The Origin of the Gloster Fancy Canary

Cage and Aviary Birds

21st May 1970.

 

In late July 2011 a letter appeared in C & A Birds from a lady indicating that her brother had past issues of the magazine if anyone would like them. She gave a telephone number for her brother in South Shields, Tyneside. I rang the number and spoke to a Mr Gorman and we arranged to meet. He was in his seventies and the owner of a pet shop in South Shields and his father had kept Roller Canaries up to about 1975.  He said that I could take as many copies of C & A Birds that I could carry as he had copies from the 1920s onwards. I duly scoured the boxes for those issues that would be of importance to me and any with relevant information on Gloster Fancies.

Copies I was looking for were the ones with colour plates from the late sixties to the early seventies and those around 1926. I could not find the earlier copies in the boxes I looked in but those from the late fifties came readily to hand. I am talking hundreds and hundreds of issues so I packed a few hundred and said my good byes. That evening I scattered the issues on the lawn and dated them picking out the ones important to me.

Some great issues in perfect condition with colour plates and articles.

 

The colour plates that I was looking for were the pair of Glosters and the yellow cinnamon border cock of Bruce Suttons. Both copies I found but the Gloster plate was missing. Never mind I still had my original Gloster plate, but my plate of the cinnamon cock was faded due to being framed in my bird room over many years. But yes it was there the original plate from the 2 May 1968 issue that was one of my inspirations. Bruce Sutton’s article and plate took the reader back to the Nationals of the forties, fifties and sixties. Heady stuff for an impressionable young canary fancier.

 

But it is the 21 May 1970 article that gives us an insight to the early days of the Gloster Fancy. A meeting was arranged by Brian Byles, a future C & A Birds editor, with Mr Widdows, Mr Lockstone and Mr A, Phillips, the then secretary of the Gloster Fancy Canary Club, at the Cheltenham home of Mr Widdows. Also in attendance was Mr Gerry Wolfendale who had made the journey from his Chalfont St. Peter home for this April meeting with the afore mentioned. Gerry was an exiled North Easterner and I had many conversations with him at the Nationals held in Birmingham when he would man the Canary Council stand. Gerry never forgot his roots and he loved to talk about the Gloster canary and its development.

 

I will try and give an abridged version of the article which takes us back to the twenties / thirties and Mrs Rogerson, Albert William Smith, A. E. Widdows and A. (Bert) E. Lockstone.

 

Mrs. Rogerson was a wealthy Cheltenham landowner who had ranges of aviaries devoted to the breeding of birds that tended to the diminutive. It was this interest that led her to breed the Gloster.  An article written by J. H. Madagan towards the end of the Second World War states that Mrs Rogerson first conceived the idea of producing a new breed of canary during the 1914 – 1918 war. Her inspiration was a breed of birds called “Cornubians” raised by a Mr Luke. These were produced from very small Borders but they made little headway and soon died out.

 

 Mr Madagan (a greatly esteemed Border Fancier from Cheltenham) continues: “Many fanciers and others imagine that the Gloster was produced from crested Rollers, but this was not the case. Mrs Rogerson purchased a couple of pairs of small Norwich Crests and paired these to the smallest Borders Fancies she could get. The Cheltenham CBS held an open show at the Rotunda Tavern Cheltenham, and at this show was staged the finest Norwich Crests in the country; beating the Palace show for numbers. The winning stud came from Exeter and it was from there that Mrs Rogerson laid the foundation on which to build the Gloster Fancy. It took her four years to produce her Ideal.”

 

The next thing was to get them on the show bench. Mrs. Rogerson exhibited her two crests at the 1925 Crystal Palace show where A. W. Smith was the show manager. In his book the Gloster Fancy Canary Mr Smith outlines the story of that day. Mr Smith goes on to relate how Mrs Rogerson visited the show and made herself known to him. He introduced her to Mr John McLay, a renowned Crest fancier from Scotland, who said he would like to help Mrs Rogerson all he could. However it is here that Mr Smith and Mr Madagan differ. For Mr Smith states that it was indeed from “the smallest of Rollers and Borders that she produced her sweet little specimens.” A. W. Smith was responsible for giving the Gloster its name and for bringing in the terms Corona and Consort. He also drew up the scale of points. It is indicative of the part this fancier played in the establishment of the Gloster that he was elected president of the Gloster Fancy Canary Club in 1932. (In 1970 he was still a vice-president) 

 

The first patronage show of the GFCC took place at the Drill Hall, North Street, Cheltenham on November 4-5 1936. It attracted 41 entries in six classes. Both Mr Widdows and Mr Lockstone remembered this event. The schedule/catalogue names the first Gloster exhibitors – J.W. Youldon, B. Powers, H. Snow, H. Bradley, A. E. Lockstone, F. Hyett, Madagan & Bowd and A. E. Widdows. It included classes for pairs. The first Gloster FCC rule book was issued to members in 1932 with the subscription set at 3s 6d. (17p) Mr Lockstone still has the original show cage designed by Mrs Rogerson – which he showed to those present with a certain amount of pleasure. Until 1940 the show cages were painted in a variety of colours. “These looked horrible” Mr Lockstone said. It was left to him to select a standard colour. He chose Brolac eau de nil which was still in use in 1970.

 

Mr Widdows told Mr Byles how he first became interested in Glosters. He was a postman and his duties took him to Mrs Rogerson’s house. That is how he first met her and consequently became interested in the “wee canary”. He joined the Gloster Fancy Canary Club soon after it was formed and became secretary in 1938. He was also responsible for maintaining interest in the breed during the war years by guaranteeing prize money at patronage shows. It was he who called a meeting at the end of the war and made the club active again. Mr Widdows stayed as secretary until 1954 when a bout of ill health forced him to relinquish office.

 

Both Mr Widdows and Mr Lockstone say the “Gloster should be to the diminutive with the length not more than 4 3/4 inches. Today’s Glosters are hollowed backed, lack rise on the shoulders and show too much beak”. (That cannot be said of the present day Gloster Fancy which is well filled in and round with rise over the back and

shoulders.)  

 

A snippet from a forty year old C & A Birds which gives us an insight into the early years of the Gloster Fancy Canary. Many of our senior fanciers will still remember those mentioned in the article and it is by others endeavours that we today enjoy a wonderful canary.

 

This interview and subsequent article by Mr Byles in 1970 gives us an insight into the early years of the development of the Gloster Fancy. Further information can be sourced by reading Mr Smiths book The Gloster Fancy Canary published 1958. Also John Cross’ The Gloster Fancy Canary published 1978 giving useful detail on the breeding of the variety. Later publications by Nick Barrett / Chris Blackwell in 1990 and again in 2009 by Nick & Annalain Barrett are the definitive reading for the enthusiast.  These books are generally available at Amazon.co.uk. Worth the time and money.  

 Norman Wallace

12 November 2011

 

CANARY HISTORY

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