IRISH GREYHOUNDS AND WOLFDOGS OF THE PAST
Three historical Albums collected and compiled by
Phyllis & Delphis Gardner
These three albums were put into one album and
by Anthony Killykeen-Doyle
Phyllis Gardner and her younger sister, Delphis were never ordinary. Daughters of the notes English archaeologist Arthur Gardner, and the Irish Lady Mary Gardner, (of the Mac Dermotts of Coolavin) they began their exceptional lives as the 19th century drew to a close. They grew up speaking classical Greek around the house, steeped in the mythologies and histories of the ancient world. They wrote poetry and fictional stories, as well as scripting and producing their own plays. They studied art seriously; drawing, painting and sculpting innumerable beautiful works of art, as well as creating wonderfully decorated functional pieces, jewelry and theatrical costumes. The sisters operated their own fine press. The Asphodel Press, producing fabulous wood-cut prints, broad sheets, cards and small books. Although of English Nationality by birth, the Gardners wholeheartedly embraced the Celtic Revival Movement of their mother’s native Ireland.
Fortunately, for Irish Wolfhound fanciers everywhere, they often turned their myriad of talents to projects relating to the breed. Wolfhounds were the theme of countless pieces of art produced by them, and of incalculable significance for the serious student of the breed. Phyllis and Delphis dedicated their tremendous scholarly abilities to researching and documenting the history of our beloved hounds. Throughout their lives, they tirelessly searching out the pieces of the puzzle needed to assemble the jigsaw that is the history of the Irish Wolfhound. They sought artifacts depicting the hounds in ancient time, documentary evidence of all kinds, old pedigrees and photographs. They made sketches of sculptures, paintings, engravings and old photos from around the world. They then incorporated this wealth of information into various projects to publish what they had learned for the benefit of all who loved Irish Wolfhounds. This book deals with one of those projects.
Over the years, the Gardners had collected many photographs relating to the Irish Wolfhound. Phyllis had published her landmark book on the breed, “The Irish Wolfhound: A short historical Sketch” in 1931. She had elected to illustrate her work using woodcuts carved by the sisters themselves. It was decision that created a truly brilliant and singular breed book. It also left Phyllis and Delphis with a growing collection of photographs, which they wanted to share with other Wolfhound Enthusiasts through publication. To accomplish this, they would have to create their next project.
The plan producing the “Gardner Albums”, as this project would become known, was as ingenious as it was simple and practical. The original goal was to make photographs depicting evidence of the existence of the Irish Wolfhound before its revival, available for purchase, as inexpensively as possible, to fanciers of the breed. To have the book produced by a large commercial publishing house would entail a large, up-front, outlay of cash by Gardners. Without the guarantee of sale to recoup their money once the printers were finished, this was probably not an attractive option for the modest-living sisters, as the expense would have been great. So they devised a method by which they could produce Albums entirely by themselves. It would avoid big start-up costs, and give them the flexibility to produce Albums as the orders came in – thus avoiding money tied up in inventory. Instead of paying a printer to typeset the text of the Albums for printing, the Gardners typed it out on their own typewriter. The page was trimmed and placed next to the photograph that is described, and the two were photographed together. The result was a single negative which possessed both the image of the photo and the d descriptive text. When developed in the Gardner’s own darkroom, the negative produced a photo, witch, with both pictures and text, constituted what would become a page of the Album when passed down on a heavyweight paper. Entire pages of typed text were photographed alone without any pictures. The resulting photo, when pasted down on the same paper, created the introductory pages of the Albums. The sisters had effectively eliminated all ink from project, and therefore the need for printers, presses, and the ensuing costs. The pages of the Album were then bound together in a loose-leaf, which in typical Gardner style, cleverly and economically accomplished more than one goal. First, and most importantly, it made the need for expensive binding done by a commercial printer unnecessary. The loose-leaf binders that Phyllis wanted to use could purchased over-the counter relatively inexpensively from a stationary store as needed – once again eliminating idle inventory. Additionally, and undoubtedly of great appeal to the ever-fertile minds of the sisters was the possibility of adding more pages to the Albums in the future as they continued their research and uncovered new subjects worthy of inclusion. In this way, the project was infinitely expandable and always up to date. Simply ingenious
The plan for the Albums was in place. Phyllis announced her idea in “Dog World” with an eye towards feeling out potential interest in the project. Everything seemed ready for the sisters to proceed. Unfortunately for the Albums however, they had to be temporarily pushed to the back burner, as the Gardner’s were faced with other exiting opportunities. Malcom Graham, son of Captain Graham, presents his father’s papers, including his father’s stud book, to the Irish Wolfhound Society. It was Malcom’s wish “that father’s book should be made available to all breeders who upheld my father’s type of Irish Wolfhound”. Phyllis undertook the monumental and dizzying task of editing Graham’s stud book for publication by the Society. Later she did yeoman’s work, diligently editing the combined volumes of Father Hogan’s book and Captain Graham’s monograph on the breed for the Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland She not only organized the works for publication, she contributed her own research, correcting, updating and enriching the volumes. Additionally, both sisters were frequent contributors to dog newspapers, magazines and yearbooks, further snapping up their already limited time. The publication of the Albums simply hat to be postponed. Then tragedy struck. Phyllis Gardner passed away in 1939 at the too-young age of 48. It would prove to be an incalculable loss, not only to the project, but also to Irish Wolfhound fanciers the world over and to the very breed itself.
