BIG HOLIDAY READ            


Compiled & written by Bridget & Mark Simpson

South Africa

December 2013

   T H E   L E G A C Y

 Maureen McKeever (nee Kiernan) circa 1940’s


Amid rumblings of a second war in Europe, James A. Kiernan, solicitor and country registrar for Leitrim, Ireland, purchased Derrycarne House in 1937.   Built in 1800, this grand old house comprised more than 30 rooms set in beautiful gardens and rambling countryside.  From the house were spectacular views towards the River Shannon. Into this idyllic setting James settled his wife, Helen and their two grown daughters Maureen and Maeve.

There were many auspicious visitors to Derrycarne House, as a result of James Kiernan’s status in the community, amongst them Bill Finlay the governor of the Bank of Ireland and the author Richard Hayward.  Through Richard’s friendship with Maurice Walsh, author of the book The Road to Nowhere, Maureen was offered a leading role in the film adaptation, but her career as a star of the silver screen never materialized as the production was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

 Derrycarne House

The Foundation of Derrycarne Irish Setters

On such country estates, the sport of hunting with gundogs was common and resulted in 1939 with Maureen’s lifelong passion for Irish Setters with the acquisition from Martin Colohan, of a male Uisce Beatha  of Derrycarne. His Irish Gaelic name literally translated as “water of life” – the colloquial term for Irish Whiskey, this reflecting his sire’s name Hymany Whiskey.

Uisce Beatha’s mother, Scuttle of Ide was bred by the Braddons in England. Her Grandfather,  Miss  Wells’ then Braddon’s Danilo of the Downs, had been judged and critiqued in 1937 by that doyen of the breed Ingle-Bepler , she wrote: ‘well known, has great depth of brisket and is well coupled up, good head and eyes, grand coat and colour’.

The establishment of Derrycarne Irish Setters was founded on Uisce Beatha of Derrycarne and his two sisters Derrybrien Sally and Poteen of Derrycarne all of which can be found today in extended pedigrees around the world.

The majority of Maureen’s Derrycarne Irish Setters were named after alcoholic beverages a trend she followed throughout her career as a breeder, thus Derrycarne progeny were given the names of spirits, liqueurs, cocktails, wines, ales and even the names of commercial beers.  In those distant years it was permitted to add one’s kennel name before or after the dog’s common name and often a breeder’s kennel name was not added at all only the purchaser’s kennel name.  In other cases only the dog’s “call” name was used to breed register the dog without any kennel names.

VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) and the World War was nearing its end, a joyous time, despite the rationing of most commodities, but for the Kiernans it was overshadowed by the death of Maureen’s father in 1944, which necessitated the sale of Derrycarne House and a temporary move to a rented house in Boyle.

However, Maureen continued to breed her Irish Setters and never accepted employment unless her dogs could be accommodated. In the l950’s and now married to Desmond McKeever (a casualty of the war permanently deafened in an explosion)  she accepted a position as night nurse alongside her sister Maeve at Major Holiday’s famous Cleaboy Stud Farm in Westmeath, raising many top winning racehorses of the day.

The Post War Reconstruction of the Breed

Before the war it was acknowledged by some breeders that early onset “night blindness” was a problem in the breed, particularly in certain lines.  This was assumed to be a “bug”, “virus” or “vitamin deficiency” due to poor feeding.   The problem was exacerbated during the war years due to localized showing and breeding, thus narrowing the gene pool in any given region.

During the immediate post war period it was realized that breeders needed to confront and deal with the problem in order for the breed to survive. William (Bill) Rasbridge (Watendlath Irish Setters) of the Irish Setter Assoc of England, recognized the early onset blindness as a genetic inherited condition stemming from a simple autosomal recessive gene which, when carried by both parents, produced affected blind progeny. He, with the help of other learned and enlightened souls, set up the first scheme to eliminate Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA rcd 1) from the breed by using a system of test mating blind to sighted dogs and clinically examining the progeny.

He also enlisted the aid of Veterinary surgeon, Dr. H. B. Parry who went to work under Dr. S.F.J. Hodgman at the newly established Animal Health Trust near Newmarket which, fifty years later, developed the first canine DNA test – early onset PRA rcd 1 for Irish Setters.

