Few people can change the whole world, though many accept the challenge of changing their small corner for good or ill.  Such a woman was Mrs. N. Ingle-Bepler (nee Ingle-Ball).

In this article we follow her career in Irish Red Setters from the1890’s through to the post  World War II period and touch on the involvement of many other important personages, dogs and events which shaped the history of the breed.


‘It maybe doubted whether anyone would have thought of training a dog to point, had not some one dog naturally shown a tendency in this line……….’ ‘When the first tendency to point was once displayed, methodical selection and the inherited effects of compulsory training in each successive generation would soon complete the work; and unconscious selection is still in progress, as each man tried to procure, without intending to improve the breed, dogs which stand and hunt best.’ So wrote the eminent English Naturalist Charles Darwin in his Origins of the Species in 1859.

Darwin further noted in his 1872 work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in a portion entitled “The Tactics of Setting”:

‘Many carnivorous animals, as they crawl towards their prey and prepare to rush or spring on it, lower their heads and crouch partly, as it would appear, to hide themselves, and partly to get ready for their rush; and this habit in an exaggerated form has become hereditary in our pointers and setters.’

Celebrated Setter kennels were largely the “property” of the landed gentry, the Clergy, Military Officers and wealthy businessmen, who kept a kennel of sporting dogs for game bird hunting and paid attention to the breeding of their favorites. The daily care and training of the dogs being largely undertaken by kennel men and gamekeepers.

Authenticated pedigrees of dogs were a rarity, particularly in Ireland, prior to the institution of Canine Governing Bodies. It is, therefore, difficult if not impossible to accurately trace much of the very early lineage of Setters in the British Isles.

The first dog show confined to Setters and Pointers was held in June 1859 in the Town Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne. It was followed by an All Breeds event on December 3rd /4th1860 in Birmingham, northern England where a separate class was allocated to Irish Setters. In 1865 competition increased with the introduction of field trials which tested a Setter’s hunting ability.

At the first show held in 1875 in Dublin, Ireland, 66 Irish Setters competed, 23 of which were red and white. The self-reds were largely bred in the north of Ireland, the red and white predominating in the south and west with the “shower of hail”, a variety with quarter-inch white spots, found on the west coast of Ireland.

Mr. T.M. Hilliard reigned supreme in the showring with Ch. Palmerston, born on 09.09.1866 by Hilliard’s Old Shot out of Cockrand’s Kate and bred in the working kennel of Cecil Moore in Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland.

Palmerston was said to be a poor eater, so lacked the stamina required by Moore for his robust field working Setters. Thus he was destined for a watery grave at Moore’s hand! Only as a result of Hilliard’s pleas to give him the dog did Moore relent on condition Hilliard kept Palmerston solely for show purposes to which he agreed. Thus, as a five year old Palmerston, entered the show ring for the first time.

Ch Palmerston

Ch Palmerston circa 1880

Subsequently, Palmerston was much admired and had a phenomenally successful show career, as a result of which he was widely used at stud.  Most pedigrees of important dogs during his lifetime, and long after, heralded his legendary status as the founding father of the show bench Irish Red Setter. After Palmerston’s death on 9th September 1880 – at the age of 13, and in his honour, his head, so much admired in his lifetime for its long lean lines, was stuffed and mounted at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, courtesy of Hilliard’s son, the hotel’s manager! In 1918 it was donated to the Irish Setter Club of America.

Rev Macdona

           Extreme left is Rev. J.C. Macdona with four of his Irish Setters at an early 19th century dog show

                       (Print reproduction of lithograph)

During the same period Rev J.Cummings Macdona’s Plunket reigned supreme in the field.  Denlinger wrote in The Dogs of Great Britain, America and Other Countries published in 1949 that his brother, Rover also owned by Macdona ‘was as prominent on the bench as Plunket was in the field’.

Rev. Macdona was one of the founder members of the first canine governing body in the world – The Kennel Club.  Established in April 1873 and then housed in a three roomed apartment at 2, AlbertMansions, Victoria Street, London.

