Robert (Rob) Sansom – Byermoor Cavaliers

Rob Sansom

Sheena Maclaine writes:

Not often lost for words but struggling to find the right ones. Without wearing my official hat and writing just as Sheena – I lost a friend of 30+ years, just out of the blue and it felt without warning. Rob to me was someone that I always felt comfortable with and could spend lots of time sharing his warmth and mischievous tales over a few glasses of wine or G&T invariably to unwind after a busy show weekend. I could not just let go without saying goodbye and the journey to Newcastle on Friday was emotional.

Wearing my Chairman’s hat I had worked with Rob on and off the Committee. When Rob was unable to make an event he was always generous in his support ensuring extra special prizes were on offer. In September 2018 the Cavalier Club was told that the Kennel Club’s Academy required each breed to produce a film for prospective judges to learn more about the breed – its history, interpretation of the breed standard and movement. The film was going to cost in the region of £2000 for each breed and if we were selected as one of the early films to be made there would not be a cost. This film was to remain in use for the next 20 years.

Rob’s partner, Ernie Patterson, had already worked on the film for the Dalmatian and one of the Kennel Club team approached Rob at Belfast Show to see if he was interested. Poor Rob had no idea how much work would be required and he delivered his outline plan to Ernie, Jill Peak & Diane Spavin whilst relaxing on holiday. They were quick to let him know that there was a lot more to be done!

Rob soon realised he needed some help and brought his notes and some photos down to me in Essex and we went into my firm’s office on a weekend and put it into a Powerpoint presentation. I can’t begin to tell you how many times the presentation went back & forth to the Kennel Club. Rob had found wonderful "old masters" depicting spaniels of Cavalier type going back to King Charles I and on to include the Marlborough Blenheim spaniels. Every single picture had to have copyright use agreed – not easy for those hanging in galleries and subsequently many ended up on the cutting room floor!

Rob’s passion for the breed and breed type that he loved I am sure will shine through in this film. He chose dogs of each colour for the movement section and Liz O’Brien’s Champion, Valentyne the Irish Tenor, as his "hands–on" table dog. It was only 3 weeks ago that we learned the film was complete and its release imminent. I believe that it will be a fitting tribute to a big personality that is going to be missed by so many.

Sheena Maclaine
Elaine Berwick writes:

The last ten days have been a surreal time for many of us and until now the thought of describing Rob in the past tense was too much to bear but I know he will be looking down not happy with me and rightly so if I didn’t acknowledge his devastating passing in writing.

If I was asked to describe Rob in three words it would be kind, funny and of course brotherly. A number of years ago somebody said that we looked alike and that was that, he became my older brother (which of course he hated!) and my mum became his ‘mammy’. He started the story that when I was born he was sent ‘back up north’ where my mum’s family had come from to be looked after by relatives. We had many a giggle when his stories would be exaggerated. My mum has a photo of when she judged in Northern Ireland and he was in it, standing on the bookcase outside her bedroom door. He said that was so she would see him last thing at night before going to bed and give him a good night kiss.

Two years ago when mum and dad celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary with an afternoon tea I invited him, but then said I realised it was a long way for him to come for an afternoon tea, he said immediately ‘try holding it without me’ and arrived of course with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot under his arm.

His Byermoor cavaliers are beautiful examples of the breed and as a good line should be, like peas in a pod generation after generation. I know he loved campaigning Ronan while he was here as he wanted to do Liz proud, which I know he did in abundance.

He was always at the end of the phone and incredibly supportive to me when I was Chairman of the Cavalier Club and he was a Committee Member, a role in which he knew I struggled. If it was an important concern he would talk me through it, if it was somebody out to cause mischief he would tell me to tell them to bugger off!

Three weeks ago we should have been in Prague judging together and he suggested we go early so he could show me the sights. We were both excited about the trip but of course sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Rob was a well respected judge around the world and I know he loved judging. His last appointment in the breed was judging bitches at the Cavalier Club Show last March an appointment he was thrilled to receive, we went out for dinner the night before, he was so excited and of course it had meant another new snazzy suit!

To all who loved Rob I offer my deepest sympathy.

God bless and sleep well my dear friend.

Elaine Berwick
Kirstie McMurray writes:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rob Sansom. It has taken me a long time to sit down at my keyboard to type these words as I and many others try and come to terms with this devastating and untimely loss.

