Tales of faithful dogs from the Georgian era

There are many accounts of dogs seeking help for their owner following an accident. Here we’ve collected a few tales from contemporary newspapers.

In the early evening of a mid-November day in 1767, a man named Gabriel Park was walking to his home at Carntyne, a Glasgow mining area, when he fell into an old and deep abandoned coal pit by the roadside. Luckily it had no water in it, but he had no way of escape. Gabriel’s small pointer dog was with him, and all night it ran around the mouth of the pit, yelping and howling. This noise alerted several colliers who, early the next morning, were walking to their place of work; they came over to see what the commotion was. Gabriel was fair spent by this time, and had barely the strength left to call his name, but his rescuers heard his faint cries for help. They fetched ropes and brought him to safety; although he was in a bad state, Gabriel was expected to survive. And, if the Gabriel Park who was buried at Glasgow in 1794 at the age of 67 is him, then survive he did, thanks to his dog.

Another rescue by a dog also occurred in Scotland, on a similar winter’s evening in 1811. Andrew Frame and John Corbet, from Larkhall, were on their way home in an open cart together with their dog. They had to cross the Clyde, which was swollen, and by a mishap, cart, horse and the two men ended up in the river. John Corbet disappeared under the surface and was drowned, but his companion, Andrew, survived, thanks to the dog who grabbed hold of his master’s clothes and kept his head above the water until they got to the shore. The horse also managed to make it to safety; after getting away from his harness he swam to one side of the river only to find the bank too steep to escape, so made his way to the opposite side where he was able to scramble out.

View of the Clyde, by John Knox.
View of the Clyde (in better weather!) by John Knox; Government Art Collection

When the Comet II paddle steamer collided with another steamer off Kempock Point, Gourock, Scotland, and sank with the loss of 62 of the 80 passengers on board, a lady named Jane Monro was saved when she managed to grab hold of a greyhound who had been onboard, and who kept her afloat. The fate of the greyhound was not recorded (but we hope he was pulled to safety too!).

Paul, John Dean; Greyhound in a Landscape by John Dean Paul
Paul, John Dean; Greyhound in a Landscape by John Dean Paul; Leicestershire County Council Museums Service

Many other accounts relate stories of faithful hounds refusing to leave their dead masters. The following is from early February, 1799.

On Tuesday, an officer’s servant belonging to West Suffolk, was found near the Newmarket turnpike, supposed to have lain in the snow since Saturday. A faithful dog was found lying near his deceased master, buried in the snow by whose barking the body was discovered.

Several years earlier, in 1778, a Southampton man known as French Frank was sent on horseback to Stoke, accompanied by his faithful Newfoundland dog. Somehow met with an accident and both French Frank and the horse ended up tangled together in what was described as ‘the Barge River’ (possibly this means the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed the year before and that French Frank was heading to Stoke-on-Trent). They both drowned, the bodies discovered due to the Newfoundland, who swam next to French Frank’s body and who could not be coaxed from the water until he was almost exhausted.

A clearly well-to-do gentleman from the London area (for the family had servants) had, in the summer of 1752, been missing for a fortnight. He had a favourite dog who rarely left his side, and this dog had also been absent, returning only for his dinner each day, then quickly vanishing again. Eventually, someone decided that it would be an idea to follow the dog, to see if he could lead them to the missing man. The dog led his owner’s relations to the side of a flooded gravel pit on the road to Marylebone where the dog’s master was found drowned.

Kensington Gravel Pits (1811-1812) by John Linnell
A later depiction of Gravel Pits at Kensington (1811-1812) by John Linnell; The Tate

Guide Dogs

Faithful dogs to guide the blind are nothing new.

In the summer of 1810, a blind man accepted a bet of seven shillings, that he could walk six miles in an hour and a half.  In this undertaking, he would be guided by his faithful dog. The pair started at 8 o’clock in the morning, on the Fulham road, and walked one mile out and then one mile back in until the six miles was completed. There was a huge crowd of people gathered to watch the event and, to their surprise, the whole six miles was completed with fifteen minutes to spare. The spectators, so impressed by the blind man’s feat, hastily started a collection amongst themselves, and in no time at all they’d raised 40 shillings, which was handed over to the blind pedestrian. Let’s hope he treated his pooch to a good meal with some of the proceeds!

Blind girl led by a dog, 1785.
Blind girl led by a dog, 1785. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Things didn’t always go so well, though. In 1776, a blind woman was walking along Newcastle’s Quayside, led by her dog. Unfortunately, the dog got a bit too close to the edge, and the poor woman fell into the water. It was near full tide, and a passing stranger grabbed a boat hook, managed to get hold of her dress, and dragged her back to dry land before any great harm came to her.

Ferry boat with passengers disembarking; Newcastle upon Tyne; Luke Clennell;
Ferry boat with passengers disembarking; Newcastle upon Tyne; Luke Clennell; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

We found another account of a blind man falling into a river, but this time you couldn’t blame his faithful dog as it was down to foul play.

Sunday night a poor blind man, who was led about the streets by a dog, fell into the Liffey, and was drowned. This was occasioned by some abominable villain cutting the cord with which the poor man was guided by the dog. The animal displayed astonishing affection to the body of his master, when taken out of the river, by licking it over, and signifying great concern at his fate.

Sources:

Derby Mercury, 17 July 1752

The Scots Magazine, 1 November 1767

Newcastle Courant, 11 May 1776

Hampshire Chronicle, 11 May 1778

Cambridge Intelligencer, 9 February 1799

Oxford Journal, 9 October 1802

London Courier and Evening Gazette, 19 July 1810

Globe, 20 December 1811

Morning Chronicle, 26 December 1825

2 thoughts on “Tales of faithful dogs from the Georgian era

  1. What a Heart-warming true story. Don’t you just Love ♥️Dogs!!! My Golden Retriever is so into her people and spends all day checking on my husband and I. Zoey is an appreciated face I see each morning when I get coffee ☕️ in bed. She’s so Loving 🥰, Affectionate and Intuitive. Some time I ask her, “Are you my Guardian Angel, You understand me perfectly, right? She just looks at me with those Beautiful, Loving, Brown Eyes. She’s our Companion.
    I really enjoyed this story.
    Monique♥️🐾🐕

    Like

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