American Field

Dave Marshall Has Died

By Dave Fletcher | May 10, 2018
Dave Marshall

Morrice, Mich. — Field trials, especially the Brittany world, has lost a great one, Dave Marshall, 69, of Hope Valley, R. I. Dave passed away in the hospital in Wakefield, R. I., on Tuesday, May 1, after a three-year battle with cancer. He leaves behind wife Sarah Conyngham, two children, Nicole and Brendan from a previous marriage, and a host of friends, notable of which are Bob and Leslie Fleury and your scribe, Dave Fletcher.

Dave was a gifted athlete, a nine high school letterman who went on to play college football.

Dave was a New Englander through and through, a Rhode Islander for sure.

For over half a century Dave Marshall’s life revolved around dogs. He grew up in a family that primarily hunted rabbits, grouse and pheasant. One of his early ventures was starting Beagles for customers.

In the late 1960s Dave was teaching vocational agricultural classes at Middleton, N. H., high school when he began training bird dogs. Brittanys were one of his favorite breeds.

Marcell Bell, an early pioneer in the formation of the American Brittany Club, immediately gave dogs to Dave for training. She became a great supporter of Dave’s work with dogs, and sent many clients to the Marshall kennel. She helped Dave secure winter training grounds in South Carolina, near Barnwell where notable trainers Fred Arant, Phil Brousseau and Phil Morehouse had grounds.

Later, when Dave stepped back from Brittany training, Ben Lorenson took things over there. Dave also trained with the late Bill Conlin on the Saskatchewan prairie in Canada.

I met Dave in the early 1970s when he was actively competing on the Brittany circuit. He ran dogs in the National Brittany Open Grouse Championship at Gladwin, Mich., a club which I helped start. He was campaigning two very good Britts in those years, multiple winners Frittany La Brittany and Pioneer Valley Rusty.

After seeing Dave’s talents on the Gladwin grounds, as president of the Lake States Grouse Championship, I asked Dave to judge it. We had a memorable week together during that event.

About that time, I wanted to get my own kennel to produce very good Britts. My kennel slogan was “Biddable Brittany Gun Dogs”. I drove to Dave’s home to look at three pups in a litter out of Frittany La Brittany that Dave had named Curly, Moe and Larry. I came home with the female sired by Pioneer Valley Rusty named Moe.

Don’t ever name a pup Moe. It rhymes with no and whoa. Moe turned out to be a super foot hunting grouse dog (biddable Brittany gun dog), on one occasion pointing five grouse separately in less than an hour.

My wife Carol and I stayed at Dave’s home while picking out the pup, and he took us on tours of the state and to the oceanside where we purchased fresh fish and lobster off the boats and enjoyed some great meals, New England style.

On one occasion when Dave competed his string in Wisconsin he stopped at my cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Dave and Sarah and I grouse hunted gloriously over some very good dogs from his string for nearly a week. Dave proved to be a superb wing shot.

When Dave’s first marriage ended, he was primarily involved with horseshoeing and not doing much with dogs. He hired Sarah Conyngham as an assistant, and a romance and marriage followed. He was also, for a period of ten years, manager of the University of Rhode Island’s Peckam Farm. In later years, Sarah handled many of Dave’s dogs in field trials as Dave got older and was not physically able to do as much as he once had.

I was the recipient of a Brittany male, Mickey, which came from Dave as a gift. It was a mating he and close friend Bob Fleury had made. Mickey was a neutered male (by the party who had purchased him as a pup), and a wonderful bird dog. On invitation Dave called me one day and said, “Let me have Mickey for the month of August and come and get him at the end of the month and we’ll train in Maine for a few days.” Those training days were memorable, multiple finds on woodcock in muddy creek bottoms. It was not uncommon to have a dozen finds before you took up your charge.

Two years ago I had the pleasure of presenting a Bird Dog Foundation Life Patron plaque to Dave Marshall in Grand Junction, Tenn., a project sponsored by his many field trial friends.

Two weeks before his passing I was reporting the Ontario Grouse Dog Championship at Marienville, Pa. We were standing along the roadside between braces when John Stolgitis took a phone call. John handed me the phone. “Somebody wants to talk to you.” It was Dave Marshall. Looking back I am so grateful we had that ten- minute conversation. It was our last, and I will never forget it.

Dave was buried Sunday, May 6.

Contributions in his memory may be sent to the Bird Dog Foundation in Grand Junction, Tenn., for the Brittany Fund.

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