My first memory of Rob was meeting him at a Scottish Cavalier Open Show in 1989. He was in attendance with his then wife Jill with their first show dog called Maibee A Buccaneer, a son of Maibee a Reprint, who they got from Shealagh Waters. This dog sparked Rob’s long and successful involvement in the breed and also created a great friend and mentor in Shealagh.

Rob never had a large kennel of dogs but what he brought out was consistent and quality and had the great success making up 7 champions. He was always a great supporter of Scottish Cavalier events and won some top honours with the following dogs at our shows:

Championship Shows
1996 & 1997 Bitch CC with Ch Byermoor Beesnees
2011 Bitch CC and Best In Show with Ch Byermoor Queens Maid
2018 Dog CC with Ch Valentyne the Irish Tenor
2019 Bitch CC and Best in Show with Ch Byermoor the Empress

Open Shows
1997 and 1997 Best in Show with Byermoor Rainman
2004 Best in Show with Byermoor Queens English

What can you say about Rob, he was life and soul of the party always had a cheeky grin on his face, a glint in his eye and often a drink in his hand. He radiated fun and happiness and was so well known to many dog show exhibitors and had a great reputation as a fair and honest judge. This gained him many appointments in the UK and abroad judging both Cavaliers and other breeds, culminating in judging the Cavalier Club show in March this year. He also had the accolade of judging at Crufts 3 times, awarding CC’s to the following breeds – Cavaliers, Dalmatians and this year French Bulldogs.

I, as many people did, counted Rob as a friend with whom we have shared many a happy time and I always valued his opinion both in and out the ring. My lasting memory of him will be the run up to my judging the breed at Crufts this year, the constant messages about outfits, the entry and him taking care of myself, my Co-Judge Sandra, and our husbands the night before the show. Rob also made sure he escorted us to the judges reception and the ring. For me this epitomises what a kind caring person he was, a true gentleman and a real friend.

I know many people will be searching for answers but we all need to focus on is the joy and happiness that Rob brought to all our lives.

The world of Cavaliers and indeed Dog Showing will never be the same now that Rob is no longer with us. My condolences go out to Ernie and Rob’s family at this very sad time.

Kirstie McMurray
Chairman, Scottish Cavalier K C S Club

Michael Levy writes:

I first met Rob in Barnsley at the Northern Club Ch show some thirty years ago. We were very much novices back then but Rob was interested in the bitch we were showing and her lines. I remember him being very encouraging and telling us we had gotten off to a good start with our girl which at the time was really uplifting. I soon knew this positive approach was typical of Rob which made him so personable and likeable to be around. From then on, we chatted at every show and became good friends.

The ring was an important part of our hobby of course but the socialising was too and Rob was always at the heart of it. His characteristic cheeky humour made him great company and very popular with everyone. Rob could easily lead me astray with his other pastime, having a drink! I don’t think I can blame him for my current habits but we certainly became akin on this and we had some great times while enjoying a G&T. When I visited his home on occasions, I cannot ever recall leaving without being slightly worse for wear, the hospitality at Woodside is famous if not infamous!

Once I asked to stay the night before SKC in 1996, this was the time when Rob was showing Champion Byermoor Beesnees, at the time she was on two CC’s. After a lovely evening the next morning we drove together to the Scottish Highland Showground. We may have been a little late starting out but we hit awful traffic jams on the Edinburgh ring road. This sent Rob went into a panic as he was in the junior class. We were stuck in traffic for what seemed forever and we were even resolved the fact he had missed the class. We eventually arrived and Rob jumped out the car with his girl and ran to the ring just having made it to the end of the junior class. The judge, Alicia Pennington allowed him in, then gave him the class and later the third CC for the crown. You can imagine the relief and pleasure!

Later when we got back to Robs home we went out for dinner with Ernie and other friends to celebrate. I was due to go home but Rob and Ernie persuaded me to stay. The next day I felt a little jaded because of the celebrations and ended up staying a third night, two more than planned! We repeated that story constantly as it held such great memories for us.

The world seems a terrible place at times and this point is one of them. The loss for Ernie and Robs family must be immense and we send our love, deepest sympathy and condolences to them at this tragic time. Many of us who were friends are going to miss Rob terribly too, the shows will be a little duller and quieter without him there. If there is a lesson it is, we must be kind and look out for each other more, I for one hope I can do this for Robs memory.

When we do get back to the shows, I know many of the cavalier friends will be getting together to raise a glass of Robs super strength G&T in honour to a truly special person of our breed.