A staunch supporter of the Irish Red Setter, he was also a distinguished breeder of Gordon Setters and strangely, given the diversity of breed, acclaimed as the “father” of the St. Bernard in Britain.   He judged at the first Westminster Kennel Club Show in America in 1877 where he was appointed to judge Gordon Setters, Pointers, Mastiffs and St. Bernards, but not Irish Setters!  So he transported an entry of the Irish Setters across the Atlantic for exhibition at the show!


This image of  Rover (KCSB 6193) was published in 

The Dogs of Great Britain, America & Other countries in New York 1884    

The Rev. Robert O’Callaghan, of Fern Lodge, Mortimar, Berkshire, bred Plunket and his brother, Rover in 1868. They were sired by Plunket’s Beauty out of Macdona’s Grouse. Eventually Plunket was  exported to America where he ended his days.



Despite canine activities and affairs being dominated by Victorian male society, Miss N. Ingle-Ball was drawn to Irish red Setters and dog shows.  She found a mentor in Rev. Robert O’Callaghan and when O’ Callaghan’s health failed she “inherited” his Irish Red Setters.  After his death in 1897 she wrote the following eulogy:

‘Perhaps the greatest fancier of this breed was the late Rev. R.O’ Callaghan.  I fancy one of his field trial winners made the record price in setters.  I allude to Coleraine, winner of the KC Derby stakes.  She was sold on the field for £27O (two hundred and seventy pounds sterling – a fortune in those days) My Lady Honora is own (litter) sister to this bitch and I have in my kennels representatives of three of Mr. O’Callaghan’s famous strains – namely, those descended from Champions Shandon and Aveline, Ch. Geraldine and Ch. Tyrconnel.  I received my “education” in Irish setters from O’Callaghan and I shall never falter in my affection and admiration for him’

Few photographs of noteworthy early Irish Setters have survived the ravages of time and those that have can seldom be positively identified.  Thus it is a rarity not only to find a photograph of Rev. O’Callaghan’s  Winifred born in April 1895, but also a detailed description of this bitch by her owner Ingle-Bepler written prior to 1904 and published in The Twentieth Century Dog edited by Herbert Compton.

Ch Winifred b.1895  Ch. Winifred ( Ch. Sullivan x Eme II)  

‘Winifred’s eyes are a luminous brown, very expressive; ears, set on very low, hang in a beautiful fold close to the head; tail is short, well feathered, and perfectly carried, – in fact her beautiful action and perfect carriage of tail have often won the day for her when competing for sporting special prizes with various breeds of sporting dogs.  The colour and quality of her coat are superb; colour a dark, yet glossy and brilliant chestnut, reflecting every ray of sunshine; quality fine and perfectly flat, with long, self coloured fringes.  She is perfectly clean in throat, has a muscular arched neck, very well sprung ribs, deep chest, strong loin and hindquarters.  She has big bone, beautiful legs and feet, curved stifles, and low, well-bent hocks.  She is ‘field-trial trained,’ and was a beautiful worker, but has not been used lately.  Looking at her in the most critical spirit, I do not honestly think there is any point in which she could be improved.’

Herbert Compton attests that Winifred was a solid ‘dark chestnut colour without any white and stands 24 ½ inches at the shoulder.  She is the winner of seven championships and over a hundred prizes and the dam of many winners, including Ch. Bobby Hideheuvel.  Winifred was certainly one of the early pillars on which Ingle-Bepler built her Rheola kennels.


In 1886 founding members of the first Club in the world exclusively for the self-coloured breed – The Irish Red Setter Club, Dublin (Ireland) drew up an authoritative description with a scale of points to offer both judges and breeders guidance on a breed standard.

The Committee comprised J,M. Barry, W. Despard, J.F. Dillon, J.J. Giltrap, Dr. Gogarty, J. Hamilton, J.K. Millner, C. Moore, L.F. Perrin and D. Sullivan who tackled the task with due diligence drawing on passages derived from early books and journals to ultimately complete the original Irish (Red) Setter Breed Standard which reads:

HEAD – Should be long and lean.  The skull oval from ear to ear, having plenty of brain room, and with well defined occipital protuberance.  Brows raised, showing stop.  The muzzle moderately deep, and fairly square at end.  From the stop to the point of the nose should be long, the nostrils wide, and the jaws of nearly equal length, flews not to be pendulous.  The colour of the nose dark mahogany or dark walnut, and that of the eyes (which ought not to be too large) rich hazel or brown.  The ears ought to be of moderate size, fine in texture, set on low, well back, and hanging in a neat fold close to the head.

