AL­WAYS ON POINT

Tak­ing to the hills to com­mem­o­rate Ar­ran’s Lady Jean Fforde, Jon Kean ex­plores the life and le­gacy of the doyenne of work­ing point­ers

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Re­mem­ber­ing Lady Jean Fforde and her work­ing point­ers

Au­nique and spec­tac­u­lar sport­ing event has taken place in the Scot­tish High­lands to cel­e­brate the life of Lady Jean Fforde, the doyenne of work­ing point­ers in the UK. A me­mo­rial field trial in her mem­ory was held at Dor­back Es­tate near Gran­town on Spey, or­gan­ised by the Pointer Club of Scot­land. Lady Jean was Pres­i­dent of the club since its for­ma­tion in 1978 and she was the un­doubt­edly the club’s great­est am­bas­sador. Lady Jean passed away in Oc­to­ber last year, three weeks short of her 97th birth­day. The Isle of Ar­ran Point­ers were amongst the first ken­nels to be regis­tered with the Ken­nel Club and to fea­ture on the Cham­pion Stake roll of hon­our, the coun­try’s pre­mier event for work­ing point­ers and set­ters. Lady Jean was born in Ed­in­burgh in 1920 to James Gra­ham, the 6th Duke of Mon­trose. She was the youngest of four chil­dren and, when grow­ing up, the fam­ily lived for six months at Brod­ick Cas­tle, and six months at the Buchanan Es­tate which en­com­passed Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Her life was truly re­mark­able. The is­land of Ar­ran was un­doubt­edly the place clos­est to the heart of Lady Jean. Most peo­ple will think that it must have been a very cos­seted life, how­ever in re­al­ity from a very early age the daily rou­tine for Lady Jean was pretty rig­or­ous, cer­tainly by mod­ern stan­dards. From 15 May un­til 30 Septem­ber each year when she was on Ar­ran, there was com­pul­sory bathing in the sea below Brod­ick Cas­tle, fol­lowed by a vig­or­ous dry­ing with a rough towel to bring back cir­cu­la­tion to frozen limbs. Much of Lady Jean’s child­hood was blighted by ill­ness. Re­turn­ing from the beach one morn­ing aged just three, she com­plained of a sore foot. On in­ves­ti­ga­tion the swelling turned out to be the on­set of tu­ber­cu­lous os­teitis. This re­sulted in an op­er­a­tion to re­move ab­scesses from the of­fend­ing an­kle, hav­ing the leg put in irons for months and a year of re­cu­per­a­tion at a san­i­to­rium for tu­ber­cu­lo­sis in Switzer­land.

Al­though Lady Jean even­tu­ally shook off this ter­ri­ble ill­ness, dur­ing her youth it re­curred three times and each time meant hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and long pe­ri­ods of treat­ment. De­spite pe­ri­ods of ill­ness, Lady Jean rel­ished those Ar­ran sum­mers, often in the com­pany of her Eu­ro­pean cousins, Princess An­toinette and Prince Rainier of Monaco. In 1941 shortly af­ter her 21st birth­day bash a phone call from a friend sug­gested that Lady Jean might ap­ply for a vi­tally im­por­tant job, about which the friend could give no de­tails, it be­ing rather hush-hush. This hush-hush job turned out to be at Bletch­ley Park and in­volved break­ing the Ger­man Enigma code, which played such a vi­tal role in the de­feat of Nazi Ger­many. Af­ter a year and a half at Bletch­ley, Lady Jean suc­cess­fully ap­plied to be­come a wel­fare of­fi­cer with the Red Cross and in 1944 was posted to In­dia, where in time she was kept very busy help­ing the POWs freed af­ter hellish in­car­cer­a­tion at the hands of the Ja­panese. Once more, how­ever, ill health forced Lady Jean to re­turn to the UK to un­dergo surgery, af­ter which by way of re­cu­per­a­tion came a road trip with her long-time friend El­speth David­son in an old Austin Seven across war-rav­aged Europe to Monaco and Switzer­land. On her re­turn, Lady Jean en­rolled on a weav­ing course in Lon­don and whilst there met her fu­ture hus­band John Fforde, at home on leave from his post as head of CID in the Pales­tine Po­lice Force. The ro­mance blos­somed and they were mar­ried in Brod­ick Church in Oc­to­ber 1947 be­fore