Michael Levy
Philip Lovel writes:

As most readers will now have heard, on Saturday the heartbreaking news of the death of Rob Sansom was announced. Rob was a pillar of the cavalier world and dogdom generally, known for his cheeky smile, great sense of humour, and his eye for a quality dog. He bred 7 champions under his Byermoor affix but also made up champions which didn’t carry his kennel name including Pat Calvert’s Ch Hilarny The Siren at Hometown, Ch Bembridge Rainbow, and in 2018/19 Liz O’Brien’s American & UK Champion Valentyne The Irish Tenor who, in Rob’s capable hands, won no less than 20 CCs. Rob won Toy Groups with both Rainbow and The Irish Tenor.

Rob was highly respected as a judge around the world, giving CCs in various Toy and Utility breeds. He judged Cavaliers at Crufts in 2018 and the Cavalier Club Show this year, being the two most prestigious judging appointments within the breed. He was also due to judge BIS at UK Toy Dog Society in 2022 which I know he was greatly looking forward to.

Rob will be remembered not just as a successful exhibitor, judge and breeder, but as someone who was always great fun to be around. He loved the social side of dog showing, and always put a smile on everyone’s face when sharing a drink or a meal whether it be at a celebration at the side of the ring, a meal with friends, or a formal gathering such as a dinner or an awards ceremony. A huge tribute to him has been the happy photos and memories that people have shared on Facebook over the last few days – there are dozens of them. Invariably, Rob is pictured holding either a pretty Cavalier or G&T, and always has a smile on his face.

I had known Rob for over 30 years, having met him when he had made up Hilarny The Siren at Hometown, and I bought Hometown Henriette (a bitch I later mated to Rob’s glamorous Alberto son Byermoor Rainman). When visiting him another time I remember seeing Ch Byermoor Beesnees as an 8 week old puppy and how excited he was about her. He was right to be – she went on to win 11 CCs. Rob was a very clever breeder and has the unique record of having made up 4 generations of bitch champions (Rainbow, Latraviata, Queen’s English & Queen’s Maid). No easy feat for any breeder but particularly noteworthy in a competitive breed like ours.

Thinking about Rob over the last few days it occurred to me he would always be the first to congratulate you if you won a class or the CC (even if you’d managed to beat him). He would be the first to comment if you brought out a promising new puppy (even if it might be competition for him), and he’d always send a message of congratulations if he’d seen you had a judging appointment coming up, or on some other achievement outside the dog world. A true sportsman, gentleman, and a friend to so many, all of us are truly saddened by the passing of Rob Sansom.

Condolences to Ernie and the rest of Rob’s family.

Philip Lovel
From The CKCS USA Club

Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of international member and steward of breed, Rob Sansom. As a dear friend, mentor, and colleague to so many of us, not only in the United States but across the world, he gave generously of his knowledge of the breed and always managed to have much fun along the way. Loved by all who knew him, his untimely death has touched many of us very deeply and it will be quite some time before the full impact of his passing will be reconciled in the hearts and minds of those who loved him. At this time our thoughts and prayers go out to his partner Ernie, close family and loved ones everywhere. May he rest in peace.

Involved in dogs from an early age Rob had a Dalmatian during his childhood years. Upon leaving home, he got involved in the local dog scene in the North East of England where he soon made many acquaintances that were to become his life-long friends, including the late Shealagh Waters for whom he held in high regard. To further his progress, like many at the time, Rob acquired foundation stock from Molly Coaker of the famous Homerbrent Kennel. He was lucky to bring from her kennel Homerbrent Chignon – a daughter of Ch Homerbrent Charlatan, closely followed by Bembridge Rainbow who he subsequently campaigned to her title. From these two prepotent girls grew a string of multiple generations of champions including, Ch Byermoor Beesnees, Ch Byermoor Queens Maid, and Ch Byermoor Princess.

Most recently he took great pleasure in campaigning Ch Valentine The Irish Tenor to 20 CC’s and multiple group placements. It was evident that special bond existed between this dynamic duo and he gained many admirers on his way to top cavalier in 2017–2019 and Best of Breed at Crufts in 2019.

Rob has judged for over two decades, having awarded his first CC in the UK in 1999. Besides cavaliers he awarded CCs in 10 other breeds qualifying him to judge the Toy Group in the UK. Additional to this, his knowledge and expertise were sought after by many breed clubs across the world including Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

It was only fitting therefore that he has had the honor of judging two breeds at Crufts and UK Cavalier Club Show.


Return to top of page
Return to Previous Page
This document maintained by the
Material Copyright The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club