NECK – Should be moderately long, very muscular, but not too thick; slightly arched, and free from all tendency to throatiness.

BODY – Should be long.  Shoulders fine at the points, deep, and sloping well back.  Chest as deep as possible, rather narrow in front.  The ribs well sprung, having plenty of lung room.  Loins muscular, and slightly arched.  The hindquarters wide and powerful.

LEGS AND FEET – The hind legs, from the hip to the hocks, should be long and muscular;  from hock to heel, short and strong.  The stifle and hock joints well bent, and not inclined either in or out.  The fore legs well let down, and, like the hocks not inclined in or out.  The feet small, very firm; toes strong, close together, and arched.

TAIL – Should be of moderate length, set on rather low, strong at root, and tapering to a fine point; to be carried as nearly as possible on a level with or below the back.

COAT – On the head, front of legs, and tips of ears should be short and fine, but on all other parts of the body and legs it ought to be of moderate length, flat, and as free as possible from curl or wave.

FEATHERING – The feather on the upper portion of the ears should be long and silky; on the back of fore and hind legs long and fine; a fair amount of hair on the belly, forming a nice fringe, which may extend on chest and throat.  Feet to be well feathered between the toes.  Tail to have a nice fringe of moderately long hair, decreasing in length as it approaches the point.  All feathering to be as straight and flat as possible.

COLOUR AND MARKINGS – The colour should be a rich golden chestnut, with no trace whatever of black; white on chest, throat, or toes, or small star on forehead, or a narrow streak or blaze on the nose or face not to disqualify.


Head   ……………………………………..     10

Eyes   ………………………………………      6

Ears   ………………………………………       4

Neck  ………………………………………       4

Body  ………………………………………     20

Hind legs and feet  ……………………….     10

Fore legs and feet ………………………..     10

Tail   ………………………………………..       4

Coat and feather ………………………….     10

Colour ………………………………………      8

Size, style, general appearance  ………..    14

Total     100  points

It is interesting to note that this original standard made no mention of bite, which omission was rectified in a much later revision as “scissor”.  However, the debate about size continues to the present day and is the result of failure amongst enthusiasts to find general consensus on the point, thus no defined height at the withers has ever been included on the British Standard for the Irish (Red) Setter or by those countries that adopt it as their own.

While the 1886 Breed Standard was revised by Dublin about 1930 when the British Kennel Club assumed responsibility for all Breed Standards in Great Britain and Northern Ireland necessitating the deletion of the Scale of Points and underwent modification in 1960 and later, the essence of the original Breed Standard remains and is that adopted by the Kennel Union of Southern Africa from its establishment in 1891.


In the showring and the field at the turn of the 19th Century 

MRS. INGLE-BEPLERThere is a tendency to sacrifice type in order to get great size and ultra long heads.  A typical Irish setter’s head should be well-domed, evenly balanced, with well-raised brows, well-defined stop, and a fairly deep muzzle, with the squareness of depth carried to its end.  One sees too many of the borzoi type nowadays, with ultra long narrow heads, little or no stop and muzzles tapering to a point like those of greyhounds.  The short, thick heads of thirty years ago (1870’s) are also objectionable, but as a rule those dogs were better workers I think the value of the points is correct, but very few judges – at least all-rounders – stick to them.  Take colour, for instance – eight points : yet if a setter be well nigh perfection in make and shape, and have a coat two or three shades too light, it will certainly be put behind an animal of inferior build, but possessing the deep-red coat.  Apart from their use as gun-dogs, Irish setters appeal to me by their extreme beauty.  Their coats excel in colour and quality, and yet are not so profuse as to hide the lovely lines of the dog’s build, as is the case in heavier coated breeds.  Setters are so graceful in their movement; and last, but not least, they are so affectionate, intelligent, and faithful, and have very reliable tempers. 

