Rosemary Lewis (Knightellington Salukis)
18.11.1941 – 24.7.2014
The Saluki world is sadder and poorer for the loss of Rosie Lewis, one of its best known and most esteemed figures at the relatively young age of 72. Quite simply, Rosie was a one-off, an original, and she will be hugely missed by those who had the privilege to know and love her.
Rosie was the third generation of the famous Knightellington dynasty- the only true Saluki dynasty in Britain and probably anywhere in the world outside of the Middle East- established by her maternal grandmother Lady Gardner and continued by her late mother Helen Baker, she inherited their love of dogs in general and Salukis in particular, and their love of the countryside. Rosie was quintessentially a countrywoman who often described her beloved
Salukis as farm dogs which probably horrified many Salukiphiles of a more delicate disposition but Rosie’s Salukis were first and foremost family and farm dogs, sharing their lives with kids, sheep, ponies and ornamental wildfowl. They accompanied Rosie everywhere, usually in a beaten up old van, and were a well known sight in nearby villages, often tied outside a shop waiting patiently for her to emerge, and anyone who knew Rosie will know that these were not dress or fancy goods shops because Rosie had little or no time for such trifles and almost no interest in them. Her real interests – her passions – lay elsewhere.
She inherited her love of open field coursing from her mother and grandmother and was a committed member of the
Countryside Alliance, wholeheartedly opposed to the ban on coursing with dogs, travelling to London to take part in the demonstrations against the introduction of the bill. However, Rosie didn’t allow this change in the law to prevent her involvement in coursing and she travelled twice to the south of Spain to pursue this activity.
Like her mother and grandmother before her, Rosie took pride in the fact that all her Salukis were dual purpose,
demonstrating their ability on the coursing field and also winning in the show ring. She bred only infrequently and usually to keep the bloodline going, placing puppies with owners who became part of the extended Knightellington family world wide. Rosie also judged Salukis throughout the world, including at Crufts, and sadly was unable to fulfil her last appointment in Canada this year.
Rosie also gave back to the Saluki community in many ways, she was Saluki Welfare Warden for many years, taking in and re-homing Salukis in need. She also hosted at her home the annual rally in aid of the Saluki Welfare Fund for well over twenty years, raising in the process many thousands of pounds. Latterly, she was Trophy Steward for the Northern Saluki Club, a thankless task few are willing to undertake but which Rosie undertook with great efficiency. Despite her love of Salukis and Saluki people, with whom she established an enormous world wide network of friends, Rosie’s own family was her major passion. She and husband Chris headed up a tightly knit team with their children Juliet, James and Jessica, and grandchildren, being hugely involved with them. Rosie was particularly proud and delighted that Jessica, the youngest, developed her interest in Salukis after a childhood flirtation with long haired Dachshunds as embodied in Sebastian. Jess not only shared Rosie’s interest in showing in recent years but also continued Rosie’s tradition of active involvement in breed clubs, progressing from Northern Saluki Club committee member and caterer to Treasurer and in Rosie’s last email to me she proudly complimented Jess on how well she had managed to fulfil the role of both Treasurer at this year’s NSC Championship Show in April but also stand in as Trophy Steward in Rosie’s absence through illness.
With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that Rosie’s absence from the NSC show was the first indication that she was
seriously ill. That this could be the case was inconceivable to everyone who knew her. She was a force of nature, always on the go, always working whether with the dogs, the sheep, the ducks or raising money for charitable causes such as the local church where she was a regular and committed worshipper.
Initially, and even when hospitalised, Rosie dismissed her illness as gastritis, encouraged in this belief by the medics
treating her, but it very soon became clear that it was something much more sinister. Rosie dealt with the devastating
prognosis she received as she dealt with everything in her life, head on and courageously. She wanted no sympathy for herself, only continued support for Chris and family. She didn’t want people to shun her but to stay in touch and given her selfless and tireless giving to others, whether family, friends, Salukis, charities or church, this wish was granted. In her final weeks and days, her great friend Carole Tipler dealt with the massive correspondence from friends around the world and also helped Rosie to achieve one of her goals, the completion of her Knightellington archive, a history of a great family and its involvement with Salukis.