Rasbridge had great difficulty in converting sceptical breeders to believe in the scientific validity of his approach.  .As Gilbert Leighton-Boyce observed:  ‘There was at first the father and mother of a row, from which I bear a few scars, and the fact that Rasbridge survived at all is a remarkable tribute to his toughness and determination to pursue what he felt certain was the right course’

Led by Rasbridge a deputation addressed the Kennel Club in London in 1946 and they tightened up their registration requirements for Irish Setters.  A supporting declaration that neither the Setter itself nor either of its parents was a proven carrier of ’any hereditary disease of the eye’ was a pre-requisite to breed registration and the Show Regulations were altered  to bar any animal ‘afflicted with a tendency to reproduce any hereditary disease.’

By 1950 twenty-nine owners/breeders had test mated their Irish Setters which resulted in just four clear of PRA rcd 1 stud dogs in England, namely Mrs A Leighton Boyce’s (nee Samms)  Branscombe Robyn, Mrs. Jean Clarke’s Brymount Redgaynes Mars, Mr. L.C.(Jimmy) & Mrs. James’, Beau of Wendover and the only Show Champion Raycroft Mediator owned by Miss Lamb (known as “Ray” Furness after her marriage).

In 1956 Irish Setter breed registrations at the Kennel Club, London had slumped to a low of 384, however, from this low point the breed began to gain ground. By 1966 the figure has risen to 1,209 breed registrations and thereafter the numbers continued to rise.

In order to place the re-construction of the breed on a firm footing it was necessary to broaden the very limited gene pool of clear PRA rcd 1 Irish Setters and this resulted in dogs being imported from other countries.

Maureen McKeever’s (nee Kiernan) Early Derrycarne Breeding

One of Maureen’s early progeny out of Poteen of Derrycarne was sired by Aghalane Red which produced Derrycarne Gypsey Queen of Cavangarden.  She was bred to Ir. Ch Simon of Seaforde in 1944 with the resultant litter producing the bitch, Derrycarne Red Wine and the male Shandy of Maydorwill.  Shandy crossed the Irish Sea to be successfully test mated clear of PRA rcd 1 and became a key member of Dorothy Cucksey’s  Maydorwill breeding stock which in 1958 formed the foundation of Janice Robert’s (nee Gibson’s) highly successful Cornevon kennel. Subsequent Cornevon progeny were exported to South Africa in the 1970’s.

 Shandy of Maydorwill – born 4th December 1944

Ir. Ch. Simon of Seaforde x Derrycarne Gypsy Queen of Cavangardens

Maydorwill Shadow Girl – born 1949 daughter of
Shandy of Maydorwill x Ch. Maydorwill Modern Miss – CC Crufts 1953

Rasbridge had judged Gypsey’s sire, Simon of Seaforde, in the showring when still a youngster in 1937. In a press critique he wrote: ‘scores on head, front, ribs, brisket; personally I do not like him so well behind the saddle’. Fortunately Simon found favour with other judges and claimed his Irish field and show Championship title in later years.

Another well known winner and stud dog in 1944 was Soda of Derrycarne, by Derrycarne Storm King of Ide out of Hymany Raine. Owned by ‘Ray’ Furness (nee Lamb) he had sired many of the Raycroft winners that year including Robin of Raycroft. In Ireland he was awarded two reserve green stars and the perpetual challenge cup for best Setter bred in Ireland before joining the Raycroft Kennel in Chesterfield, England.

One of the most remarkable post war Derrycarne bitches, found on extended field and show pedigrees worldwide, did not carry Maureen’s kennel name being Hartsbourne Flame out of Derrybrien Sally and sired by Ir Ch Brilliant Bob. Her owner, Mrs. E. Walker commented to Gilbert Leighton-Boyce : ‘You know, Gilbert, they will all laugh at her coat, but she is very sound’. Gilbert was delighted to see the old “shower-of-hail” coat which was a rarity even in those days.

In truth, Flame did not fare well in the showring, despite her ‘excellent ribs and good quarters’, but she did excel as a brood bitch. On 6th February 1947 she whelped her most famous son, Sh. Ch. Hartsbourne Tobias, sired by Hartsbourne Masterstroke, who for three years between 1953 and 1955 was the top stud dog in England.

Hartsbourne Flame (Ir. Ch. Brilliant Bob x Derrybrien Sally)

Flame was mated to Brynmount Redgaynes Mars and on 8.11.49 a daughter, Hartsbourne Flush was born.   Flush was subsequently mated to Hartsbourne Bronze and one of her son’s ( born on 18.3.57) Hartsbourne Falcon was exported to South Africa and appears on the extended pedigrees of the late Mesdames, Kottler’s O’Mortache and Flora Hill’s Donegal  Irish Setters, Mrs. Uleen Poulton’s Ruamadre and the writer’s Oakdale Irish Setter pedigrees.