Mr. R. MACNAMEEThe breed of Irish setters never possessed so many good ones of the highest quality as it does now.  There is a great uniformity of type, and less faddism than formerly existed among judges of the breed.  One very notable fact in connection with Irish setters is that so many animals of champion rank on the show-bench have been winners at field trials as well, and this I think has greatly contributed to their prominent position the world over.  I do not know today, or remember a setter of any other variety of show-bench animal of which the same could be said.

 ‘The pity is that so few friends of this breed can afford to compete with them at field trials in England – to some extent caused as well by there being so few trainers in Ireland capable of training and finishing off a dog for this purpose. The breed has largely suffered from the apparent defect of one of its really best qualities.  The Irish setter has had a bad reputation, from it high courage, and consequently difficulty in training, with the result that gamekeepers have given him a bad name from their inability to study the dog’s nature, and train him accordingly.  The breed is, however, coming gradually to the front, and good dogs command high prices. 

At shows they now generally outnumber all the other varieties of setters.  To the sportsmen the Irish setter possesses many qualities that appeal very strongly.  For nose and intelligence he is second to none, and for staying qualities the superior of all.  He also retrieves naturally when allowed to – particularly from water.


Despite a Queen on the throne, reigning over the British Empire until 1901, it was a “Man’s World” where women were subjugated as second class citizens and considered as having little or no ability to run their own affairs.  So when a group of ladies, which included Mrs Ingle Bepler (then Miss N. Ingle-Ball) established the Ladies Kennel Association in 1895 it was a brave move which rocked the very foundation of the male dominated canine world.

No doubt the menfolk concluded such a Club, with its miscellany of women from different social background, would fail miserably. They were wrong!   Indeed it was such women who fueled Emily Pankhurst’s movement for universal suffrage in Britain in a later era.

On 9th July 1908 Mrs. Ingle-Bepler met with a few close friends at the Ladies Kennel Association Show in RegentsPark, London.  In a bold move they decided to establish a club that would challenge the control over the breed exercised by the Irishmen of the Irish Red Setter Club, Dublin especially where the selection of judges was concerned. Thus the Irish Setter Association, England was founded and confined to a membership that necessitated domicile in England, Scotland or Wales. This ruling stood until 1936 when membership was finally opened to all wherever they resided in the world.

The Association catered for all varieties of Irish Setters, the popular self reds  predominating and wisely the inaugural Committee did not to challenge the original 1886 Breed Standard so well compiled and researched by the founders,  of The Irish Red Setter Club, Dublin.

Ingle Bepler was appointed Hon. Secretary, a position she held with distinction for 38 years.  Another member of the first Committee was Mrs. Edith Cornish – wife of the editor of the magazine Country Life whose family, the Thorneycrofts, were talented sculptors and bell makers. Thus her first duty was to design the Association’s logo for use on medallions as show prizes.  These medallions are still traditionally awarded as prizes at ISAE Championship Shows today.

ISAE Medallion

The balance of the Committee comprised, Mrs. Kate Meadows (nee Harris) and her Halwills Irish and two others, Dr. T.A. Baldwin, The Hon. Treasurer, an Irishman born in Cork, but resident in England with his respected kennel of Setters and the President who held office for nearly 30 years, Col. H.M. Wilson who ensured the Association did not forsake the working setter and who became Chairman of the Kennel Club Field Trials Committee.


In 1891 breed registrations at the Kennel Club (London) stood at 289 for the year, but as the dark days of the First World War loomed, registrations dropped to 109 in 1911 and by the war’s end in 1918 only a pitiable 25 were registered. However by  1921 the registrations rose to 308.  Much of the breeding in this decade  earning Ingle Bepler the title of the breed’s premier show kennels in Britain being capable of holding their own against the best Irish of the Emerald Isle.

The Rev. Robert O’Callaghan bred a string of winners amongst them Aveline, Fingal, Ch. Fingal III, Ch. Geraldine II, Ch. Shandon II and Ch. Boyne to name just a few.  He also bred Ingle Bepler’s first Champion Winifred and Lady Honora so it is not surprising that Ingle Bepler’s Rheola Irish kennels stood in the limelight as one of the most prominent emerging kennels at the beginning of the 20th century.

It would be wrong to assume that because she did not work her dogs in the field that the early Rheolas were not hereditarily suited to the work.  In other ownership, such as that of C.W. Ryan’s they demonstrated field ability and they had a fair amount in common, in terms of their breeding base, with field-trial winners in other kennels.

