World Breeders - Francehill - 2003

Margaret Norman
Hilltop House, Harrogate,
North Yorkshire,
United Kingdom
Currently owns 3 dogs,
7 bitches.
World breeder for over half a century. Breeder of 24 champions in the U.K. and many others abroad. World-wide well respected judge.

Breeds sable and white, blue merle, tri-colour, black and white. Loves gardening, astronomy and antiques
(a lot of friends saw Margaret on the Antiques Road Show on TV last year) too.


"It was love at first site", remembered Margaret Norman her very first meeting with the breed, that would steal her heart forever. She was still a child, when she got her first sheltie, a blue merle dog, called Sky Blue of Crawley-Ridge. She did obedience with him. This childwood companion however was not the founder of Francehill. This was a lovely sable, Discreet of Exford, and a year later, Glamour of Exford, a blue merle. A prefix for her kennelname was easily found: Francehill was the next road to her home in Camberley, Surrey.  

"My guide was Mrs. Sangster of the Exford shelties. She suggested that I used Hilarity of Exford on Discreet, then Ch. Exford Piskiegge Taw. A tri colour dog was kept from this and was my first home produced Francehill – Francehill Crysalis. He won a lot of awards and I was very proud of him. He lived to be 16 years old and was very special. My showteam was Crysalis, a tri and the little merle, Francehill Glamour of Exford.

"My guide was Mrs. Sangster of the Exford shelties. She suggested that I used Hilarity of Exford on Discreet, then Ch. Exford Piskiegge Taw. A tri colour dog was kept from this and was my first home produced Francehill – Francehill Crysalis. He won a lot of awards and I was very proud of him. He lived to be 16 years old and was very special. My showteam was Crysalis, a tri and the little merle, Francehill Glamour of Exford.

Both were well known winners and I took much delight in their temperament and showmanship, which was rare attributes in those early days of the 1950’s. I was determined to specialize in strong, hardy little dogs with good temperaments – and fifty years later I am still putting these points first. "   

Photo:  Constance Sangster with a winning team of Exfords.                           

Francehill today

At the moment Margaret has three dogs, the blue merle Francehill Wedgwood, a tricolour, Francehill Turnabout, and a young sable, Francehill Only Me. All have done a bit of winning and Margaret is very proud of them. She has seven bitches, Ch. Francehill Willow Pattern, a blue merle, her two daughters, Francehill Isabella a tri, and a merle, Francehill Made of Ice, who is mated to Jacquard You Give me Fever. The sables, Francehill Maid of Honour and Francehill Jolly Good, both modest winners, a black and white, Drumcauchlie Finewood of Francehill, who has won her classes whenever shown, and from her I have a nice tricolour puppy by Ch. Morestyle Monsoon, namely Francehill Total Eclipse. To complete her family there is the ‘pensioner’, Francehill Gilt Edge. Known as 'Petal', she reigns supreme at Hilltop.

Francehill Wedgewood (showing blue flecked eyes), left, and 'Petal' in her younger days right.

Breeding philosophy

From the beginning Francehill was very successful. Till now there are 24 champions in the U.K. that Margaret credits for. She doesn't know the number of the ‘abroad’ champions, but it must be a lot. Nowadays Margaret doesn't like to sell Francehills abroad, unless to personal friends.

Photo: Royal Horticultural Society Garden - Harlow Carr (near Margaret's home)

"My aim is to produce shelties of the right size, but sturdy and with inherent good health. That true wedge head is my aim, though hard to achieve, and they must have ‘Francehill’ ears, carried well on the head and used alertly at all times.

I almost never inbreed. I can remember a mother/son mating in the 80’s, but that may have been the only occasion.

Line breeding does help to stabilize type, but can also stabilize faults as well. If your breeding bitch is lacking temperament, or natural good health, then it would be foolish to mate her to something with similar faults. I have often tried a good outcross with excellent results. You can always come back into your line in the next generation.

Like every other breeder the world over, I have made mistakes, but no matter, just try a different dog next time and compare the results."


