The founder and pioneer of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Mr. Nikolai Liakhoff, bought a house in Derby Road in 1954 on his retirement, having been involved with the movement since 1933.
Nikolai was born in Odessa in 1897 and served as a Cossack guard, winning an award for bravery in the First World War but was eventually forced to evacuate the Crimea in late 1920 to Istanbul.
In Istanbul he met and married a Russian Princess – Irena Ourousoff in 1925 and took various jobs around Europe before settling in Switzerland, working for a rich American, Mrs. Doris Eustis, who bred and trained German Shepard dogs there and in America for guiding blind people. The 1929 Wall Street crash led to the Swiss training school closing and Nikolai Liakhoff had the choice of moving to America or Britain as a permanent dog trainer. He chose the latter because it is said he preferred to live in a monarchy; he was awarded an MBE in 1953 for his guide dog training work.
Miss Muriel Crooke – an Alsatian enthusiast – launched the British guide dog movement in 1930 and approached the well-known and respected Mrs. Doris Eustis for help. Nikolai Liakhoff arrived in England in October 1933 to take up the guide dog training post with only 18 months dog training experience. However, he quickly won the organising committee’s confidence.
Captain Liakoff suffered from poor health after retirement at the age of 60 and died at the age of 65.