By 1904 Ingle Bepler was advertising Ulad Rhu at stud, a grandson of Ch. Winifred:

The advertisement reads:

Setters (Irish)

AT STUD, Mrs. Ingle-Bepler’s well known dogs Shandonderry and Ulad Rhu.  Big winners; good workers.  Fee 3 guineas (3 pounds sterling and three shillings). Kennelman, 630, High road, Tottenham, Middlesex.  

Pedigree of Ulad Rhua

A kennel mate of Winifred’s in the of the Rheola  kennel was Carrig Maid, sired by Dermot Rhu out of Carrig Belle who was bred in 1897 by A.E. Daintree whom Ingle Bepler purchased as a raw youngster when pressured.  She often related the story that the bitch was initially offered to her for £3 (three pounds sterling) and then for £3 with a dog basket thrown in, which offer she accepted: ‘I agreed, though I soon discovered that distemper was “thrown in”!.

Her linch-pin stud dog, Ch. Clancarty Rhu whelped in 1901 was imported from Holland. He was inbred to O’Callaghan’s Setters and to the Netherburys of A. Taylor (Dorset) from which derived Mrs. Meadows Halwill Irish. Clancarty Rhu was described by Gilbert Leighton Boyce as having ‘a good head with a properly squared off muzzle, with his son Toby being similar in style.  These were solid dogs that did not look as if a breeze would blow them off course, like some that I have seen drift across a ring’   In 1906, Clancarty Rhu was mated to Ch. Carrig Maid  which produced Rheola Toby – double male great-grandparent of Ch. Rheola Bryn.

LIne up of Rheola dogs

                                                               A NOTED KENNEL

           Mrs. Ingle-Bepler has one of the strongest Irish Setter Kennels in the world.

    Her “Rheola Bryn” is seen third from left, accompanied by some of its distinguished progeny at Henley Show.  “Bryn” was born in 1921

Pedigree Rheola Bryn

Such renowned bitches as Ypsilanti, born in 1910 (Ch. Clancarty Rhu out of Ruminantly Toast) carried the Rheola kennels forward and was described as ‘having a beautiful head and a good neck and shoulders’ and lived to the ripe old age of thirteen as did her sire.

Many experts of the time considered Ch. Norna born 31.05.1926 superior to her mother (Loc Garmain Blarney x Sh. Ch. Rheola Didona)  whom Ingle-Bepler bred and initially sold to Mr. P. Holmes (later elected President of the Irish Setter Association of England),she was subsequently re-homed by Ingle-Bepler to become the star of  Mrs. Ogden’s famous Borrowdale kennels, where Norna whelped five of her six litters which contained seven Challenge Certificate winning progeny – a record which stood until 1979 when it was broken by Janice Robert’s Sh. Ch. Cornevon Primrose.  Between litters Norna won eighteen Challenge Certificates from the showbench at Championship Shows.

Pedigree Norna

It was on the basis of Ingle Bepler’s eminence as a breeder that Mrs. Eileen Walker purchased her foundation bitch registered simply as Val born in 1926.  The Rheola ancestry being largely carried forward into the next forty years with her hugely successful Hartsbourne Irish Setters.

Mrs E Walkers VAL

Mrs. Eileen Walker’s foundation bitch Val bred by Ingle-Bepler

Pedigree VAL

In the late 1920’s Ingle Bepler wrote a book which contained the names and photographs of eight generations of her breeding starting with Ch. Winifred in 1989 up to an including Ch. Rheola Bryndona in 1928. Her contribution to the breed during this period cannot be denied. Copies of her book are rare today and of considerable monetary value.     

Pedigree Rheola Bryndona

In the thirties there was an explosion of interest in the breed and 1,872 were registered by the Kennel Club, London in 1935. Perhaps while the world suffered in those dark years of deep financial depression a new sort of owner, town rather than country dweller, sought the comfort of the demonstratively affectionate Irish Setter as a pet rather than a working dog.

