“Having paid my entrance fee I found myself in a very large and well lighted show hall and the sight that met my eyes was one to make my heart miss a beat – rows upon rows of the famous blue and black Lizard show cages!
My immediate thought was that surely this must be the greatest Lizard entry of all time.”
F.W. Snelling, The Lizard Canary Fancy, March 1956
The 1955 LCA Club Show, hosted by the Norwich Alliance All-England Cage Bird Association (usually shortened to ‘Norwich Alliance’), caused a sensation in the Lizard canary fancy. Everyone seemed to agree (with some justification) that this was the greatest show in the Lizard canary’s history. It was still described as ‘the largest number of Lizards to be staged under one roof’ when Gordon Plumb wrote an article for Cage and Aviary Birds to celebrate the LCA’s silver anniversary in 1970 (1).
The Norwich Alliance seemed closer in spirit to a Victorian agricultural society than a modern bird club, and enjoyed the patronage of the great and the good of the county. Its president was the Countess of Albermarle and its vice-presidents included Lord Conesford (MP for Norwich) and the Hon. Mrs. Keppell (2).
F.W. Snelling (better known to Lizard canary breeders as Fred Snelling) wrote a ‘personal report’ of the show, running to four full pages of The Lizard Canary Fancy (3). 155 birds were benched, although this was inflated to 160 when he wrote an article for Cage Birds a couple of years later (4). He was right first time.
The judge was the LCA president A. W. Smith and the list of exhibitors reads like a who’s-who of Lizard fanciers of the 1950s: W.P. (Walter) Barnes, Fred Snelling, G. Dodwell (who always signed himself as Terry Dodwell), Len Wood, Eric Southwick and John Scott ‘celebrating his return to the show bench’ (5). There were others who appeared regularly amongst the prize winners but whose first names I don’t know: Mrs Ings, R. Collins, M.Ross, and my personal favourite, Miss O. Branch. Is it too much to hope that her Christian name was Olive?
My copy of the catalogue has the results of each class written in John Scott’s hand. Fred Selling had a good show, winning 5 of the 13 Champion classes (6), but Best in Show went to the winner of the largest class, a clear cap silver cock from M. Ross of Doncaster. Fred was gracious in defeat ‘A worthy winner and a great achievement by Mr. Ross. May I offer him my heartiest congratulations? The second and third birds were my own, both lacking the breastwork of the winner’.
The Norwich Alliance was not the first show to achieve an entry of over 100 Lizard canaries. That honour goes to the Downham show, which staged 111 exhibits in 1953, and the Manchester Show of 1954 came close with 110, but the Norwich Alliance show seems to have been the one that convinced Lizard fanciers that they had not only re-established the breed, but taken it to new heights. Here is Fred’s summary (7):
“I suppose many of our fancier friends will not think this a big entry . . . but the Lizard, though being one of our oldest breeds, did not come back as a force until 1945, and in the last 13 years has made great strides.
I know many of our members would like to have seen quicker growth, but surely those that mature slowly mature to last. No flash in the pan this! The Lizard is here to stay.”
All the illustrations are taken from documents in the Scott Archive.
- Lizard Canary Association celebrates twenty-five years of progress by Gordon Plumb, Cage & Aviary Birds, 14 May 1970. p.325.
- Keppel was the family name of the Earls of Albemarle whose family seat is at Quidenham, Norfolk. The family evidently took its patronage of Norfolk societies seriously. The most famous Hon. Mrs. Keppel was Alice, the official mistress of King Edward VII, who died in 1947.
- The Lizard Canary Fancy was the predecessor of the LCA’s current newsletter, the Lizard News. Vol 1, No 1 was published in March 1954, with two editions being produced each year. The last copy is dated March 1959, after which the LCA changed to a year book.
- Article by F.W. Snelling, Cage Birds, 30 October 1958.
- John had been ‘de-mobbed’ from military service.
- The odd number of classes in the Champion section is due to all the non caps competing in a single class, regardless of sex, colour or age.
- Cage Birds, 30 October 1958.