To quote Gilbert Leighton Boyce ‘The Derrycarne breeding brought back into play for us (in England), the mating of Danilo of the Downs and Solemnity of Ide,  forming a useful link with the better stock of the ‘thirties in England’ as well as ‘some excellent Irish ‘blood’.


1933 The McBride’s and Roy aboard the mailboat

Escaping the British economic crisis of the 1930’s Great Depression William E.A. McBride (known as Mac) and his newly wedded wife, Thora, stepped aboard the Union Castle mail ship with their Irish Setter “Roy” bound for South Africa   Mac had been appointed by that grand Victorian emporium, Selfridges of Oxford Street, London to establish a branch of their Department Store in Durban.

Roy, born on 17.07.1932 had been a wedding gift and as was the custom in those days, Thora adopted her husband’s second initial ‘E’ (for Edward) to breed register Roy and all the subsequent South African Redsun progeny in her name, thus Roy was registered in the ownership of Mrs. E. McBride.

It is interesting to note that according to the breeder Mr. R..L.Bugg’s handwritten pedigree, Roy’s sire Kalos Tom was owned by J.A. Carbery of the famous Boyne Irish Setters and that Roy’s maternal Grandmother, Colleen of Wendover must have been one of the very early members of Mr.& Mrs. LC James’ Wendover dynasty. Also of significances is Gorse of Auburn born in 1917, Roy’s maternal great grandsire who was advertised at stud as:

‘….the best son of the celebrated stud dog Galahad (Ch. Kerry Palmerston x Ch. Strabane Sally) who sired more bench and field-trial winners than any Irish Setter of his day; winner of two championships and numerous first and specials; Gorse’s progeny are distinguishing themselves on the bench and in the field; fee to approved bitches  £5. 5s. Particular from Dr. Fuller, Arlesey, Beds.’

Roy’s dam owned by Norman Macdermott is also littered with some high profile Irish Setter kennels of the day. As a whole the pedigree dates back to many well known early twentieth century Irish Setters.

Roy of Serbury (?) circa late 1930’s

It is believed this photo is of Roy (right) and the McBrides first bitch:

SA Ch. Knight’s Beauty (Ch. Gorse of Ide x Barrowdale Barbara) (left) circa 1938/39

Settling at Old Mill Way, Durban North, Natal, Mac and Thora thrived and three sons were born, Graham, Kenneth and Michael.

Redsun mix and match:

In the Redsun kennel the McBrides mixed and matched their best homebred progeny with those imported from UK.

Typical Redsun Puppies – circa 1940’s

From Kennel Union of Southern African registration records it appears the first Redsun litter was born on 3rd July 1941. It was sired by SA Ch. Bonny of Wendover (Ch. Portlairge Steady of Wendover x Granmore Ann), imported from England by Mr. R.W. Read.  Between 1939 and 1941 Bonny had been awarded eight CC’s and a Grand Challenge (Best-in-Show).

The McBride’s bitch SA Ch. Knights Beauty bred by Read, had gained seven Challenge Certificates across three South African Provinces in1938/1939 and won a Grand Challenge in 1940   Of the resultant litter three pups are known to be KUSA breed registered, namely Redsun Monarch, Redsun Ranger and retained by the McBrides the bitch Redsun Dawn (weighing 12 lbs. 2oz. at 8 weeks).

This photo is inscribed: ‘Redsun Ranger’ – Litter brother to Ch. Redsun Dawn (circa 1943/44)

Ch. Redsun Dawn was bred back to her father – Champion Bonny of Wendover From the resultant litter, born on 8th July, 1946, two progeny were registered Redsun Peter who was sold to Harry E.Towersey and the bitch later to become SA Ch. Redsun Red Barbara which the McBrides retained.

Mac continued to show the Redsun Irish Settters across Transvaal (now re-named Gauteng), the Free State and Natal Provinces of South Africa as the following certificate illustrates as winner of the Brace Class – best matched pair of a breed in 1946.

Migration to Cape Town

In the late 1940’s, Mac and the human and canine family migrated southwards, with Mac’s appointment as a senior executive for the major department store, Stuttafords in Adderley Street, Cape Town.  It was at this juncture that he became deeply involved with the activities of the Kennel Union of Southern Africa

Between 1952 and 1957 Mac served on the Committee of the All Breeds Western Province Kennel Club.  In 1957 he became a Federal Councillor representing NatalProvince and in that year was elected KUSA Federal Council Chairman, a position he held for the next decade until his retirement in 1968.