Maurice Baker about Ch. Francehill Silversmith:

"He was an ideal size, all quality, sound and eyecatching. He gained his title in 1965 and the following year he was on his way to America. I always felt that he would have had a markes influence on blue merle breeding if he remained in the UK."


Asking Margaret which Francehill comes or came close to perfection she immediately recalls Ch. Francehill Silversmith, a blue merle dog in the 60's and Ch. Francehill Lotus Blossom.

This sable and white bitch was very beautiful, especially in head, eyes and ears. The latest champion, Francehill Willow Pattern, is a glorious mover. Every judge who has given her a CC comments on this point.  

Ch. Francehill Lotus Blossom at Crufts (photo Martina Feldhoff, taken without flash)


Francehill Willow Pattern as a puppy and as an adult

The standard

Shelties have changed. They got huger coats. Shape and construction have vastly improved. Looking at the top shelties in the ring today, I asked Margaret if she thinks it possible that there might be some appositions with respect to the standard (or its interpretations) in the coming decennium.

"I find the question hard to answer – it is giving the impression that shelties of yesteryear were not so good. Maybe the quality in depth was not so apparent but bring ‘Fancy’  (She’s My Fancy at Shelert (1971), who was modelling for the standard) back to life now and she would soon become a Champion.

What about the McIntosh’s Ch. Ebony Pride of Glenhill, or Albert Wight’s Ch. Sharval the Delinquent – both tri-colour dogs of superb quality and soundness.

I recall seeing Ch. Helensdale Wendy at W.E.L.K.S., where she won the CC under F.M. Rogers. She looked glorious and in fact it was that vision of Wendy that made me buy Helensdale Frolic – and that was the best purchase ever. He brought about a ‘new look’ in coat, temperament and glamour to shelties in Southern England."

The complete Shetland Sheepdog


Margaret Norman is author of the book 'The Complete Shetland Sheepdog'. This book, published in 1998, has become a bestseller and for reason. I asked Margaret what made her write it.

"I was approached by Ringpress who asked me to write it. I felt it was a bit a swansong, and in fact I intended to retire when the book was produced – though at 64 I feel fighting fit and not like retiring!!"

Margaret dedicated the book to the memory of Beryl M. Herbert, who wrote a book about Shetland sheepdogs too. How about this relationship?

"Joan and Beryl* took a special interest in this weird girl, who travelled by train and attended every show possible. I was soon invited to Dorincourt and they treated me like their niece. Beryl became a great friend of my mothers, too. Their book was written at Hilltop House in the early 60’s – my first champion, Francehill Glamorous was included. My book was also written at Hilltop House and I know that Beryl would have been very pleased with the dedication."


Book description: This loving tribute to the "Sheltie" shows all the reasons for its great popularity and covers every essential of care, training and competition and a great deal more.

The Standard is meticulously reviewed and a profusion of beautiful black and white and color photos grace the excellent, world-class text -- a pure delight for every fan of the breed.

British versus American Shelties

Being British, living in the U.K., breeding and judging shelties following the British standard, I was pleasantly surprised that ‘The Complete Shetland Sheepdog’ also contained a chapter about shelties in North America (by Sue Anne Bowling). I asked Margaret where this interest in American shelties come from.

"This is an interesting question – though I can not take the credit for the chapter in question, though the photos were my selection."

Do you think crossing American and British lines will lead to some sort of ‘universal’ sheltie type?

"We don’t want to get paranoid about anything, this hobby is to be enjoyed by all. To understand the American attitude you really should go there – apart from the specialties, most of the shows are judged by all-breed judges. They appreciate style and movement, so a type has evolved where presentation, showmanship and ‘flashy’ movement are a must. I highlight movement, because here in U.K., we ask for effortless gait, a low daisy-cutting action, nothing with huge drive and jerky extension could win here – but would our quiet little shelties attract the U.S. all-breed judges’ eye? I think not. However what wouldn’t I give to see a ring full of those wonderfully bent stifles and low hocks that the Americans have perfected! Dream on." 


