Through the Dodds side I reach the Somner family, including my 4xg-grandfather Francis Somner (1803-1891). He was born in East Lothian, a farmer’s son, and moved as a young man to farm West Morriston near Earlston, before ultimately settling in Kelso, and working as a Seedsman and Commission Agent. I researched his family extensively in conventional genealogical records, but found something new relatively recently. It turns out that Francis Somner was the foremost Dandie Dinmont terrier breeder of his day!
In a published history of the breed (The Dandie Dinmont Terrier: Its History and Characteristics by Charles Cook, 1885) Francis recalled the first time he encountered a Dandie Dinmont terrier:
Mr. Thomas Stevenson, Jedburgh, before mentioned, had come over with a few hands to help my father, who farmed largely near Haddington, with the harvest. I was going into the harvest-field one day, when suddenly something rushed at my legs, and seized me by the trousers. I looked down, and saw a curious-looking little dog, more like an otter than anything else, being long in the back, with very short legs, I had never seen anything like it before, and I called out to Mr. Stevenson to come and see the creature. When he came he said, “Oh! that’s a Dandie Dinmont’s terrier. She came over with one of James Davidson’s men from Hindlee. It is one of the breed referred to in Guy Mannering.” I looked again at the little creature, and then noticed that it had been sitting on a coat (her master’s) at the edge of the field, and I was so taken with its appearance that I said to Mr. Stevenson that I would like to get it. He told me the breed had lately come into great request, and that I would have to pay a long price for her. I then saw the owner and bought “Nettle.” This occurred somewhere about 1820, I think, but might be a few years earlier.
Francis Somner continued breeding Dandies for another thirty years or so. When he moved to Kelso, circa 1842, he sold many of his dogs. Customers he supplied included the then King of France, Louis Philippe. I would imagine that Francis continued to keep Dandie Dinmonts even after his breeding kennel was finally dispersed in 1852, although of course census returns don’t record dogs! Francis’s will near the end of his life reveals that he and his wife had a “picture or painting belonging to us of a Dandie Dinmont Terrier”, which was the only family reference I had to the breed, until I stumbled across Francis’s much more substantial involvement with it.
Oh and as a genealogist it was quite nice to see that Francis Somner, as a pedigree dog breeder, kept genealogies of his dogs, some reproduced faithfully in the Cook book. That book also had pictures of a number of the dogs descended from Francis’s own Dandies, including the one below, ‘Podgy II’, granddaughter of Francis’s famous dog ‘Shem’.