From Sheila Atter
Margaret Hooley asked me to write a few words about Ruth Wilford, who sadly passed away on 8 July 2020.
"There can’t be many people about whom it can be literally said that they have given a lifetime to service to their breed, but Ruth Wilford was one of those.
When I joined the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain in 1975 Ruth was already the Club Secretary. She held that position until 1983, when she became Secretary of the Parson (Jack) Russell Terrier Club – newly re-formed after having been dormant for thirty years or so, with the aim of securing KC recognition for the breed. No-one worked harder than Ruth to secure that recognition, which came in January 1990. She remained as Secretary until just a few years ago, when she was made a Vice-President of the Club.
Her dedication to the breed did not come without personal cost. Her husband Trevor sadly committed suicide in the early eighties, almost certainly as a result of stress caused by the abuse and threats heaped on the couple by a few who were determined that KC recognition was a retrograde step. Those of us involved in the fight all became accustomed to such behaviour, but it was Ruth who bore the brunt of some really nasty actions – including death threats. However, with true terrier spirit, she did not waver from her aim – as a Devonian herself she was determined to see this Devonshire terrier take its rightful place in the mainstream canine world.
She moved up to Worcestershire around 1980, because she found the journey to shows just a bit too far from Devon. At that time she was showing Border Terriers at KC shows as well as attending Hunt and Working Terrier shows. Occasional other breeds also bore the Clystlands affix – Smooth Fox Terriers and a Miniature Wire haired Dachshund – but it was the Parsons that were the mainstay of her kennel.
Her lovely house at Pirton became a mecca for Parson enthusiasts from around the world: I particularly remember a young Svante Frisk, now a highly-regarded FCI international judge, making many visits and enthusiastically absorbing Ruth’s information and anecdotes, not only about the breed but about the old Devon terrier men as well. Our committee meetings were always held at her house and, Ruth being a generous hostess as well as an accomplished cook, they were leisurely affairs, with coffee and biscuits on arrival, a full roast dinner with a following pudding, then tea and cake before we left for home. Contentious business was always delayed until the afternoon, when most were too replete to argue! For those like me who had a long journey home there was always the offer of a bed for the night. Then for nearly six years I was fortunate to live in the Annexe to Pirton House, and many were the adventures – and arguments – that we had during that time!
It’s over 15 years since Ruth moved back down to Devon. She might have run down her kennel (her last litter was born in 2005) but she never lost her enthusiasm for the breed, or for the breed club, and whenever possible would attend club shows and cast a keen eye over the current stars.
Ruth passed away on July 8th 2020 after a short illness, and with both her sons at her bedside. Truly a lifetime of dedication – not surprising that to many she was ‘Mrs Parson’.”