Margaret is not only a well respected breeder but also a judge with an excellent – world wide - reputation. She judged Shelties at her debut Championship show at the age of 24, and has judged the breed at many countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Scandinavia, Kenya, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Eire.

Funnily enough I remember my first judging appointment as if it was yesterday. It was Hastings Open Show. I must have been over 17 as I drove there and one of my sisters came to give me courage. More open show appointments followed and I judged my first championship shows in 1963. For a long time I was the youngest judge in our breed – but have had to relinquish this crown to Debbie Pearson who beat my qualifying age by a few months."  


I asked Margaret about the status a judge has in the U.K.

Margaret: "Judges in the U.K. have to earn their reputation – it must be one of the longest apprenticeships in any business, as I see it you need to ‘qualify’ yourself by showing good dogs, then you will be asked to judge some of the branch matches."

If you do OK, an Open Show appointment will follow, do OK on that and more Open Shows follow. Then you may feel like sitting the judge's assessment that several of the breed clubs are running. Pass this and you automatically go on the appropriate judges’ list.

Usually to achieve a championship appointment you will need to have judged a breed club open show. All this takes a long time, possibly ten years. You can see that a U.K. judge is thoroughly experienced and used to judging large entries."

"Most of us are exhibitors as well as judges. Speaking personally, I will now only accept a championship show appointment every other year – my next will be at Crufts in 2006, an honour in itself to judge the one breed at Crufts twice in a lifetime, my previous appointment at Crufts was 1974. Of course, the show you are judging at you can not exhibit! I almost always show my own dogs, they are my babies and respond best to Mother!"


Margaret was first nominated as a committee member to the English Shetland Sheepdog Club at the age of 20, and she is currently the longest serving committee member of the club.

I asked Margaret how she thinks about the difference between all breed judges and specialists.

"There are good and not so good in both all-breeds or specialist judges. An all-breeds judge
should have studied the breed standard, just as you suppose the specialist has. Personally I like to exhibit under an all-breeds judge just as I enjoy showing under a specialist. Perhaps a specialist might be nit-picking on a certain point, though it is up to all of us specialists to adhere to the standard and judge accordingly.


Perhaps one funny thing that happened was sending one of our then senior breeders to move and see her petticoat drop lower and lower, until it fluttered to the ground. It speaks highly of the British character that she stopped, stepped out of the garment and put it in her pocket, and then carried on as if nothing had happened."



I asked Margaret how she thinks about the health problems shelties breeders have got to deal with.

"Of course there are problems with CEA, occasionally PRA and a scare every now and then H.D. To set out to eradicate a problem may open up the door to other ills. I would urge all breeders to be vigilant and listen to owners of those pet puppies. We don’t want a strain of shelties clear of CEA, but dying at 7 or 8 years of heart, liver or kidney problems.

I have had visitors whose main aim was to count teeth, bring out their measures, shine torches in their eyes – all this but not noticing the dog as a whole. How sad. My advice is always to look at the dog as a whole."

How about the openness with respect to health problems?

"I have found nothing but frank friendly discussions. There is no point in being paranoid about health problems in either ourselves or our canine friends. A kennel that keeps it’s ‘oldies’ is a living advertisement to the success of that particular strain of sheltie."

Francehill High Jinks (1994)

The future


Francehill has produced more champions than any other British present-day kennel, including Champions in all three colours. Are there still challenges?


"Now, this must sound a very laid-back statement. My plans for the future are to be happy, to enjoy the company of the Francehills, to appreciate what I’ve got and to do my very best to see that they are in the best of health, loved, groomed and walked each day.

I love having visitors to Hilltop and ‘talking shelties’ to other fanciers with a balanced outlook. About the young hopefuls, I shall continue going to a few shows.


I am somewhat housebound these days as I never leave my shelties unattended, so rely on friends and neighbours to housesit at Hilltop if I want to go out to a show. This limits the campaigning – but we still like to make an appearance."

With my best wishes, sincerely



Thank you Margaret, for having enabled me to make this
lovely world breeders' portrait. Ineke.