”. “It’s looking great and in first class condition, we must take it back to the show hall and let Derek see it” Brian said. Derek, at that time, being the most experienced breeder in the club. Derek agreed with Brian and asked why I had not entered it into the show’s pet section, as he was certain it would have come first. I was unaware I could do this, the next show Snowy was entered and came third.
I was hooked, I joined the club, Snowy mated to one of Brain’s bucks, a litter of eight was the outcome with two English good enough to show. Soon one hutch became ten and I was entering every show.
There were two clubs in Northern Ireland at that time, Lisburn and District and the Irish Invitation, I joined the Lisburn and District and after two years became the treasurer, secretary, I’m still treasurer today.
On first joining the club Brian asked me if I would be interested in going to the National English young stock show at Thirsk. So we planned the trip some months in advance and went, being novices we did not enter any rabbits thinking our stock would not be up to scratch. On arriving at Thirsk were were overwhelmed to see, at that time, an entry of over 200 rabbits. We then knew thsat we should have entered a couple of rabbits, which we did at the adult stock show that November. Thirsk was our first National show and we were made very welcome, new friends were made remaining to this day. National English members have come over to judge many times and helped with new stock when required.
Brian and I went in to partnership to form Colbri Stud and continued to attend the young and adult stock shows. Our greatest success was in 1995 winning the u/5 black cup with a rabbit from Brian’s shed and 1996 with a doe form my shed. Since then we are still trying. There are now only Brian and I keeping English rabbits in Northern Ireland, a few other people have kept some for a time but have fallen away. There is one person in the south of Ireland that we know with English. So we have no competition when we enter in our open shows, we are just seeing if the judge on the day agrees with what we think is our best rabbit and then compare with what the next judge will say. Our only hope of going forward is to get to the fancy challenge, which we have done getting best fancy at times. On one and only one rare occasion we had best in show. A lot of patience is required but it is not all about winning, more about taking part, enjoying your rabbits and supporting the club.
I have a lot to thank my friend Brian for, when he introduced me to the English rabbit. I find it a very rewarding and interesting hobby.
“GOLD CUP some day maybe”
COLLIN HOLLAND, & BRAIN QUAYLE (COLBRI STUD)