PROMINENT EARLY CAT FANCIERS - LADY CLAUD ALEXANDER

Sir Claud’s father, Maj-Gen. Sir Claud Alexander, MP for South Ayrshire (1874-85), gained his baronetcy in 1886 and massively extended Ballochmyle House. His only son and successor, Sir Claud Alexander (1867-1945) was a zoologist – or perhaps we might call him an “animal collector” as this was a popular hobby for those with land - who kept a private zoo/menagerie and lived at Faygate Wood in Sussex. Although part of Scottish landed gentry, Sir Claud never occupied the ancestral home, living instead at Faygate Wood in Sussex, but he kept the estate and the title “Of Ballochmyle.” After a short-lived marriage to Lady Diana Montgomerie (married 1889, divorced 1894), he married Rachel Belasyse Holden in 1896 (Lady Alexander, youngest daughter of Rev. Henry Holden). Sir Claude and Lady Diana Montgomerie had 2 children, Arnulph Claud (1891 – 1892) and Wilfrid Archibald (1892 – 1927). He and Rachel Belasyse Holden had 3 children: Claud (1897 – 1976), Boyd (1902 – 1984) and Wilhelmina (1907 – 1986).

Lady Alexander died in 1944 and Sir Claud died a year later, aged 78, leaving an estate worth almost £58,000 and was succeeded by his grandson. The couple both used the estate name as their prefix when breeding fancy dogs and cats. They were also involved with other livestock and were members of the Amateur Menagerie Club. Far from being just animal collectors, they were interested in the methodical scientific breeding of licve stock and pet stock.

A description of Sir Claud Alexander, Baronet., And Lady Alexander (Of Ballochmyle) is provided by the book "Dog Shows And Doggy People", by Charles H. Lane (1902). Sir Claud was an ardent dog fancier and his wife bred fancy cats.

“It is not often one has the pleasure of coupling husband and wife together as ardent fanciers, but it may be truthfully done in this case, for it would be difficult to say which is the more enthusiastic of the two about their several hobbies, and, in a very extensive experience of fanciers in all ranks of life, I never remember to have met a couple who devote so much time and trouble to the various branches of the Fancy, in which they have taken such a prominent position.

Lady Alexander has, I am pleased to say, become a staunch supporter of the Smooth Collies [. . .] , . Lady Alexander with her cats probably occupies even a higher position in the Cat Fancy than she has yet attained in the Kennel World, as she has spared no trouble or expense to get together a grand train of several varieties of Short-hairs. This is another hobby of mine, in which I have taken some hundreds of prizes at many of the best shows, and I should say that at the present time Lady Alexander owns the best collection of Blues, Tortoiseshells, Red Tabbies, Tortoiseshell-and-white, Black, Manx, and White, Short-haired Cats, in the possession of any one person in the country, and is the founder and a very active supporter of the British Cat Club recently started. I am very pleased to hear this energetic lady has taken up two more of the Short-hairs, the Brown and Silver Tabbies, both of which were in want of patronage and support in influential quarters.

Lady Alexander does not confine herself entirely to four-footed pets, as she also keeps several varieties of poultry, and from an early age was a keen fancier of Black Cochins, some of which variety she still has, and, if I mistake not, has occasionally acted as a judge of some of the breeds of poultry. I do not think she has launched out to any great extent as an exhibitor of birds, except Black Cochins, as I have said; but now that they have secured, at their new residence, Faygate Wood, Sussex, suitable location for this branch of the Fancy, I have no doubt we shall see more of their feathered stock at the shows.

Sir Claud Alexander has been for many years - I think he told me ever since he was a schoolboy - a staunch admirer of one of his national breeds, the Skye Terrier, and has often acted as their judge at leading shows. [. . .] He is an active member of the Committee of the Kennel Club, and a liberal supporter in general of anything relating to dogs and dog shows. Although he goes in for both Drop-eared and Prick-eared Skyes, I think, perhaps, at the present time his team of the latter is rather the stronger of the two.”

"Lady Alexander is another ardent lover of cats, and owns the premier kennel of Russian blues, and white English short- haired cats with square jaws, snub faces, and blue eyes. She also includes Manx cats, and her catteries hold their own. Lady Alexander generously does not compete for club prizes, as she wishes to encourage the fancy of short-hairs, which have lost place in the desire of so many cat lovers to own and breed long-coated cats." – Boudoir Magazine, 1904

Sir Claud was also a champion of the British White cattle, establishing a herd at Faygate in 1908 and helping to conserve this breed. Sir Claud Alexander wrote recommending the breed, in the Amateur Menagerie Club Year Book 1912 and several years later hisherd set milking records for the breed. He had also bred Indian oxen and observedthe development of their fatty humps. In 1907 he had acquired, studied and bred fat-rumped sheep, and crossed them with ordinary sheep. It appears he was keen to breed, exhibit and improve livestock through scientific breeding.

One notable achievement of Lord and Lady Alexander were their tortoiseshell tomcats. Something odd was happening in their pedigree lines, for they bred no fewer than five male tortoiseshell/tortie-and-white males, one of which (Samson) sired many kittens. Once again, he provided breeding information to early researchers into cat genetics. There are photos of some of these cats and they are indeed tortoiseshell. According to "The Press" (a New Zealand paper) of 8th October, 1934, "The rarest cats in Great Britain, are tortoiseshell males. There are only five of them in the country. Sir Claud Alexander, the cat breeder, has made a "corner" in them. They are his hobby. In the last 35 years there have been 20 tortoiseshell males. Sir Claud has had 10 of them. Scientific research into the mystery of them has become so engrossing that he has handed over all his other show cats to his wife and concentrates on these four." (one his five tortie males did not survive to breed.)

 

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