A Tribute to Miss Joan MacMillan
1913 - 2001
Millicent Joan MacMillan was born 23rd March 1913 on the Isle of Arran, Scotland, the third of four children born to Dr. Alfred Stuart MacMillan and his wife Millicent, the family consisting of three daughters and one son. Miss MacMillan disliked her first given name of Millicent and was universally known as Joan. The MacMillans moved to Coventry and then to Camberley.
The Lochranza affix was granted in 1932 with the kennels at Great Barr, Birmingham being the base for Lochranza for many years. Following the move from Great Barr in 1959 to the Lichfield kennels the old house was demolished with the land used for private housing. Lochranza lived on with the area on which the old house stood named Lochranza Croft and yet a further area known as Arran Close. Lochranza was based at Lichfield from 1959 until ill health necessitated retirement and the final move to Brereton Hill Cottage in 1988. Miss Joan MacMillan passed away in her eighty eighth year on 26th December 2001. The Lochranza affix continues under the stewardship of Joan and John Gillespie.
The Lochranza-bred Champions of our breed are fortunately preserved in print and picture. These include Sh Ch Lochranza Dancing Master, Strollaway and Man Of Fashion. Champion Latchkey was the first post war black Champion and the only full Champion from the Lochranza kennels. Bitches such as Lochranza Dancing Shoes, (dam of Dancing Master), Floral Dancer (daughter of Dancing Master) all playing their part in the creation of the unmistakable Lochranza Cocker. Poodles both Toy and Miniature were another feature of Lochranza and the Shih Tzu Ch Lochranza Choo-Ling of Cathay born 15.6.66 was the breed record holder for many years. The kennels also produced top quality Labradors, Greyhounds and Pugs
The Caledonian Show of 1948 held in Waverley market brought together at one event three people who were to become such an integral part of cocker history, Joan MacMillan, Leslie Page and Jean Gillespie (then Coull). Under judge Joe Braddon (Of Ide), Lochranza Latchkey (born 2.2.1947) won his first CC; it was the first ever CC for Joan MacMillan and Lochranza. Leslie Page with his orange and white bitch, Dellah Pinup Girl, was awarded the bitch's first CC, also the first CC for the Dellah kennels. This unique event was watched by a young Jean Coull who had been taken to the Show as a treat by her father. Jean subsequently joined Lochranza in 1950, becoming a partner in Lochranza firstly with Poodles and then the Cockers
Joan MacMillan awarded Challenge Certificates in Cockers on twenty seven occasions, first in 1954 and latterly bitches at Yorkshire Cocker in October 1989. Both sexes came under her scrutiny at Crufts 1966, with 1967 and 1987 seeing her judge at the parent club of the breed, the Cocker Spaniel Club. In American Cockers, she awarded Challenge Certificates on nine occasions including Crufts in 1970 and 1979; her last appointment in American Cockers being Gundog Society of Wales 1986. Poodles both Toy and Miniature were yet another breed in which Miss MacMillan awarded Challenge Certificates. Miniatures at the Poodle Club 1962 being the first occasion, with Toys the following year; in all judging the breed at the highest level on eight occasions the last at WELKS 1986. Finally she judged the Gundog Group at General Championship Shows on five occasions.
The Lochranza kennels between 1950 and 1955 was home to Daphnie Darby (Classicway) who worked alongside Jean Gillespie. In 1957, on the occasion of her marriage to Ernie, Daphnie was married from Lochranza as her parents lived in the South of England. On the day of the wedding Jean Gillespie was despatched to a show with a Cocker bitch who subsequently won the CC, no substitute Jean remembers for missing the wedding festivities. Miss MacMillan was godmother to Stephen the first born child of Daphnie and Ernie Darby.
1957 saw the arrival of yet another kennel maid who has gone on to be a successful breeder and exhibitor of the Cocker, Jackie Marris-Bray (Helenwood) who was, with a short break, to stay at Lochranza for five years. Her wage was full board and 10/6 per week. Ever prudent, Jackie remembers saving her wages as she wanted for nothing. Each day after lunch Miss MacMillan used to give each of "her girls" sweets or chocolate or sometimes both! Travel to shows was either by public transport or private coach, later the kennels acquired a van which was driven by Jean.
Another influential member of Lochranza joined the kennels in 1962, having a couple of years earlier bought a black bitch from Miss MacMillan. John Gillespie, an Engineer by trade, decided he would like to know a little more about Cockers and joined the team. He and Jean subsequently married in 1966. Without doubt John is outstanding in his ability to trim and present the Cocker Spaniel for exhibition, in the opinion of Jean, a natural gift. He is also very adept in the handling of a Cocker.
What of the lady herself, how is she remembered? Jean Gillespie says that throughout all the years at Lochranza, she has never thought of the time spent as work, rather a wonderful enjoyable unique experience. Daphnie Darby remembers all the amazing dogs at Lochranza and the busy enjoyable times working and showing the stock. Daphnie says that if you can travel on the top deck of a bus to a show with five dogs which may have included a Greyhound or two you can manage anything in life !
Jackie Marris-Bray opines that Joan MacMillan was a wonderful lady, who never decried anyone or their dogs and who never engaged in after show socialisation. Her abiding passion was showing Lochranza stock, be it Cocker, Poodle, Pug or Greyhound, and ever striving through her well thought out breeding programmes to improve her beloved Cockers.
The Lochranza kennels for several decades formed a unassailable base for the solid coloured cocker spaniel with fortunately much photographic and descriptive testament still available.
Lorraine Palmer 2002