Fortunately for all concerned, Phyllis’s sister Delphis, was able to carry on with her work. For the next twenty years, until her own death, Delphis would proceed alone with the Gardner’s unfinished projects. Struggling financially, Delphis labored for years, often by candlelight, to complete the mammoth job of editing Captain Graham’s Stud Book, which had been begun by her sister. Delphis now worked to finish the project for publication by Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland, which received the stud book after the Irish Wolfhound Society was dissolved. She also continued to work on the Albums and was able to make updates and corrections to the original version, using the gold mine of information she acquired while editing Graham’s stud book. Likewise, the stud book benefited from the addition of many drawings and photographs that had been collected for use in the Album project. Throughout this time, Delphis also wrote articles for numerous publications and was a committee member of the Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland.
The Graham Stud Book was finally published in 1959. Tragically, however, Delphis was not to see it print. In an unimaginably cruel twist of faith, she died of pneumonia contracted after she had rode her bicycle from her home in Curradoe to Swords, north of Dublin, a distance of some 100 miles, to deliver the manuscript for publication. She did not have enough money to ride the train. She was 59 years old, an elegant and dignified lady to the end. Sadly, Delphis, like he sister, Phyllis had passed away before she was able to complete her work on the Gardner Albums.
The Album project would lay dormant for the next forty years. It had always been known by a fortunate few who had manage to obtain one of the original copies produced by the sisters. However, it never attained the wide distribution that had been the dream of the Gardners, nor had their updated and corrected version ever been released. Fortunately through the very kind generosity of Miss Elizabeth C. Murphy, the Gardners Album project has finally been published, its information available to all interested fanciers of the Irish Wolfhound – just as the Gradners has wished.
Miss Murphy has graciously reproduced her own personal set of the Gardner Albums for publication by the Irish Wolfhound of Ireland, as a very special Millennium project. It seems fitting that the club for whom the Gardners worked so hard can now bring this book to fruition on their behalf, so long after their passing.
Now a brief explanation of this reproduction is in order. As the original format itself is historically significant, every effort has been made to remain as true to it as possible. Unfortunately, it was for feasible to replicate this format exactly. The very aspects of the project that made if flexible and cost effective for the Gardners are incompatible with modern publishing. So the Gardners ring binder has been replaced with modern binding. Also it has been hoped to reproduce each individual album page with its typewritten text, just as it appeared when first created by the sisters. Regrettably for technical reasons, the text has had to be reset and placed next to the photo it describes. However, the text is exactly as it was when first published by Phyllis. Many additions and corrections which were made by Delphis after her sister’s death, but never incorporated into a finished album page, they been added as additional text followed by the initials D.G. In this way, we can document the evolution of the project as additional information became available to the sisters. Any further amendment, such as dates or pedigrees information tat was added by me to complete this project will follow in brackets, along with my initials A.K.D
The Gardners left behind them a tremendous legacy of art, books, writings and lest we forget, the hounds themselves. The fabulous Coolafin hounds live on through their descendant’s. They come down to us today principally through the great Ballykelly hounds of Sheelagh Seale, whose foundation bitch, Avoca of Coolafin, was the cornerstone on which that amazing kennel was built. It is my ,most sincere wish that this book, at last in the wide distribution that is has always deserve, will join that rich legacy of Gardner creations and will stand as another lasting monument to the genius of Phyllis and Delphis Gardner.