Import to South Africa of Red Immigrant of Ide

In England Joe Braddon re-entered the breed with an Irish imported bitch, Ronor Rena of Ide, born on 16.12.43 and bred by Mr. & Mrs. Vint, who earned her Show Championship status and gained her Field Trial qualification in 1949 .  Braddon went to the expense of test mating her and she was proven Clear of PRA rcd 1 Her subsequent litter by Branscombe Robyn born 25.02.1947 was a complete outcross of some five generations. Thus no great expectations were held for the quality of the litter.

Branscombe Robyn

Ch Ronor Rena of Ide

However, of the thirteen resultant progeny, Leighton-Boyce claimed there were only two he could not trace as winners and considered it ‘a remarkable litter’.  Braddon did not part with them until they were full grown when he was able to ensure that they went into ‘promising hands.’  He entrusted Mr. R.B. Adams in South Africa with one of the males, Red Immigrant of Ide.

Ch. Copelia of Ide – sister to SA Ch. Red Immigrant of Ide (d)

Joe kept a bitch, Ch. Copelia of Ide which he registered in his mother’s name, Mrs. W.H. Braddon. She won 10 Challenge certificates between 1948 and 1950 and her Field qualification in September 1949 at Yorkshire Gundog Club trials.

Mr. J. Whittaker was charged with the career of Ch. Gaelge Copperplate of Ide  who won 11 Challenge Certificates between 1949 and 1951 with his Field Trial qualification in October 1949. While Gilbert Leighton Boyce’s considered his sibling, Oosh Coppercrest of Ide (d) had the ideal Irish Setter temperament.

At  28 Homestead Way, Pinelands, Cape Town

On 20.9.51, the McBrides welcomed their litter sired by Mr. R.W.Read’s Knights Don Carlos out of Ch. Redsun Red Barbara from which they retained a bitch Redsun Regan and a male Redsun Gorse which became their eldest son’s first pet.


SA Ch. Redsun Regan (b) born 20th September 1951

Subsequently Regan earned her South African show Champion status and on 12.7.1955 she whelped a litter sired by SA Ch. Red Immigrant of Ide to produce Redsun Honey which Mac campaigned to her South African show title.

On the bench of a Championship Breed Show in SA

Redsun Roland of the Rand makes his entrance

SA Ch. Redsun Honey was mated to Mrs. E. Kottler’s SA Ch. Hartsbourne Falcon imported from UK (sired by Ch. Brackenfield Hartsbourne Bronze out of Hartsbourne Flush  – daughter of Hartsbourne Flame) the progeny of which contained SA Ch. Redsun Roland of the Rand born on 16.8.59. He was purchased by Father J.B. Doran of La Verna Loch Vaal, Gauteng (formally the Province of Transvaal).

The Swinging Sixties – The bond between Redsun & Derrycarne

In Westmeath, Ireland:

On Father Doran’s return to southern Ireland Maureen McKeever became interested in the South African bred dog Redsun Roland of the Rand and elected to use him at stud to one of her bitches, Ir Ch. Derrycarne Velvet Mist which produced Derrycarne Victory.

On the reverse of this photo in Maureen McKeever’s handwriting are the words:

‘The Champion heads of Derrycarne
Redsun’s daughters left and right of the photo’

One of Maureen’s most influential litters stemmed from the mating of Redsun Roland of the Rand to Ir. Ch. Derrycarne Tia Maria. Born on 19.3.63 the progeny were named after beers and ales and breed registered as Derrycarne Carlsberg which Maureen’s daughter owned, Time, Amber Ale, Idea and Harp, the latter exported to the Netherlands.


Derrycarne Idea


Harp (centre) with daughter Ailean (left) & Siobhan


Derrycarne Harp (b) call name “Kells” reclining in old age in the Netherlands

Henk ten Klooster has fond memories of Derrycarne Harp who was imported by  Jan Hesterman of O’Cuchulian Kennels in Tongeren, near Epe, Netherlands to became an important element in the reconstruction of the breed in that country.

As a young lad, Henk was overjoyed to assist the Hestermans in the kennels on weekends. Sleeping in the puppy room, Harp would dump her marauding brood of pups on Henk’s bed to attack his hair, ears, nose and toes, while she slumbered on in her bed, oblivious to the mayhem on his! A particular favorite of Henk’s was Harp’s daughter Ailean – ‘the devil’s dearest poppet’ – whose escapades kept the 13 year old boy and the Hestermans more than busy!

Some of Harp’s descendants slipped across the neighbouring borders into Belgium, France and Germany where the Carrig Maid Kennel were very successful with the lines.