 Gilbert Leighton-Boyce knew Ingle Bepler and her Rheola’s from boyhood as he accompanied his mother and their Norlan Irish Setters to the major three day events like those Championship shows held by the Kennel Club at CrystalPalace and Cruft’s at the Agricultural Hall in Islington in the 1930’s.  Musing in the 1970’s on those early shows he wrote of Ingle Bepler and the Rheola Irish:

‘ I must emphasize that looking back at the old photographs, particularly those of Ypsilanti, Clancarty Rhu, Rheola Didona and Rheola Bryn, I have not the slightest doubt that the kennel’s reputation at that time was fully deserved.  At some stage in the ‘twenties a change in appearance must have begun, because I feel fairly sure that in the ‘thirties I saw a number of Rheolas which were not of the same show standard.  Some characteristics of the style were preserved, but others were accentuated to the detriment of the whole.  It was certainly not that their owner lost interest as she became more assured of her eminence, but she seemed to me to be concentrating too much on heads and expression.  Everyone active in dog breeding goes through a phase of talking about improving the breed (or about the breed being improved) but when one looks back, one sees how difficult it is to hold on to a level of brilliance once attained’.  


Every show judge entering the ring to adjudicate others dogs must, of necessity, have a sound knowledge of the breed which adheres to the Breed Standard.  Many are breeders that spend a lifetime aiming for perfection and have their ideal Irish Setter in mind.  Ingle Bepler was no exception and wrote perhaps the most enlightening and descriptively vivid piece regarding her vision of the ideal Irish (red) Setter.  It reads:

‘I see him in my mind’s eye – my ideal Irish setter!  Every inch a king of sportsmen, he stands well up at the shoulders, his head carried high, his wide nostrils expanding to inhale some subtle, delicious scent that my duller olfactory nerves cannot distinguish.  There he stands, awaiting the command to “go on!”  His strong straight forelegs planted firmly beneath him, as true in front as a terrier, with strong pasterns and on close, round feet.

His long muscular neck is well set into oblique shoulders, fine at the points, which slope in a graceful line to his wide, strong and slightly-arched hindquarters.  His chest is deep, his ribs well-sprung.  Not only can he go fast, but he can stay.

His curved stifles and well-bent short hocks give an élan and propelling power to his movements that no straight-stifled dog can possess.  His handsome flag, carried just below the level of his back, lashes gaily from side to side, indicating his satisfaction at things in general and his good-will to all men.

His evenly-balanced head is a study of beauty and intelligence.  The skull is long, rather narrow, oval from ear to ear, with the occiput well marked, raised brows, and a well-defined stop.  His muzzle is long and fairly deep, the level jaws giving a nice square finish to it.  From stop to nose-tip the line is level with no suspicion of a downward curve.  A Roman-nosed setter usually goes for foot scent, and rarely carries his head high; a flat-headed, stopless setter is often of poor intelligence.

My ideal setter has beautifully-placed ears, low-set, and hanging close to his head.  His eyes are soft and dark, not too large and full.  His expression is deep and alert, with a touch of impudence in it, and more than a touch of affection.  He is full of “blarney” when off duty, and loves a joke like all his countrymen.  Nor is he averse to a friendly brush with other “bhoys” in leisure moments, “for the sake of ould Ireland so green”!  But he is not quarrelsome.

In colour my ideal setter matches a newly-shelled chestnut, a rich glossy red, and when the sun shines on his gorgeous coat there are steel-blue glints in it.  He stands about 25 inches at the shoulder, and every part of his body is in harmonious proportion.  Content to be a thing of grace and beauty, he despises the present craze for undue size, in which type and symmetry are being abandoned.  Finally, he moves with easy action and fluency, holds himself nobly, and . . . looks the whole world in the face, for he fears not any man! 

Crystal Palace 1934

A class of puppies (between the age of 6 – 12 months on the day) being judged in 1934 by

Mrs. Ingle Bepler at the Sutton & Districts Open (non-Champ) Show at Crystal Palace


Given the destruction, austerity and deprivation endured by the population in Britain with the rationing of food and just about every other commodity during the war years, it is amazing that dog shows continued at all, albeit on a localized basis. In the area around London, Mrs. Walker (Hartsbourne), Miss Hobson (Malcombe), Mrs. Baldwin (Parsheen) and Mrs. Leighton Boyce (Norlan) had continued to meet with other relative newcomers in the London area to compete from time to time with Mrs. Walker kennel emerging as the leading show kennel.

