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Flora Macdonald – Legendary Dalmatian Breeder

Ch. Tally Ho Last of Sunstar - 1931

From the archives of The Canine Chronicle, July 2013

By Amy Fernandez

For decades, Morris & Essex reigned as the East Coast’s grandest show. Held at the Dodge estate in Madison, New Jersey, 50,000 spectators gathered to view entries that sometimes exceeded 4,000 dogs. Exhibitors were lured by an irresistible combination of a lush show venue, handpicked judges, and over-the-top silver trophies and cash prizes. However, being able to attend M&E as an exhibitor wasn’t guaranteed. Classes were offered for 20-80 breeds that were personally chosen by Mrs. Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge.

Dalmatians debuted there in 1931. This historic assignment was judged by Dr. T.D. Buck and he was consistent, choosing Tally Ho Teetotaler as Reserve Winners Dog, and Tally Ho Sonia and Tally Ho Nitwit respectively Winners Bitch and Reserve. His BOB decision was the day’s surprise, ten-year-old Ch. Tally Ho Last of Sunstar.

His dam, Tally Ho Make Merry, came from the Penn kennel of breeder John Weeks. Bred to Deevar Dan Sunstar, this 1922 litter was considered one of the breed’s greatest. It yielded the top producing bitch Ch. Tally Ho Fore Thought and top stud Ch. Tally Ho Last of Sunstar. In 1924, he became the breed’s first group winner going on to win the DCA specialty in 1926, 1927, and 1931.

Tally Ho kennel was founded by mining heiress Flora Macdonald in 1911. Her parents exhibited Skyes back in the day when dog show transport involved horse drawn carriages over dirt roads. Home from boarding school, Flora accompanied her father to Westminster that year where he instructed her to choose her breed. A few months later, her first Dalmatian arrived from Harry Peters. Black spotted, Windholme’s Kip can be fairly called a decent starter dog. Flora showed him to Reserve Winners Dog at the Nassau Coliseum show that year and she was hooked for life.

She established Tally Ho kennel at the family’s Flushing, Queens estate. That’s right, Macdonald’s grandfather purchased the ten acre property at 127 Jamaica Road 85 years earlier. Centuries after Manhattan and Brooklyn were densely populated, Queens remained primarily farmland. Except for two LIRR stops added in 1860, interboro transportation was limited to East River ferry service from coastal communities, and unpaved Jamaica Road, the only major thoroughfare connecting Manhattan and eastern Long Island. Miles of unpopulated territory known as Queens Valley extended south and east of Jamaica Road.

Tally Ho enjoyed equal success in Chows, producing the 1938 BIS winner Ch. Tally Ho Black Image Of Storm. He came down from the Clairedale bloodline developed by Flora’s girlhood friend Claire Knapp. Like Flora, Claire grew up showing dogs and horses and her interest in Chows paralleled Flora’s devotion to Dalmatians. That wasn’t their only common link.

In 1925 Flora married Leonard Bonney. Described as a pioneering aviator, he was the real deal. Mentored by Orville Wright, Bonney was devoted to every facet of the fledgling aeronautics industry, especially designing, an interest shared by Claire Knapp’s brother. The Knapp’s vast Mastic Beach estate not only housed Clairedale Kennels. Shortly after marrying Flora, Bonney and Knapp repurposed a WWI air station on the property, and began collaborating on an aeronautical innovation dubbed the Bonney Gull. Project costs eventually exceeded $100,000, roughly $17 million today. Three years after their marriage, Bonney took the Gull for its test flight May 4, 1928. It ascended 50 feet before plummeting, killing him instantly.

Claire also experienced her share of tragedy. Her marriage imploded and a kennel fire destroyed her breeding program in 1933. She recouped, switched to Sealyhams, and imported the 1936 Westminster winner Ch. St. Margaret Magnificent of Clairedale. Her greatest contribution to dogs was her eldest daughter Margaret who started as her kennel manager before founding Pennyworth in 1940.

Equally steely, Flora dedicated herself to Dalmatians, producing a succession of Tally Ho winners throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. She imported her kennel manager and his family from Scotland, but preferred handling her own dogs. A year after Bonney’s accident, Ch. Tally Ho Sonia went BOS at the Dalmatian Club of America to Ch. Tally Ho Last of Sunstar. In 1928 his sister, Ch. Tally Ho Fore Thought, was BOB and in 1930 she won with her import Ch. Gladmore Guardsman. For decades, she regularly imported the best British stock. Among them, Eng. Ch. Midstone Ebony from Walford, was Best of Breed from the classes at the 1933 DCA specialty.

By the 1930s New York’s transit system extended throughout Queens. Flushing morphed from rural to urban. Ch. Tally Ho Sonia, the dog she considered Tally Ho’s finest, was killed by a bus on Jamaica Road. In 1938, Flora relocated Tally Ho to 90 acres in Oyster Bay called Sunstar Hill. Tally Ho continued until her death in 1967, and her stock seeded Dalmatian kennels throughout the country. She served as DCA secretary/treasurer for 50 years and became a popular Poodle, Chow, and Dalmatian judge in America and Britain.

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Posted by on Sep 24 2020. Filed under Dog Show History, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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