One of Maureen’s prestigious sales, which caught the attention of the Irish National Press, was to King Baudouin of Belgium in 1966. The ambassador to Ireland, Francis Leo Goffat, was charged with the purchase and transportation of Derrycarne King in a private jet to his owner at the palace.

Eventually successive generations found their way to Canada and the USA.

Recently Henk ten Klooster ‘retrieved history‘ with the purchase and importation of a pup Redwing Last Apache Standing from USA, whose pedigree asserts  Harp and her brother Carlsberg as ancestors. With Apache, Henk hopes to revive some of the old lines in the Netherlands.


This photo of Maureen McKeever, is inscribed by her:

‘Another son of Redsun Roland of the Rand 3 years old and a brilliant worker’

The Finale

If ever it was necessary to attest to the quality of the Derrycarne and Redsun Irish Setter kennels, it was demonstrated  by Ch. Astley’s Portia of Rua, bred by Mrs. Korbel and owned by Colette and Mary Tuite,  Field qualified and a Show Champion Portia was Best-in-Show at Crufts (UK) in 1981.   Sprawling across this bitch’s maternal pedigree are five ancestral generations of Redsun and Derrycarne, Redsun Roland of Rand the predominant sire – three times in two generations.


Ch. Astley’s Portia of Rua – born 7th September 1975

Show & Field qualified “Supreme Champion” Crufts 1981

When the curtain falls:

In 1971 KUSA Federal Council bestowed the high office of Patron to Mac McBride for his committed and voluntary services to the South African dog community and the Kennel Union of Southern Africa.  He continued to judge Gundogs at Championship breed shows until 1980 but the Redsun kennel was no more.  Mac passed away in 1984 with his wife following a decade later. Michael, his youngest son and his wife Sue continue to own a male Irish as a companion in Cape Town.

Derrycarne House is gone forever, it was demolished and eventually the Land Commission forested the area which obscured the view of the ShannonRiver – a decision Maureen McKeever felt was ‘a disgrace’. In her mid-eighties Kevin McManus interviewed her for the Leitrim Guardian in 2003 commenting that she still possessed ‘a sharp mind with a vivid and highly articulate recall of the events she had experienced throughout her extraordinary and full life’. Two years later in November 2005 she passed away.

This article is compiled and written by:

Bridget & Mark Simpson, Oakdale Irish Setters, W. Cape Province, South Africa – December 2013                        

NOTE:  While every effort has been made to cross-reference material used in this article to ensure accuracy, it is possible that errors may have occurred due to the lack of factual data.

A Spread Sheet detailing pedigree lineage of Derrycarne and Redsun Irish Setter Kennels with other relevant kennels is available to interested readers. E-mail

The Front Cover photo is of Oakdale’s Extrovert owned by Terry & Susan Wright taken on NoordhoekBeach, Cape Town, South Africa – Spring 2013


We are indebted to Michael and Sue McBride, youngest son and daughter-in-law of Mac & Thora McBride for allowing us to reprint their treasured photos of the Redsun and Derrycarne Irish Setters especially the inscribed photos by Maureen McKeever and for drawing on their own memories for the text.

Grateful thanks to The Kennel Union of Southern Africa Staff:  General Manager, Pascale Midgley, Cynthia Ross and especially to Zainoe Peterson who undertook the laborious task of sifting through a monumental pile of archived records at the Bree Street office in Cape Town to produce the Linkage Pedigree between Derrycarne and Redsun Irish Setter Kennels which has proven extremely valuable in steering the writers through the history of these kennels. Without your assistance it would have proven impossible to compile and write this history.

Thanks also to Henk ten Kloosters in the Netherlands who has drawn on his memories and provided photos of Maureen McKeever’s Derrycarne Harp and her offspring Aileen, whom he cared for in Jan Hesterman’s kennel as a boy.

Books:  The World of Dogs Series – Irish Setters by Gilbert Leighton Boyce (UK)

Irish Setter Show Champions of Great Britain 1947-1982 produced by

The South of England Irish Setter Club

The Irish Setter by Janice (Oldham) Roberts (UK) Popular Dog Series

Aristocrats of the South African Showring published in 1953

Magazine Article by Kevin McManus who interviewed Maureen McKeever concerning Derrycarne House and her life experiences for the Leitrim Guardian, Ireland in 2003

Newsletter: The Irish Breeders Club (UK) May 1981

Websites:  Michelle Webster of Hooley’s Irish Setter Pedigrees