Sussex Sheep Dog Society
History collated in 2010.
Our Society was established over forty years ago, in 1962, and is affiliated to the International Sheep Dog Society. We currently have about 130 members - 70 handlers and 60 supporters - and welcome as a member anyone that is in agreement with the Society's aims.
The objectives, which are set out in full in our Constitution, are basically to promote the breeding, training and improvement of the shepherd's dog for the benefit of better stock management on hill, downland, and lowland farms, and by education, meetings, demonstrations, and trials, to further the knowledge of sheep dogs and sheep farming.
The Sussex Sheep Dog Society was formed following a meeting on 15th November 1962. The Society initially had an "obedience" team, which together with the sheepdogs took part in a number of demonstrations.
The first demonstration was at Tonbridge on 13th July 1963 for which the Society received £15.50. Other demonstrations proved to be profitable, with the Society receiving £56.12 for example, for an event in Hastings.
The Society planned its first trial at Place Farm, Chiddingly on 11th May 1963. At the preceding meeting it was agreed that 300 programmes would be sufficient - we would only need 100 today. That trial ran at a loss of 11 shillings. Trials were held on occasions on recreation grounds, and in conjunction with other bodies such as the Pevensey and Westham Athletic Club (£56 profit). Trials were held in prime public locations, such as Gildridge Park, Eastbourne and Alexandra Park, Hastings.
Reflection on the above suggests considerable public interest in sheepdog trials, which would be fantastic to recreate.
The cash side of things is interesting. £700 per annum was a good annual salary in the early 1960's. The £56 earned for the first demonstration and as profit for the first trial was thus a fair month's wages, equivalent to perhaps £1,000 today. The first prize for the top handler and dog at the first trial was £20, equivalent to £400 today. However all handlers will agree that the pleasure in competing in beautiful locations on the Downs and elsewhere has immeasurable value, and all are grateful to farmers that allow us to use their land and work their stock.
The Sussex SDS trials today are mainly held on Chalk Downland Courses, near the coast between Eastbourne and Brighton, but we have other venues in the Sussex Weald. The Downland courses tend to be hilly and long. Most fields have a full 400 yard outrun, and one course has a 600 yard outrun, with the dogs having to climb 200 feet to get to their sheep.