Even more remarkable is that an elderly Ingle-Bepler continued her breeding operations and there was certainly a litter or two at the old house in Tottenham during the war years which prompted Gilbert-Leighton Boyce’s mother to use Ingle-Bepler’s stud dogs Rheola Benedict and Rheola Benedickon to promote their quest for a ‘sweet expression’.

In the immediate aftermath of the war the Kennel Club London registered 1,748 Irish Setters in 1946, but with the return to normality the problem of early onset night blindness had to be addressed.  A rarity in the mid-thirties, it was now rife throughout the whole breed. Irrefutably, Ingle-Bepler’s Rheola Irish were heavily implicated and virtually all major kennels in Britain had experienced the condition (later to be terms Progressive Retinal Atrophy rcd 1) to a greater or lesser extent.

Mr. Bill Rasbridge (Watendlath) proposed a policy that did not stipulate the scrapping of ‘tainted’ stock, but of the identification of those animals within it that were ‘clear’ of the condition and could be breed with confidence.  He suggested that ‘clear’ animals could satisfactorily be identified by a single test-mating with an affected (blind) animal from which at least half a dozen pups should be reared to eight or ten weeks (this time period was later extended),  at which time a series of behaviour tests could settle the outcome. With the subsequent involvement of Professor A. Sorsby of the Royal College of Surgeons as a result of his research into human ophthalmology and veterinarian Dr. H.B. Parry of the newly established Canine Research Station of Animal Health opthalmoscopic examinations were introduced.

Ingle-Bepler refused to accept Rasbridge’s “hereditary theories” and “scientific genetic approach” or his “elaborate statistical arguments”.  Indeed she was not alone in her opinion that the “blinding condition” was a “virus, bug or even vitamin deficiency due to poor feeding” in the war years, thus Rasbridge’s proposals were received with disbelief and rejected.

Nevertheless, in 1944 Rasbridge and others publicly stated their views in the weekly newspaper Our Dogs.  Early in 1946 he (before the war Hon. Sec of the subsidiary Irish Setter Field Trial Assoc) with the support of P.H. Holmes, then President of the Irish Setter Association England, ousted Ingle-Bepler from the Committee of the Irish Setter Association, England. With her exit from office as

Hon. Secretary, the Association give Rasbridge its tacit approval to persue the test-mating scheme which was subsequently so successful in controlling the scourge of PRA rcd 1.

Rasbridge had known Ingle-Bepler from the thirties and considered her the ‘doyen of the breed’, but ‘ virtual dictator of the Irish Setter Association, England’ and guilty of maintaining ‘ a blinkered approach, such as she later came to make to Irish Setter breeding’. There was obviously much bitterness between the two which was never breached in her lifetime.

Despite Gilbert Leighton Boyce being a staunch supporter of Rasbridge’s efforts, conceding he became “quite a bore” on the subject, he showed some empathy for Ingle Bepler towards the end of her life.  In frail health and becoming increasingly deaf by 1946 he reported that she could still be seen at the ringside “temperament testing” puppies by waving her ear trumpet around!

This article is compiled and written by Bridget & Mark Simpson, Oakdale Irish Setters, Western Cape, South Africa.  e-mail mss01@telkomsa.net

April 2014.

NOTE: Every effort has been made to cross reference material used in this article to ensure the accuracy.


We particularly express our thanks to The Kennel Union of Southern Africa staff members who continue to assist  with authenticated research material.


The Twentieth Century Dog published in 1904 and edited by Herbert Compton

The World of Dogs – Irish Setters by Gilbert Leighton-Boyce published 1973

This Is The Irish Setter by Joan McDonald Brearley published 1975

Irish Setter by Janice Roberts published in 1978

Newspaper & Periodical:

Our Dogs Newspaper (UK) William Hill Cooper article by Bill Rasbridge 29.09.83

Irish Setter Association, England – Annual Review 1993


The Kennel Club (London) – KC History

Article by W. Bryden 1990 on the Irish Setter Association, England history

Michelle Webster of Hooleys Irish Setter Pedigree Website

Antique reproductions from oocities website