The ninth of November 2001 was a very sad day for the N.A.C.C. and the Cavy Fancy with the death of Vic Bailey. For at least three years Vic had been suffering from the incurable and debilitating Motor Neuron Disease.
Vic was from the North East, if you didn’t now before you met him his strong accent was a real giveaway. Here he had a tough job earning his living as a miner. He was married to Jackie and had two daughters Lisa & Claire and a grandson. Vic was a devoted family man and was held in very high regard in his local community.
Vic’s first experience with exhibition livestock began in the early 1950’s with the breeding and showing of Ermine and Castor Rex and English rabbits.
Young Vic travelled by bus to shows with local fanciers Edwin Pye and father. In those days, there were many shows in the North East, mainly held on the first floor above pubs and clubs. The Pye family also kept cavies, and after a couple of years Vic acquired his first pigs, smooth Tortoise and White with which he had limited success. These were followed by the Silver Agouti and some Abyssinians. Vic greatly admired the Silver Agouti cavy and with them taking up less space than rabbits, the cavies gradually began to outnumber the rabbits and eventually took over completely in the late 1970’s.
Apart from the Pye Silvers, Vic subsequently acquired a young boar from prominent Silver Agouti fancier of the time Harry Badcock, which had won third place in the N.A.C.C. Young Stock Show. All Vic’s Silvers originated from these first pigs, bar one acquired later as an outcross from Vic’s long time rival with Agoutis Pat Kelly, whose stud of Golden and Silver Agoutis was consistently successful at top shows throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. This was the foundation of the most successful Agouti Breeder of all time and the large majority of the Silvers today originate from Vic’s stud.
Vic’s first Adult Stock Show success was Best Silver in 1968 and he went one better the following year with Best in Show. This was the start of complete domination throughout the 1970’s, 80’s & 90’s for his Hill Top Stud of Silvers. During this 30 year period amazing success was achieved at the N.A.C.C. Adult Stock Show where he won Best Silver 16 times and Best in Show on an unprecedented 14 occasions and was also judging in some of the other years. He was not so dominant in the Young Stock Shows (but was unable to travel to many of them) winning during the 1980’s & 90’s Best Silver five times and Best in Show on three consecutive occasions. As well as N.A.C.C. Stock Show success, Vic also won many major shows throughout the country. Vic’s main ambition in his show career was to achieve the ultimate accolade, Best in Show at Bradford Championship Show with a Silver. Unfortunately this ambition was never achieved. He did finish runner-up and was in the final six on a number of occasions. A large majority of senior fanciers would admit that Vic was very unlucky not to have achieved this ambition.
Vic showed both boars and sows with success but his preference was in showing sows. This was due to their better head & coat qualities. It was with a sow that he had one of his most successful years, 1992. This year saw Best in Show success at Yorkshire Championship Show, London Championship Show and the N.A.C.C. Adult Stock Show. Also in January of that year Vic could easily have achieved his ambition of B.I.S. at Bradford Championship Show. His sow was placed second in the Non Self Adult Challenge to a Peruvian which had a cataract, unfortunately missed by the judge. B.I.S judge was Aubrey Roebuck who whilst judging the Best of Breeds stated that if the Silver had been in the B.I.S. line-up it would have been an extremely strong challenger for that top spot!
Despite Vic’s great success he did not keep a very large Stud, about 30 was his Stud size in 1995. This included six breeding boars and six dilute sows. Vic would never keep or advocate breeding from dilute boars. Vic’s breeding method was to use a big, broad headed boar of show quality colour and ticking, aiming to compensate on any eye and ear failings by mating to sows which were strong on these points. Boars with good type but slightly lighter than ideal colour, would be used to darker/dilute sows.
Over the years Vic kept a number of other breeds. His final new breed was a slight surprise to many, the Satin. He admitted that he only acquired this breed as competition for fellow North Eastern fancier Pauline Avery from whom he obtained his stock. Vic achieved success on the show bench with this breed. He found the satinised coat very attractive and thought the breed would have prospered in the fancy, but felt they were being held back by their small size, coat faults and teeth problems and may struggle in the future. I am sure that Vic would be delighted at the breed's progress over the last few years. They now have good size and the coat and teeth problems have been solved, resulting in many Best in Shows.
Despite not being well known for Self Blacks, Vic kept this breed continuously from the mid 1960’s. He acquired his first stock from much lamented North Eastern fancier Joe Ridley in an attempt to create an interest in the cavies for his wife Jackie (it didn’t really happen!). With this breed he did achieve Almost every fancier's dream by winning Best in Show at Bradford Championship Show with an adult sow.
Vic’s stock was housed in an insulated 20’x 8’ wooden shed situated on the largest of the three allotments he attended. Hay, food, etc were stored in separate sheds on the allotment. The shed contained a total of 67 pens, the majority of these being 24’’x 15’’x 15’’ and built 4 high in each block with some being capable of enlargement by the removal of dividing centres. There was also a larger block of 6 pens, each 30’’x 24’’x15’’, used exclusively for breeding purposes.
Vic kept his stock fed on a fixed routine which served him very well over the decades. Whole oats and hay were fed every morning. In the evening, greens and root vegetables were fed, together with dry broad bran for breeding stock (to try and prevent overweight problems). Show and rearing stock were given an equal mix of broad bran and high protein goat mix. Having three allotments, Vic grew a large amount of vegetables and greens for his stock and was supplied with cauliflower leaves by his local greengrocer. Having his allotments Vic was very keen on all cavy waste being recycled in the garden. Hence he did not use shavings (as they don’t break down very easily) instead he used thick layers of newspaper with a covering of hay.
As well as his exhibition livestock, Vic was also keen to show the produce from his allotments. He was very well known as an accomplished propagator and exhibitor of very large onions and leeks. His most notable success in this field came by winning Best Onion at Northumberland & Durham County Show three years out of four.
Vic was a great ambassador to the Cavy Fancy, supporting many Clubs including his small local Clubs. He tried to support these on a regular basis, as he believed these small local shows were the foundation of the fancy. He was an invaluable committee member of the N.A.C.C. and was a great supporter of the National Cavy Club, from which he received one of his proudest moments in the fancy, becoming N.C.C. President in 1994.
It was a great shame Vic could not achieve his ambition, but I’m sure he would be pleased with the Silver stock of today and hope it is not too long before a Silver wins Best in Show at Bradford Championship Show.