Crufts 2024: meet the judges

black labrador crufts

Judging in BASC’s gamekeeper rings at Crufts is a dream for many who have dedicated years to breeding and training working gundogs. 

The trio who make up the the judging team for Crufts 2024 are Richard MacNicol, Gilly Nickols and Alan Meldrum. 

Richard MacNicol

Richard MacNicol

Richard has been involved in gamekeeping and fieldsports most of his life. From 1971-1996 he was gamekeeper on Badanloch Estate in Sutherland, Scotland, becoming head keeper in 1978 at the age of 24. During his time at Badanloch, Richard pushed for the introduction of a work placement scheme for young gamekeeping trainees from North Highland College, the first of its kind in Scotland. Richard found passing on his knowledge and practical skills so rewarding that he later became a full-time lecturer at the college, working there for 18 years until he retired in 2016. For the last nine years, Richard has been a gundog trainer/handler for Tressady Estate in Sutherland. 

Gundogs have always been an integral part of Richard’s life, having competed in his first field trial in 1978 with a pointer, the breed he is now most associated with. Richard has trained 17 Field Trial Champions, (15 pointers, one English setter and one Irish setter). He has won the British Champion Stakes six times and the Irish Championship four times.

Richard has been a Kennel Club judge for 38 years and an A panel judge for more than 30 years. He has judged in Europe several times and has been a member of the Kennel Club Field Trial sub-committee for 10 years. Over the last 14 years, Richard has presented Kennel Club education seminars for pointer and setter field trials and also served on the judge’s sub-group. Richard was the field trial secretary for the Pointer Club of Scotland for 27 years, before becoming secretary for the Northern Counties in 2020.

Richard is no stranger to the BASC gamekeeper’s rings at Crufts, having previously judged at the show in 2017.

Gilly Nickols

Gilly Nickols

Gilly bought her first Labrador 34 years ago when she was newly married, living in London and expecting her first baby! A chance meeting in Richmond Park led to Gilly training her Labrador bitch “Truffle” to be a gundog.

10 years later, Gilly trained and her first Field Trial Champion, after which she made her first venture to Crufts with him. Gilly went on to train her homebred Labrador dog “Bedgebrook Excalibur” to be Field Trial Champion in the years that followed. He also made a successful journey to Crufts along with two other Labrador dogs, making Gilly’s showing career short-lived, but nonetheless successful.  

Gilly has been fortunate enough to teach widely across Europe as well as at home. She has been part of the A panel as a field trial judge for many years, owning more than 50 Labradors, as well as golden retrievers, a flat coated retriever, several cocker spaniels and a springer spaniel. Gilly has thoroughly enjoyed training and competing in working tests and field trials with all her dogs, although she says her best days were always spent in the field picking up on a shoot day. 

Gilly has served on the committee of the South-Eastern Gundog Society for many years, most recently as chairman and was heavily involved with organising the 2016 IGL Retriever Championship. She is absolutely thrilled to be a judge for the BASC rings at Crufts 2024 and is looking forward to seeing some wonderful working dogs enjoying their chance to shine at the biggest dog show in the world.


Alan Meldrum

Alan Meldrum

Alan was introduced to the world of working dogs through his grandfather – George Meldrum – who worked as a gamekeeper. Alan’s grandfather worked and trained Labradors and became very successful within the field trialling world, both winning and judging the British Retriever championships several times. Later, Alan’s father, who also trained and trialled Labradors, followed in the family tradition and judged the championship twice.

Growing up, Alan couldn’t have asked for two better mentors to develop his skills as a handler and trainer of gundogs. Alan first started competing in field trials in 1988, going on to judge his first trial in 1997. In 2019 Alan became an A panel judge. Alan is currently President of two dog clubs but has held various roles in clubs over the last 35 years. He currently has four labs and two cockers which he regularly picks up and beats with throughout the season.

Alan and his wife are no strangers to the show world, breeding and showing Basset hounds. In April ’23 Alan handled one of their homebred dogs to the bitch challenge certificate at WELKS Championship Show. Alan is currently a JEP Level two judge for Basset hounds.

Working and training dogs have been a massive part of Alan’s life, and he has enjoyed every part of it. Alan has had successes during his career, but admits his best moments have always been when he is out picking-up with his dogs and one of them picks a difficult retrieve; that is what gives him the greatest pleasure. 

Alan said he was both thrilled and honoured when approached by BASC to judge their gamekeeper classes at Crufts and he is relishing the prospect of judging at the biggest dog show in the world.