Brenda Griffiths (Forgeman)

Brenda Griffiths (Forgeman)

The Club is very sad to report the passing yesterday of Honorary Life Member and former Secretary, Brenda Griffiths (Forgeman) after a long battle with ill health. Brenda died overnight at home in Spain. Brenda had a deep involvement with the club and the breed during the important formative years for both.

Our thoughts are with husband Don and her family at this time.

Brenda’s funeral took place 2 days after her passing.

We have received the following excellent obituary from Helen Davenport-Willis which we are pleased to publish here.


Brenda Griffiths “Forgeman” (1932 – 2017)

Brenda died, surrounded by her close family, at her home in Torrevieja, Spain on 31th July (writes Helen Davenport-Willis). She had been unwell for some time and in between bouts of pneumonia and hospitalisation, husband Don, had been caring for her. She would have been 85 on August 3rd. Brenda loved dogs from an early age. Her parents bred Greyhounds, so she grew up with them. Whilst a schoolgirl, she bought a mongrel puppy for 5 shillings (25p) and named him “Jip”. In time she owned other breeds including a GSD and Boxer. When she and Don married in 1958, they became interested in breeding and showing Dobermanns, winning prizes in both obedience and showing. Brenda’s interest in Bernese was sparked in 1970 after seeing a picture in the dog press. She wrote to the Kennel Club to enquire if there were any breeders in the UK and was put in touch with Irene Creigh “Kisumu”. She visited Irene’s home, saw Oro de Coin Barre and instantly fell in love with him and the breed. The Forgeman prefix was registered with the Kennel Club in 1972. In 1973 they purchased Kisumu Cleopatra from Irene. Such was the interest in this “rare” breed in the Griffith’s home town of Redditch, Worcs, that a local journalist was alerted, Brenda was interviewed and an article with photographs appeared in the local press!

In 1973, Brenda acquired Kisumu Belle Fleur from Irene, and when the time came, mated her to Duntiblae Nalle. The first Forgeman litter of Bernese was born in March 1975 and from it came a CC & BOB winner (Crufts 1979) in Forgeman Fedora as well as two UK champions and Swedish Ch Forgeman Fellini. The pick bitch, Forgeman Folksong went to Lena Robbins of “Tarncred” fame and became the first BMD UK champion, the male, Duntiblae Forgeman Fusilier, eventually went to Diana Cochrane “Duntiblae” and was the 2nd BMD male champion. In early 1980 Brenda won the massive Working Group at Crufts (before the group split) with Folksong’s daughter, Ch Folkdance at Forgeman and in late April of the same year, Folkdance gave birth to the litter which contained the legendary “Paddy” – Ch Forgeman Footpad, as well as Ch & Irish Ch Forgeman Footsteps and the CC winner, Forgeman Forrester. “Paddy”, owned and campaigned by Pam Aze was a great ambassador for the breed and became the first official Bernese Breed Record Holder, winning 30 CC s, 21 BOB and 19 Res CCs as well as winning the Working Group at Midland Counties in 1987. Not surprisingly, Pedigree Chum took advantage of the popularity and interest in the breed, filming a Forgeman litter at their home, “The Hollies” in Beoley Mill, in the 1980s.

Don and Brenda joined the Bernese Mt Dog Club of England, (later to become the BMDC of GB), in the early 1970s, she enterprisingly undertook many roles. In 1973, as a committee member and Midlands and Western Editor of the club’s Newsletter, she was both innovative and pioneering, in setting up the club’s Rescue Scheme and acted in an honorary capacity as Rescue Secretary from its inception until 1985. She had two stints as Club Secretary, 1975 to 1981, then again in 1982 to 1984. She was Treasurer for a year in 1976 and Magazine Editor from 1975 to 1981. She was the club’s Public Relations Officer for a time and wrote breed notes for Our Dogs for a number of years too. She had a great way with words and always wrote interesting and amusing articles. Any talks she gave on the breed were always thought provoking and informative; she was always in demand by breed clubs and the like. In the late 1980s, the GB club made her an Honorary Life Member in recognition of her dedication and commitment to the breed and the club.

There were changes afoot and in 1992 Brenda and Diana decided to form a BMD breed club to cater for the growing number of breed enthusiasts in central England. The Central Bernese Mountain Dog Club was born and Brenda became their first Secretary.

Brenda awarded CC s for the first time at National Working Breeds in 1981 and among a number of CC appointments she judged at the GB Club show in 1985 and Crufts in 1987. That same year she organised a coach trip to Montricher, to visit the Swiss Club’s Assessment Day and it was during the return journey, that the idea of a British Bernese Festival was born. In 1991 Brenda judged males at the GB Club ch show during the “Festival of Bernese” weekend, together with Diana Cochrane. She awarded CCs for the last time at the BMDC of Scotland ch show in 1997, coming out of retirement to do so.

When she started to breed, Brenda had the type of Bernese she wanted to produce, fixed clearly in her mind and she achieved it early on. The Forgeman type, in the main, had strength, beautiful heads and bodies, particularly shapely hindquarters and excellent tail carriage. Don and Brenda bred only sparingly as they were never in a position to keep many dogs in their home. Nine UK champions carried the Forgeman kennel name, six of which were home bred. She was competitive in the show ring and presented her dogs to a high standard, she knew how to trim and tidy, enhancing the virtues whilst maintaining a natural look. Brenda had a great affinity with all dogs, was a natural trainer and understood the canine mind. She was an avid reader, an entertaining letter writer and had a wicked sense of humour.

In 2002 Don and Brenda moved to Spain, mainly because of her continuing ill health. One of the 3 rescue dogs they took was a Bernese which had been scalded and its owners took to the vets to be put to sleep. The vet refused and Bonnie found a happy new home and continuous treatment for 6 or more years with the Griffiths. Together they both embraced the Continental lifestyle, becoming friends with local ex pats and enjoying life in the sun. With the move overseas, she lost touch a little with the scene here in the UK, but was keen to hear any news and gossip and was always at the end of the phone if needed. She embraced email communication but sadly with failing eye sight in her later years she found it difficult to use the computer.

To Don her husband and best friend for more than 60 years, together with their sons, Don Jr, Alan, David and their respective families, our thoughts go out to you at this devastating time. Brenda was a marvellous wife, a loving mother and grandmother and a true friend. She was approachable, always bright and cheerful and personally very brave, as so often she had to deal with her own ill health and related problems.   Respected in the Bernese world, not just in the UK but also overseas for her knowledge, breeding prowess and huge contribution to the breed, her legacy will live on. She gave of herself freely and tirelessly, energetically working for the breed she adored. She bred some beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs, made breed history and in so doing, carved her name into the annals of the breed for eternity.

Donations in memory of Brenda should be made to Bernese Welfare (UK) and sent to Jude Simonds, 31 Broom Street, Great Cornard, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 0JT. Please mark the donation “In Memory of Brenda Griffiths”