David Hartley took the service for Rosie:
We take up the story of this amazing woman in the mid 1950’s when Rosie left school with the usual bunch of ‘O’ Levels, but not considering it worth continuing in Further Education. Instead she went to Madrid and rode horses with a friend of her mother’s but said she didn’t learn much Spanish. However she was enrolled in a “Residentia” run by nuns for girls who were preparing for university and had 2 great years with a lovely bunch of friends before going off to Uni in Spain where she told me she “bombed around in a bashed up VW.”
Called back to England by Helen, her mother, who thought she should settle down and get a proper job Rosie, enrolled in Mrs Hosters secretarial school in London which she hated but living with a cousin in mews in Sloan square was good and amazingly our dress down Rosie was one of the original Sloan Rangers. As Chris was at his Vet. College at the same time their paths regularly crossed again. After graduating Rosie got a job in the City. She described the work as “dreary” so with typical Rosie “make up your mind and do it” she packed it in after 6 months and went over to Greece working for a film producer. During this period Rosie travelled around Egypt, Turkey and Greece and was fortunate enough to sail down the Nile in an Egyptian House boat filming the removal of temples to higher ground. She also saw Abu Simbel and Nefertiti in their original sites. And in her own words “Acquired a husband and 2 wonderful children.” Sadly Rosie’s first husband Alfred died and she was widowed in 1967 – 3 days after Juliet’s birth. Their eldest son Jonathan was adopted by a lovely couple in Athens. The family gave tremendous support but we can only imagine what it was like to be on her own with a tiny baby. Typically Rosie made the best of the situation and proceeded to lead a peripatetic life – selling film related stuff and working in a journalistic capacity for 3 New York papers including the Journal of Commerce and Travel Magazine. Her work making her and Juliet travel regularly between Athens, Ireland and the UK. Rosie was offered a job as PR for Bank of Greece and Cyprus but in her words – took Chris instead. Chris remembers that he got a telegram saying “You have 24 hours to decide if we are to marry or I shall take job in Cyprus, incidentally it will mean marrying me and my dog.” Absolute classic Rosie! Chris says she did not of course add Juliet as well, that was a given that she would be an immediate daughter to us both. When they were married Rosie arrived with 3 salukis Black Jack, Rualla (Puds) and Lanka (a present to Chris from his mother–in-Law.) to join Suki who had the honour of being the only dog to be lost and found alive in Athens!
The newlyweds moved to the sheep populated Lake District – very much less crowded then – with the 4 hounds only one of which was broken to stock. The vet surgery they set up was initially in the house in Rydal but eventually Chris and Rosie bought a property in Ambleside. The children arrived, James in 1972 and Jessica in 1974. At that time Rosie rode to the surgery on a Fell pony called Beauty hitching her up outside cowboy style then it was off riding to bank the week’s takings. When the road became one way Rosie still rode Beauty down the way she always had! Rosie’s PR skills were used to the maximum in the practice both with general clients and the tiny awkward squad. This was a very happy time for the family but the Lakes became overcrowded and Chris needed a new challenge and they moved to Suffolk to join a small veterinary pharmaceutical company with NZ connections. Rosie never settled in Suffolk and looked back on those years with little joy. When the company merged in 1985 they were able to move to Fields Farm which Rosie loved on sight and the 19 years in Audlem with its friendly locals held many happy memories for her.
Many of you will know of Rosie’s dedication to the Saluki breed and its infrastructure. She was the third generation of the Knightellington Saluki dynasty, a championship show judge in the UK and throughout the world. She judged Crufts, was the Cup Steward and Committee member for NSC, and twice at separate times the Saluki Welfare Warden for the North of the UK –a very demanding job involving rescuing, taking in and rehoming many many Salukis over the years and bringing her into contact with hundreds of folks. Fields Farm was the location for annual Rally in aid of SWF and she raised many thousands of pounds for rescue.
