A Brief History of the Club

1969 – 2019

In 1969, a month before man set man on the moon, our Club was born.  There were very few Burmese, either here in New Zealand, Britain or indeed in the States where the Burmese breed originated.

Former Prime Minister Richard Seddon

The Turn of the Century

Brown cats had been shown in Britain in the late 1800’s, their progeny being known as Chocolate Siamese, however the efforts to breed them soon died out, possibly these Chocolate Siamese were hybrids, which meant they wouldn’t breed ‘true’ (little was known about genetics back then).

Turn of the Century Siamese

Queen Victoria Reigned from 1837 – 1901

1930’s San Francisco

Our present day Burmese derive almost exclusively from a little brown female cat called Wong Mau who was acquired by Dr Joseph Thompson – Mau prefix (apparently she came from Frank Buck who was a wildlife expert) and brought to San Francisco in 1930. Wong Mau, was not a ‘burmese‘ as was discovered when she was bred to a Sealpoint Siamese (named Tai Mau – used because he was judged to  be of similar in type to her) – and a mixture of ‘brown cats’ and Sealpoint Siamese were born.

Fortunately for the fledgling breed the original people involved, as well as Dr Thompson, were Clyde Keeler (a geneticist) and breeders, Virginia Cobb (Newton prefix – she was a well known Siamese breeder), Madeleine Dymytryk, and (a little later?) Mrs Gerst (Gerstdale prefix) all were versed in the genetics of the time and together devised a breeding programme to test Wong Mau’s heritage. Consequently Wong Mau was then mated back to her son (Yen Yen Mau who had similar colouring to his mother) – the resultant litter produced the first dark brown kittens (that is ‘prototype Burmese’), Sealpoint Siamese and kittens of similar colour to their Sire and Dam, in other words Wong Mau and her son, Yen Yen Mau, were what came to known as Siamese/Burmese hybrids (these have since been developed into Tonkinese breed)

Post War Years – 1947

1947 One Shilling Coin

Such was the popularity of the new breed that early breeders, perhaps (it is thought) not understanding the genetics of the breed, were selling hybrid kittens as Burmese which resulted in the CFA de-registering the breed in 1947 (it was not until 1953 that they were restored to the CFA register).

1949 and into the 50’s

However in 1949 the first Burmese (presumably not registered as such) were imported into the UK by Lilian France (Chinki prefix), they were Casa Gatos da Foong (a male) and Chindwins Minou Twm (female) and in 1950 their first living litter (all males) were born. A little later another female (USA) CH Laos Cheli Wat was imported , her first UK litter was born to Casa Gatos da Foong in 1951. These three, together with a second (slightly outcrossed) male, Casa Gatos Darkee, imported a couple of years later, and then (slightly later again in 1956) an unrelated male Darshan Khudiram provided a much needed outcross. In 1952 GCCF accepted Burmese as a breed.

1949  HMS Vanguard Postage Stamp

1949  Miss New Zealand MAry Woodward

The Fifties – 1957

Wellington in the 1950’s

Thanks to the early British breeders, our first NZ Burmese (all progeny or grandchildren of the original cats) arrived in 1957 – so very early on! They were, of course, imported by Beryl Sedcole and her son Hayden Pollock (Ransein prefix). There were two females – Paquita (by Casa Gatos da Foong), Nilgiris Buru Kaihau (who was similarly bred) and a male, Merrick Apollo whose sire was Darkee ( a little later two more males were imported – Merrick Viking (by Beryl and Hayden ) and Omaheeni Ariel (by Lil and Andy Carian, Seabury prefix)).

The Swinging Sixties – 1964

A few Burmese were bred by various breeders around NZ (Pekerau prefix springs to mind) but it was Christchurch fanciers that rocketed Burmese to the forefront of the NZGCCF (as it was at the time). The earliest I can locate arrived in Canterbury 1961-1964. Ransein Prince Imrahil (belonging to Norm and Wilma Tasker, Ethsome prefix who also had a female – possibly an Australian import – whose name I can’t recall ), Ransein Chan (Helene and Arthur Rowland’s first Burmese – a neuter), Tai Gwai Tamiko a tiny, attractive little female, owned by Joan Terhuppen (Tai and Tai Rama prefixes), and Seabury Sabu (a neuter – originally owned by Peter Woodill (Ahmavir prefix), Sabu lived with Peter’s sister Ann Skilling (then Frost).

