A eulogy for Julia Swinburn

When Peter telephoned me and asked for a favour, I immediately said yes. I think Peter sensed my panic when he asked me, as the favour, to deliver the Eulogy today.

I was both honoured and terrified to be asked to say a few words about Julia on this occasion.  Honoured, because I have known Julia for more years than I care to remember, terrified, because I found it hard to find suitable words to describe her. She was a so much a larger than life personality. 

The Julia I knew would be very dismissive of anything I am about to say. I can hear her now at the back of this congregation saying “for heaven’s sake Ken, stop waffling and get on with it.”

Although this is inevitably a sad occasion, we should also remember it as a happy remembrance of a life well lived. She certainly touched the lives of many of us here today.

Julia was a Marmite personality. At times I have been on both sides of that argument.

Sheila and I first met her 30   years ago, when we were all showing dogs on the Gundog Import Register. Both our animals were very successful, so we were friendly rivals and our friendship grew.

A formidable opponent in an argument with strong opinions of her own, but, underneath that formidable appearance there was a very kind heart. Anyone who stood up to Julia earned her respect. She found it hard to suffer fools kindly.

Julia spent a great many years in the teaching profession. Strangely, although I have never been involved with education, except in industry, I found our paths did meet.

In my working life I have spent many years in Quality Management Consultancy. I ran many training courses for people wanting to enter that profession. Quality Management involves achieving accreditation to an international standard. This standard involves meeting many requirements of that standard. One of those requirements involves what in engineering terms is called calibration. To ensure that all measurements made are accurate and reliable. When it comes to applying such a standard to education it seems, initially, that this is not possible. However, as I had to explain to my students many times, there is a way of ensuring that the measure you apply, usually by examination, is to have all exam papers checked independently.

This was where my path and Julia’s met. She was one of the independent assessors of the completed exam papers, papers for exams such as GCSE or, in my Old Fashioned days, “O” and “A” level.

She had interest in many breeds of dog. The ones I most knew her for were Dalmatians. Kooikerhondje and latterly, Swiss Mountain Dogs.

Julia and Peter worked with the importers of the first Kooikerhondje, Mrs. Molly Yates and her husband, Bill, together with others to get the Kooikerhondje Club of Great Britain started. She held many offices with the club and Preceded Peter as club President. Anyone who knows Julia when in positions of authority will know that she was staunch defender of protocol and she and I had many healthy discussions in Committee.

When she decided to call it a day with any official role with the club, I was the one who was in the unfortunate position of accepting her resignation. In more recent times she was a great support to Celia Clarke and us to get the breed off the Import Register and on to Rare Breeds Classification. Julia, with Peter was responsible for producing the breed standard as required by the Kennel Club even though one already existed on the continent. We all know the KC attitude of not being invented by us.

Following this she was the first Judge, ever, to be asked to Judge the Kooikerhondje at Crufts.

Sheila had the honour of being asked to go to Holland to choose a puppy for them from a litter at the famous Manusia Kennel. We persuaded Julia to come with us and see the puppy first hand. Luckily she chose the puppy that Sheila would have chosen for her. (Sigh of relief!!) The weekend turned out to be one that stays in the memory as thoroughly enjoyable and special. On the way home we stopped at a Dutch street market and as ever she managed to find dog memorabilia

Julia cared very much for the health, welfare and selective breeding of dogs for health and temperament.

Today, Julia has appropriately, met St. Peter, although many would say that she has been living with him for the 52 years of their marriage.

Before we all go our separate ways can I say, on the Marmite theme, please remember the things about Julia you loved and not the things that you may not have loved.

Now I can definitely hear Julia saying “for heaven’s sake Ken, stop waffling and get on with it.”

Ken Rees

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