“The hush-hush job turned out to be at Bletch­ley Park break­ing the Ger­man Enigma code

set­ting up home in Pales­tine, then in a state of civil war be­tween Jew and Arab. Be­ing mar­ried to the num­ber one tar­get for the Stern Gang and liv­ing un­der armed guard at all times did not make for a peace­ful time. On one oc­ca­sion Lady Jean nar­rowly avoided a sniper’s bul­let, al­though dur­ing leisure time there were some in­ter­est­ing trips around the Holy Land, in­clud­ing din­ing with King Ab­dul­lah of Jor­dan. Alas her mar­riage was not to en­dure and Lady Jean re­turned home to Ar­ran in 1956 as her son Charles started prep school. There fol­lowed what she de­scribed as the worst year of her life dur­ing which Charles was ad­mit­ted to the Unit of Trop­i­cal Dis­eases in Ed­in­burgh suf­fer­ing from a bout of malaria. Her mother died, just three years af­ter the death of her fa­ther, and her di­vorce came through. Also there were all the dif­fi­cul­ties of pro­bate and hand­ing over Brod­ick Cas­tle com­plete with all its many fam­ily trea­sures to the Na­tional Trust or the Ex­che­quer in lieu of death du­ties. Lady Jean then set about trac­ing some of the great point­ers pre­vi­ously sold from Isle of Ar­ran ken­nels and was able to re­build the fa­mous blood­line, pro­duc­ing some truly in­cred­i­ble dogs with which she had tremen­dous suc­cess com­pet­ing at tri­als all over the UK, hold­ing her own and in­deed often beat­ing many of the great pro­fes­sional dog han­dlers of the day. In time she be­came a renowned field

“Lady Jean was able to re­build the blood­line pro­duc­ing some truly in­cred­i­ble dogs

tri­als judge and pres­i­dent of the Pointer Club of Scot­land. Look­ing back, there were many fa­mous point­ers with the Isle of Ar­ran pre­fix. The list is end­less – Isle of Ar­ran African Queen, Scot­ney Isle of Ar­ran Re­gent, Isle of Ar­ran Juno, FT CH Scot­ney Isle of Ar­ran Jack, Isle of Ar­ran Mi­noru, FT CH Isle of Ar­ran Dice, Isle of Ar­ran Lily. Lady Jean’s favourite was FT CH Isle of Ar­ran June, a beau­ti­ful orange and white bitch. In Lady Jean’s me­moir, she wrote: ‘June be­came the dog of my life – I adored her! Con­sid­er­ing she was the first dog of any kind I had trained my­self, she was a mir­a­cle. I trained her by phon­ing my friend Pa­tience Nicol­son week by week, and ask­ing for in­struc­tions.’ And so the great and the good of the pointer and set­ter world gath­ered early in Au­gust to com­mem­o­rate her re­mark­able life. Field trial en­thu­si­asts from through­out the UK and Ire­land met on the moor at Dor­back es­tate. Lady Jean would have been proud of this day. The field trial in­cluded the best of the best from the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of work­ing point­ers and set­ters.

Right: An early pic­ture of the Isle of Ar­ran Point­ers be­ing trans­ported by boat for grouse shoot­ing on the is­land.

Above: Lady Jean Fforde with her beloved Point­ers at home on Ar­ran – left to right: Isle of Ar­ran June, Isle of Ar­ran Mi­noru and Isle of Ar­ran Dice.

Below: Field Trial Sec­re­tary Richard MacNi­col com­pet­ing with Field Trial Cham­pion Mer­lino of Mor­ness.

Right: Pointer han­dler Mar­cia Clark pi­loted Lady Jean’s field trial cham­pion Isle of Ar­ran Larch to win the Cham­pion Stake, the pre­mier event for point­ers and set­ters, in 1981.

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