As a teenager I was always interested in keeping various small animals. I had hamsters, cavies, ferrets and by the age of eleven was breeding New Zealand White and Himalayan rabbits for meat production, which I sold to a processor, when they reached 4 pounds, at about 10 weeks of age. At this time I started to buy Fur and Feather magazine. While reading this, I came across articles about fancy mice, something I had never heard of before. I decided to buy some mice and joined the N.M.C.
Reading about the various standards, I decided to buy some dutch. There was an advert in F&F from a lady in Leicester, called Tina Thom. She had only been keeping mice for less than two years and had not had a great deal of success, but it was a start. I bought mice from other fanciers, 2 that come to mind were Jack Cunningham and George Grindle. I bought a 12’x8’ wooden shed, plus some wooden boxes and was underway. The cost of a trio in those days was £2-25p or 75p per mouse. I quickly built up the number of breeding boxes, buying some and making others myself.
I did buy a large batch of wooden wine boxes, built to carry 6 bottles, these were a perfect size and very easy to convert. There were no plastic water drinkers in the sixties, so all boxes had pottery or glass dishes to hold the water, I had plenty of good hay as we had a family dairy farm and I collected as much sawdust as I needed, from a sawmill two miles away, free of charge. I bought Maxeys from various sources, some new but most second hand and also good quality carrying boxes, the largest held eight Maxeys.
In all the years I showed mice, I was only able to attend about three shows. This was because I worked six and a half days every week on our dairy farm, with my father. I had Saturday afternoons off and he had Sunday afternoons off. Cows have to be milked twice a day 365 days a year, no Christmas day off either!! We only had about a week’s holiday each, every year. All shows were a long way away as well, I guess the closest in those days, would be Portsmouth, about 180 mile round trip. The farthest would be Carlisle a 700 mile round trip from Somerset.
Thankfully in those days the service provided by British Rail was first class, in every sense of the word. I sent to scores of shows, sometimes two on the same day, most Maxeys I used were lidless, these served me well, to be honest I really do not see any advantage, based on my experience, of having Maxeys with lids. My mice travelled tens of thousands of miles over the years and were away for 3-5 days on each occasion. I never lost a mouse or had any come back sick or in poor condition.
Sadly the numbers of shows and exhibitors has declined, it would be virtually impossible for anyone to make up a champion these days. So I was fortunate to make up ten dutch champions between 1969–74, just before I stopped keeping mice and moved on to other things. Looking back at some of my first prize cards from those days, it is interesting to see some of the venues, some clubs did amalgamate and now use a different name, but most are no more. Names that are no longer around, as far as I know are:— Guildford, Liverpool, Airedale M.C. Portsmouth, Border M.C. Bingley Show, Central England M.C., Dagenham, Pudsey, Greenwich, Calder Valley M.C., East Midlands M.C. Poynton, Scottish & Border M.C. South Western Championship, Barking, Braithewaite Hobbies & Fanciers. These are all places where I won first prizes and often Best Marked, over the years. I have not included places where shows are still held, from those days, like London & Southern Counties and Bradford Championship Show. A few new clubs have been formed, but the opportunities to show mice have greatly reduced. So if you can, take every opportunity to support and show your mice, whenever possible.