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Obituary: Ann Argyle

Ann Norah Newton, breeder, exhibitor and judge of dogs: born Littleover, Derbyshire 4 March 1923; married 1951 Michael Argyle (three daughters); died Nottinghamshire 11 February 1994.

WHEN as a girl of 13 Ann Argyle first showed a dog, she could never have dreamed that she would become a member of dogdom's establishment and the Kennel Club's decision-making General Committee.

She was born Ann Newton in 1923, the daughter of Charles Newton, owner of an electrical engineering firm, at Littleover, Derbyshire, a village owned by her maternal grandfather, who was in heavy engineering. In her early life, horses were of more importance to her than dogs. She became involved with dogs by chance. She had gone to a show at Newark and was watching the judging when someone suggested that if she had time to sit she had time to show. She bought a bitch and for the remaining 34 years of her life was absorbed by the sport.

Although Ann handled a dog in the show-ring for the first time in 1936, her mother, a horse-racing enthusiast, was horrified at the thought of dog-showing. Ann became a keen show jumper and point-to-pointer. She rode at Olympia when the Royal International Horse Show was there and was placed in the children's classes. She won around 100 events.

In the early days of the Second World War she rode out as a 'lad' at the stables of Capt Cecil Boyd- Rochfort; among the racehorses she rode was a Derby runner and a winner of the St Leger. Later she went to Lambourn to work schooling over fences for Reg Hobbs.

She spent four years in the Women's Land Army, in Berkshire, and then the Midlands. After the war there were holidays on the French Riviera until in 1951 she married Major Michael Argyle, who later took silk and sat at the Old Bailey for 20 years.

Together they became interested in dogs, though they did not get involved in serious showing immediately. When that happened she registered the affix 'Harque' with the Kennel Club and made it world- famous through her whippets.

Her best-known whippet was Harque the Lark, whose many successes included best in show at two all-breed general championship shows. Then, as she put it, 'I went into deerhounds'. She also owned beagles, wirehaired dachshunds and border terriers. Invitations to judge followed and her career changed course.

She judged nothing but whippets for three years and then the invitations came for other breeds, until eventually she was awarding Kennel Club challenge certificates in five of the six recognised groups, the exception being gundogs. Eventually she was judging best in shows at leading dog events, the high- point of her career coming in 1992 when she judged best in show at Crufts. Her choice, the whippet Pencloe Dutch Gold.

Within months of this Ann Argyle underwent major surgery, but as soon as she was able she was back with her dogs. She was not well enough to attend the Ladies Kennel Association show, of which she was a vice-president, in December, but her determination to judge another of the country's top shows, the Pup of the Year finals in the City of London, brought her back in the public eye in January this year. That was her last judging appointment.