Although Ireland does not have a designated national dog, the common conception is that the Irish Wolfhound is the official canine symbol of Ireland, but if Michael Collins had dodged that assassin’s bullet in 1922, it would be the Kerry Blue Terrier that would hold that national status.
Shortly before he met his death, Michael Collins had laid down plans to adopt the Kerry Blue Terrier as the officially recognised dog of the new Irish Free State.
He tried to push an act through the Oireachtas to promote the Kerry Blue to a national symbol, but it was forgotten about after his death. Collins carried a great fondness for the small, yet sturdy, breed. The dog’s fierce, yet loyal, behaviour resulted in the ‘Big Fella’ becoming a keen follower of the breed and, during the dangerous years of the War of Independence, he risked blowing his cover in order to bring his own Kerry Blue terrier to a dog show.
At that time all dog shows were held under licence from the English Kennel Club, but Collins and a few others, including Oliver St John Gogarty, founded the Dublin Blue Terrier Club and held its own show outside the English jurisdiction. It’s first show took place on October 16th, 1920, at Longrishe Place, Summerhill, Dublin. It was also the occasion of Michael Collin’s 30th birthday. He brought his dog, ‘Convict 224′ to compete in the show and the day proved to be a great birthday celebration for Collins when his beloved Kerry Blue terrier won first prize.
Also at the dog show that day was British Captain, Wyndham Quinn, who resided at the Vice Regal Lodge in the Pheonix Park and presented the trophy bearing his name, while the Under Secretary for Ireland, Sir James McMahon, unknowingly brought his dog to compete alongside that of the most wanted man in Ireland.
To this day the name of Michael Collins, along with the name of his dog, is still etched on the trophy which is now in the hands of the Irish Kennel Club which stemmed from the Dublin Blue Terrier Club. Today, under the Irish Kennel Club, the ‘Collins Cup’ is annually awarded to best of breed at Kerry Blue Terrier shows. The name of Collin’s prize winning Terrier supposedly originated from his time in Frongoch prison camp after the Easter Rising, but he is also to have said that he named his prized Terrier after Kerry man Austin Stack who served time in Lewes prison under the name ‘Convict 224.’