The Beatles 

Big Hair, Tight Jeans

Snell’s Olympic Success

60’s Fashion

Newmarket Flyover 

However it was a rather sway-backed, somewhat knock kneed, second generation NZ bred Blue Burmese female, Ransein Mai Ling, (the Rowland’s foundation queen) who, when bred with Omaheeni Ariel, produced the most superb kittens – litter after litter! Chindah Asmara, Chindah Adiratna, Chindah Asahan, these all within their first year of breeding! Chindah Bahari (Frost (Skilling)’s original queen – Chuntao prefix), Chindah Beyan and Chindah Balek (both of whom were exported to Australia, after short but illustrious show careers here) – these three were born in the Rowlands’ second year of breeding. Their third year produced the first Burmese Grand Champion, Chindah Cherita, a simply stunning female and multiple major award winner. Another from this year was Chindah Chendarek, a lovely Blue girl, Asahan’s daughter – Dorothy Horton’s (Xzandu prefix) beautiful foundation queen. A wonderful, amazing record for a rather ordinary little girl especially in light of the limited gene pool! Or maybe it WAS because of the limited gene pool – Mai Ling was closely related to Omaheeni Ariel, as was Ransein Prince Imrahil (who sired some of their second generation cats).

Club Foundation Year – 1969

The upshot was that with such a small number of Burmese everyone knew everyone else and we needed to communicate! So in 1969 Arthur (who else!) drew up suggestions for a Specialist Breed Club, to be spilt into three regions with one region appointed to be the Managing Committee – for starters this would be the Southern Region. Dorothy was roped in (she worked as a law clerk at the time) to refine the ideas. I didn’t have much to do with the Club at this point (baby and a Pharmacy business were somewhat limiting!) however I soon joined in, as did Joan Terhuppen and together with Helene, the NZ Burmese Cat Club (now the Burmese Cat Club of NZ) was born. Arthur as President, Helene was Vice-President, Dorothy was Secretary/ Treasurer and Joan and I (I, as Editress – quaint, eh? – of the Burmese Bulletin) became Committee members.

In real life Arthur was a pilot for NAC (later Air New Zealand) and also farmed out at Kaiapoi (firstly on his father’s farm and later on his and Helene’s own – he often said that he got his best Cat Fancy ideas when his plane was on autopilot or when he was driving his tractor!). Not many of you may know that Helene was an accomplished artist (in fact she hand painted pottery professionally) and it was she who designed our Club badge, and Joan ( formerly Harrington) was a wonderful tailoress.

And so our Club was born – unfortunately Dorothy and I are not sure who the original Committee members were in the other regions but we think the Northern Region Committee included Beryl Sedcole, Hayden Pollock and Mike and Pam Flanagan – later Gifford (Kyaba prefix). The Central Region included Doreen Cross ( Chatswood prefix), Kay Thresh (Barinya prefix), Grace Burgess (Graceful prefix) and possibly Mary(?) Boniface (Robinlee prefix) may have been involved.

For the first ten years, we didn’t hold a show (I’m not sure if Specialist Clubs were able to in those days) but we did offer Club rosettes to one show in each NZCF region (and possibly the National?) for Best Burmese Cat, Kitten, Neuter/ Spay Cat and Kitten. These were in the Club colours of gold, blue and brown, chosen to represent eye colour and the two original Burmese colours.

Following the birth of the Club, Burmese rapidly became one of New Zealand’s favourite breeds. Such was the popularity of Burmese that by the end of 1975 (only six years!), in addition to those above, the following prefixes had been registered (Edition No 5 (1971 -1975) NZCF Stud Book) (E&OE). I’ve arranged them in the ‘regions’ where (it’s likely) the breeders resided.

Northern Region prefixes:

Vicky Firth – ATALANTA Bob & Iris Kerridge – ADIRAJA
Sam & Sue Rae – ASHLEA Bessie Christie – CASA FELIX
Mr & Mrs Nordstrand – CHINOOK. Ernie & Freda Mexted – DOMBURSIA
Mr & Mrs Livingstone – PEKERAU. Mrs Bolster – TAI GWAI
Jane Vallings – TERRANOVA. Shirley (?) Ellison – QUIMBAYA
Heather Davis – TREETOPS. J.Horricks – WAIPA

Central Region prefixes:

Betty Bayley – HOOBABA. Mr & Mrs Jerome – KOSHKA
Mr & Mrs Randall – REDWING. John Brown – TAIPEE
Mr & Mrs Flood – TIROMOANA. Graeme & Sue Gordon – GRAFTON

Southern Region prefixes:

Mr & Mrs Kerr – ANTARCTICUS. Mr & Mrs Heaney – AUDON
Leona Rains – CHILTON. Mrs Brundell – CORONA
Betty Green – DANUM. Toni & Paul Coulson – DEBONAIRE
Pat Hogan – FURPURRSON. Mr & Mrs Murray – HYHILLS
Graham & Kathy Rennie – KASHAN. Vera Stickney & R.Corlett – MUONG
Wyn Murfitt – NANCHI. Mollie Pettit – PERFECTORS
Mr & Mrs R Sutherland – THANH MAI Mr & Mrs Rodgers – YODRAK

Just a further snippet, Betty Green (DANUM) is Genevieve Rogerson’s grandmother!

– Ann Skilling