The Wizard of Irish Breeding 

Text and photos by Rémy Erath; from the original French by Silvan Urfer


John Kelly,

Kennel “Nutstown”, has left the Irish Wolfhound world on November 12, 2014, at age 84.

My wife Rose-Marie and I first met John and Kathleen Kelly in 1977 during a presentation of Irish kennels that was held in honour of Prof. Alain Thomas, then president of the French Irish Wolfhound and Deerhound Club. We met them during a breeders’ meeting in the gardens at Ballyhagan that belonged to the then president of the Irish Club, Betty Murphy. John showed us Ch. Nutstown Queen; Ch. Nutstown King, in the centre, an impressive black male at 94 cm and 81 kg, and with enormous substance; and Ch. Carrokeel Sir Connel of Nutstown, the light-coloured dog to the right. Apart from those, John also showed the sculptural Florrie of Nutstown, who was considered a model of the breed, and he also had the magnificent Ch. Mary of Nutstown. They were both daughters of the famous Boroughbury Justice, multiple Champion in both Ireland and the UK.

Ch. Nutstown Queen, Int. Ch. Nutstown King, Int. Ch. Sir Connel of Nutstown


John was introduced to Irish Wolfhounds at a very early age through helping Dr. May, then President of the Irish Club, in his kennel “Ballytobin”, which he had started in 1926. Dr. May very much enjoyed teaching John about the breed.

In 1965, Dr. May had had all the time to observe John and suggested that he take one of his bitches as a token of gratitude for his help with the kennel over many years. John refused at first, citing his own Greyhound kennel as an excuse; however, he did not have and Greyhounds left at this point. Dr. May, who knew him well, insisted – and thus one of the Ballytobin bitches arrived in John’s Nutstown kennel. A very nice grey bitch by the name of Bernie of Termon, she was tall and full of quality. Another of the Kellys’ early Wolfhounds was the bitch Deirdre of Brabyns, whom they used to consolidate their line.

                        Bernie of Termon

1989 – John explains to a young judge what he thinks is important in an Irish Wolfhound.


From Bernie of Termon’s litter came two magnificent bitches, Malatown Lady and Maeve of Balgee, whose father was the great Champion Connel of Nendrum. Ch. Nutstown Queen was bred to Ch. Ballykelly Errislannan Liam, and this resulted in the famous Nutstown King, who became an international Champion, earning his titles in both Ireland and the UK. King was the sire of numerous Champions, amongst them Carrokeel Sir Connel of Nutstown, as well as our own Ch. Lon Dubh of Nutstown, who earned French, Swiss and International Championships. Another great success in Ireland was Mary of Nutstown, who earned her Championship in 1980 and was top winning Irish Wolfhound in Ireland and the UK. Mary’s dam was Maeve of Balgee. Maeve of Balgee was an exceptional bitch, not very tall, but once she got moving, all eyes were on her – according to Betty Murphy, she was “poetry in motion”.  

1985 – John presents Ch. Chieftain of Nutstown (born in 1983)


In 1985, John Kelly hat two new Champions, the beautiful Sara of Nutstown as well as Ch. Chieftain of Nutstown. In 1987, he showed his new Champion Kracken Comet, a magnificent cream bitch. 1988 saw the arrival of the black bitch Ch. Princess Dhu of Nutstown, and 1990, the cream-coloured Ch. Cillian Ruane, who was born in 1988, became Reserve Annual Champion in Ireland. Following those hounds, the Kellys had Ch. The Black Knight of Nutstown, a magnificent black stud dog, and in 1995, John showed me the lovely and powerful Blossom of Nutstown, as well as Fingal of Nutstown, a black male who became Champion a year later. In 2009, John presented a superb grey brindle male, Prince Finn of Nutstown, of good size at 93 cm, who completed his Championship in 2010.

1991 – John and Victor Besson (president of the French Club) discuss Irish Wolfhound

 type during a stroll through the Irish countryside


2009 – a young breeder discusses the choice of a stud dog with John


In November of 2013, during a visit to Ireland, I had the pleasure of visiting the family of John and Kathleen Kelly for the most recent time. They were very proud of being able to show me a lovely litter of black puppies, with lovely white spots on their chests, and all in great shape.

John and Kathleen Kelly’s Nutstown kennel has certainly been one of the most certain and steady values over the past fifty years of Irish Wolfhound breeding. Their choice of breeding animals was always deliberate and well thought-out, and everything was based on an extensive knowledge of pedigrees, which held no secrets for either John or Kathleen. Theirs is also one of the few remaining kennels that has never deviated from a clear family line and has thus been able to maintain a consistent type over more than fifty years: a line of solid, powerful, vital, and – most importantly – healthy hounds.

John had a significant influence on the breed’s development in Ireland, and he was one of the leading experts on the topic. He was invited to judge our breed in numerous countries, among them the United States, the Scandinavian countries, and of course the majority of countries on the Continent.

John was also a committee member of the Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland for numerous years, a function which he fulfilled with great diligence. As such, he was friendly and unpretentious. His great knowledge of our breed allowed him to always be active in offering his help, and this he did without imposing his point of view, be it towards experienced breeders or towards beginners.

If he saw a dog of value, he was always admiring, regardless of that dog’s background.


It is a gentleman and a sage who has left us; his passing leaves a great emptiness in the Irish Wolfhound world.

In the name of the Swiss Club, I extend our sincere condolences to his family and his friends.

2006 IWCS Club Show Yverdon


2007-Millenium - Stud Dog of the Year in Ireland



The dayly Walk