Like her mother and grandmother before her Rosie was very proud that her Knightellingtons were dual purpose and when it was legal she was very involved in the working (that is the coursing) side of salukis and on coursing days would leave Rydal at 4.30 with Chris two young children and up to 3 dogs plus picnic in a mini traveller. Since the ban the Lewis’s have coursed in Spain twice. However Rosie Lewis was not just a Saluki lady, she had a wide knowledge of the care and confirmation of other animals too, particularly horses, poultry, and sheep and a very sensible balanced view of their relationship with mankind. Rosie was an active member of the Countryside Alliance and no “bunny hugger” but a genuine animal lover with a country woman’s realistic view of the predator prey relationship and food production.
Rosie and Chris liked to look forward to the unexpected and for holidays went tiger watching in India, visited the Falklands and made many memorable trips to New Zealand.
Rosie was a lady of contrasts. Well – bred herself she could communicate with everyone whatever their status or background. Formidable and not one to suffer fools gladly she was also the kindest and most considerate of folks – it was not only stray dogs she took in, it was people in need as well. Highly intelligent and knowledgeable she could correct you and put you right without diminishing you in any way. Forthright in her opinions and not one to back down in conflict she would be upset if she felt anything she said or did was taken personally by those who didn’t share her particular viewpoint. She once told me she was not a good judge of character but the legion of friends she made throughout the world were drawn to her character and were and are proud of their association with her. Rosie was unique ,a one off, an amazing woman full of energy, enthusiasm, and efficiency for her passions and causes which included her charities. Rosie loved her dogs and other animals but above all her family. Chris, Juliet, James and Jessica and the grandchildren in whom she delighted and who she involved closely in her life and hobbies.
Rosie died in her Christian faith secure in the knowledge that there would be a life after this one and she would see her mummy and those family and friends gone before.
Rosie Lewis – A Memorial Celebration
On Saturday 9th August a large crowd of people descended on the village of Adderley in Shropshire for the memorial service to Rosie Lewis, or as the order of service called it “A celebration of both Rosie’s life and of the Countryside”. The sun shone and St Peter’s Church, set nicely back from the road, was decorated with seasonal flower arrangements both inside and out. Even the congregation was colourful (at Rosie’s request), every available seat taken; old ,young, friends and family, all had come to pay their respects. There was a very good turnout from the saluki community, representing both of the saluki clubs, saluki rescue and indeed the coursing section, when there was still coursing, with some travelling all the way up from the London area.
Rosie had planned the order of service and insisted that it was not to be morbid or a eulogy on her life. Instead she asked her cousin, Joe, to talk about her childhood home of Spencers, which he duly did with lots of humour and affection. It certainly lightened the mood in the church in a way that I think Rosie would have approved of, and brought back memories of happier times. Of course there was mention of her mother Helen Baker, who many of us remember, and the salukis who have been so much a part of their lives.
Following Joe’s appreciation the Northern Saluki Club chairman David Hartley also talked about Rosie’s life as part of the saluki community; her love of coursing and all she did for saluki rescue. There were hymns and prayers and two poems but the end of the service was a very fitting blast of the hunting horn. Donations made as people left the church were to be divided between Motor Neurone and Blind Veterans.
Afterwards we were all invited back to Fields Farm, including some salukis who had travelled with their owners, and who were allowed to roam around the garden with the resident salukis. All the salukis, and there were quite a few, behaved beautifully; I didn’t see any stealing food,( although one or two did look) and not a cross word between them. There was a marquee serving excellent refreshments and tables were set up around the garden; an ideal setting to reflect on the day and join like minded people in paying their respects to Rosie and offering support to Chris & Jessica, and the rest of the family. Rest in Peace Rosie, we’ll miss you.