School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
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In memory of “Jo” Ballard (1925-2006): Visionary and volunteer

Sylvia Jocelyn (“Jo”) Smith was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 19 January 1925. After a long battle with pancreatic cancer Sylvia Jocelyn Ballard died with dignity in Canberra on 20 May 2006.

Sylvia Jocelyn Smith met John Oman Ballard in Cambridge, England during February 1949. She was a nurse and he a “cadet” entering into the Colonial Administrative Service. A love story quickly unfolded and it was only three months after they first met that they became engaged and a further two months until they were married. In January 1950 they flew to Tanzania where they remained 7 years. In 1957, the Ballard family moved to Cyprus and then onto North Borneo in 1959. The family moved to Australia in 1963.


Jo Ballard had an interest in dogs throughout her married life. In Africa, the Bull Terrier Cromwell was both pet and protector. In the somewhat less volatile North Borneo she had two standard smooth-haired Dachshunds. With the move of the family from Borneo to Australia mother changed her breed to the Basset Hound.

Jo Ballard obtained her foundation Basset CH. Chevalier Harlequin (Harley), from Dr Harry Spira in 1963. Harley’s son, CH. Yaralama Medway sired her first quality dogs, which were MBISS CH. Yaralama Captivate (Oddy) and CH. Yaralama Colonist (Count). Having two quality dogs in a breed with limited numbers can pose a problem so she recruited her daughter Jane to show Oddy while she herself showed Count. These two dogs were recognized as “being very considerable competitors, always getting consideration sometimes getting major awards” (judge Derek Hyde). The first Yaralama Kennels BISS came in 1972 under judge Peter Warby at the NSW Basset Hound Club Show. Throughout her breeding program Jo Ballard never wavered from her fundamental vision that a dog should be able to do what it was bred to do. This dream is articulated in a short article entitled “Fun in the Fields” published in the Basset Hound Silver Jubilee book, 1960 to 1985.

In the early 1980’s Bassets became too strong so her breed of choice became the Jack Russell Terrier and then the Parson Russell as she always preferred the taller style of Jack. My sister Melissa escorted her mother around the dog show rings with a variety of Russell’s. Jo Ballard’s first major win with the Jacks was in 1986 when judge Bob Curtis awarded Yaranui Runcie (Runcie) BISS. Her first "official" Parson was Yaranui Shasta (Shasta), transferred from the JRTCA register as a Parson Jack Russell (the Jack was dropped later) due to her bloodlines. Unfortunately, Shasta died at an early age but she guided CH. Galtres Bailiff Ridley U.D. (Imp U.K.) CD (Bay) to be the first Parson Russell to become a national conformation champion in any country. Jo Ballard is an author of multiple book chapters on the Parson Russell and contributed to the educational website considering Canine Variation Under Domestication.


"Jo" Ballard


MBISS Aus CH Yaralama Captivate


CH. Yaranuip Thistle UD (Wasp)

In the late 1990’s Jo Ballard discontinued breeding dogs because years were not on her side. As a consequence of this decision she changed her focus from the conformation ring to obedience. As her maxim was “if it is worth doing it is worth doing well”, it came as no surprise to me to learn that she was ACT Obedience handler of the year in 2000. At the age of 78 she won the ACT 2003 Utility Obedience Points Score Trophy (with scores of 184, 183 and 191) and Companion Dog of the Year with CH. Yaranuip Thistle UD (Wasp). The Good Companion sent handler Jo Ballard some questions after her success and “her reply is an inspiring story of highs and lows, team work and pearls of wisdom every do lover should read” (The Good Companion March 2004, p. 17). To my knowledge Wasp is the only Parson Russell to have achieved both a confirmation title and a UD.

All breeds judges Bill & June Weston considered Jo Ballard a “well-respected and valuable” grass roots volunteer for the canine community. She was an inaugural member of the Hound Club of the ACT, attending the meeting on 13 May 1965 when the Club was formed and was elected to the Committee of the new Club that night. She was a life member of both the ACT Hound Club and the Basset Hound Club of NSW and a long-term member of the ACT Ladies Kennel Club. Commensurate with her changing interests she became involved in the ACT Companion Dog Club in the late 1990’s and, at the age of 75, she became a “New Instructor”. During the next five years she contributed to the running of the club as an obedience instructor.

Much of what I learnt in my life I learnt from my mother. During our travels to remote country dog shows, with the sun either going up or down we chatted and we nattered. Once even she was pulled up for speeding – but the sympathetic policeman let us continue because he had a Basset! During these trips mother did not tell me about the birds and the bees but at the family farm just outside Canberra she involved me at conception and at delivery of our Basset Hounds. It was during one long delivery that mother gave me a memorable piece of advice that rings true as I write this article … “if you want to own a dog you must accept that you will outlive it because humans live longer than dogs”. I believe that this simple maxim can be extended. We must accept that, barring disaster, our parents will die before we do because they are a generation older than us. We must accept this today as our sons and daughters must accept this tomorrow.

Please join with me in rejoicing the life of Sylvia Jocelyn Ballard: visionary and volunteer, wife of John Oman Ballard, mother to my three sisters and I, Ma to 11 grandchildren and friend to all well-behaved canines.