Wednesday, 20 November 2013





Lord Byron’s Dog


It is said that man’s best friends is his dog.   Lord Byron certainly thought that about his dog Boatswain, and he made sure that the dog would not be forgotten by erecting an unusual monument outside his ancestral home, Newstead  Abbey in Nottinghamshire.    An urn, which contains the dogs remains, surmounts the fine monument and an inscription reads :


“ Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence,

Courage without ferocity and all the virtues of man without his vices.”


Byron also wrote a lengthy ode to his dog which is portrayed on the monument and finishes as follows :

“ Ye! Who perchance behold this simple urn,

Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.

To mark a Friend’s remains these stones arise.

I never knew but one – and here he lies. “


In his will of 1811, Byron directed that he should be buried in the vault below the monument near to his dog, but his wish was not fulfilled.

Boatswain's memorial




Greyfriars’ Bobby


When John Gray, an old Edinburgh character know as ‘ Auld Jock ‘, died in 1858, he was buried in the churchyard of Greyfriars’ Church in Edinburgh.   His faithful dog ‘Bobby’, was clearly devastated by his master’s death and stayed by his graveside for no less than 14 years until his own death in 1872.   Bobby has been immortalised in stone by a very fine life-size statue which can be seen in the street near to the churchyard entrance.   A plaque reads :


“ A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars’ Bobby.

In 1858 this fathful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars’ churchyard

And lingered near the spot until his death in 1872.

With permission erected by the Baroness Burdett-Couts. ‘

 Greyfriar's Bobby

Bobby’s story has also been immortalised in a book  and a film.




Tip was a sheepdog that also showed great loyalty and devotion to his master.  Joseph Tagg was out walking with his dog on Howden Moor in the Derbyshire Peak District on 12th December 1953 when he collapsed and died.  Although the body was not found until 27th March following, Tip stayed at his masters side during those harsh three months.

A memorial to remind us of this loyalty and devotion can be seen near to Ashopton Viaduct, alongside Derwent Reservoir.





Nigger was the faithful black Labrador dog who belonged to Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the leader of the immortal ‘ Dam Busters ‘.   The dog became Squadron mascot and was a regular sight around RAF Scampton where they were training for their historic raid.    On the day before the actual raid, Nigger ran out onto the road outside the station and was killed by a passing car.   Gibson arranged for the dog to be buried in a grave outside the squadron briefing rooms at midnight, whilst the Lancaster bombers were approaching their target.  The code word ‘ nigger ‘ was used to transmit a successful mission.
Nigger’s grave is still well preserved in its original position at RAF Scampton.
Nigger's grave





In 1949 an Alsation dog called  ‘Antis’ was awarded the Dickin Medal – the animal V.C, by Field Marshal Lord Wavell at the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia – the first non-British dog to win the award.   In making the presentation Lord Wavell said, “ This presentation is for outstanding courage,  devotion to duty and life saving on several occasions while serving with the Royal Air Force and the French Air Force from 1940 – 45 in England and overseas, and devotion to your master.   You have been in action many times, and have been wounded, and you have inspired others by your courage and steadfastness on many occasions. “

Antis was a dog who received the Dickin Medal in 1949 from the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals for bravery in service in England and North Africa during the Second World War

Antis’ remarkable story unfolds in 1940 war-time France and involves exiled Czechoslovakian airmen who joined, firstly the French Air Force and then the Royal Air Force.   Jan Bozdech was one of the exiles who was unfortunate to be shot down in no man’s land between the Maginot and Seigfried defence lines whilst serving as observer and air gunner in a French Potez 63 aircraft on the morning of 12th February 1940.   Whilst taking cover in a bombed- out farmhouse, Bozdech found a pitiful four-weeks old Alsatian puppy, the only survivor of a litter and the mother dog.  Jan Bozdech had already rescued his wounded pilot from the aircraft   and to cut a long story short, Jan managed to get the pilot, and indeed the dog, to safety. 
So began a long association between man and dog.     Jan called the dog ‘Antis’ after the Czech A.N.T bomber and took the dog with him through thick and thin as France capitulated, via Gibraltar, after they had both survived twice being dumped in the sea through enemy action, to England.    Jan joined the RAF and became part of a squadron of Czech airmen and despite many clashes with bureaucracy, Antis remained at his side throughout the war and indeed was twice wounded in action.   In many wartime situations the dog proved his worth, giving timely warnings of enemy attack, finding survivors after bombing raids and so forth.  At all time the dog was devoted to his master to the exclusion of all others.     Finally the war was over and the exiles were able to return to their native Czechoslovakia.
Jan and Antis soon settled into family life in Prague. A wife and son then completed the family  giving Antis a fresh responsibility and an apparent rosy future.   Jan, now a Captain in the Czech Airforce working in the Ministry of Defence, published three books about the war and their experiences and both he and Antis became public figures.   Unfortunately their happiness was not to last,  life under the Communist regime was not as relaxed as it might be and soon Jan was high on the purge list, finally being left with no option but to flee the country.   Assisted by patriots he and another man were transported to an area near to the border with West Germany where a patriotic forester was to attempt to lead them across the border.  The man was dismayed to find that Jan was accompanied by Antis but when Jan refused to continue without his dog, the man acceded.   The crossing was anything but smooth with Antis having to rescue both Jan’s companions from a fast flowing river and providing warmth for all three men, as well as detecting enemy patrols and actually tackling a border guard who was about to shoot them.
Jan subsequently made it back to England, but on this occasion was obliged to allow Antis to be quarantined for six months.   Jan was able to rejoin the RAF with Antis as his constant companion until 1953 when Antis, who was then more than 13 years old with failing sight, had to be put down.    The dog was buried in the Animal Cemetery at Ilford, where a very fine memorial marks his grave.
The full exploits of Jan and Antis are outlined in a book, ‘One man and his dog’, published by Harrap in 1960 under the authorship of Anthony Richardson.
During 1992 –1993, major remodelling work took place in the centre of Birmingham as part of that city’s efforts to make their centre more environmentally friendly.   In that they undoubtedly succeeded and it is well worth seeing.   One of the sub-contractors employed on the paving works in Victoria Square brought his black Labrador dog, Ebony, to the site nearly every day and over the months the dog became a familiar sight in the area, being easily visible with its ‘dayglow’ bright green vest which the owner put on it for safety reasons.   The dog became a friends to the many office workers and visitors to the area.
Towards the end of the contract and whilst plans were being made for Diana, Princess of Wales to rededicate the Square, it was decided to remember Ebony and her paw print was implanted in the pavement near to the Council House as a lasting memorial.   Ebony was also presented to the Princess on the opening day.







Llywelyn was Prince of North Wales back in the 13th century and he had a palace in a lovely valley not far from Caernarfon.  One day the Prince went hunting leaving his faithful dog, Gelert, to guard his baby son.   When he returned the dog, covered in blood, sprang to meet his master.   The Prince was alarmed and when he found his son’s cot empty with bloodstains everywhere he assumed that the dog had savaged the child.  He promptly killed the dog with his sword.  He then heard a child crying and found the boy unharmed but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain.   The Prince buried the dog nearby and the village, near to the stone which marks the grave, is called Beddgelert.


Gelert memorials

Wallet and Dart


Two greyhounds who were drowned are remembered by a gravestone situated high on the moors above Halifax at Cold Edge near Mount Tabor.  The stone, which is situated at the front of the former Withens Hotel, bear the epitaph :


‘Here lie the remains of Wallet and Dart

Who in their last race made a capital start

But their owners lamented, they never got through it

For alas they were drowned in Thornton Conduit’.
Wallet & Dart stone






The naturalist and broadcaster who used the name ‘Romany’ back in the 1930’s and 40’s was in fact a retired Methodist Minister, The Rev. George Bramwell Evens.  Apparently his mother Tilly Smith was of gypsy stock.  Evens died in 1943 and his ‘vardo’ or caravan, was restored and is preserved as a memorial to him in Parkway at Wilmslow in Cheshire.  
Romany’s famous dog, Raq, died in 1947 and is buried in a memorial garden alongside the caravan.

Raq's grave

The  Smoking  Dog  Inn
The inn sign at  The  Smoking  Dog  Inn  at Malmesbury in Wiltshire depicts a dog smoking a pipe!   So what is it all about?  Apparently the inn was so named after the owners of the building found a picture of the smoking dog in the cellar, which really makes us non the wiser as to why the dog was smoking a pipe!

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