Sunday 21 April 2024

Dead Pets Society

Lord Byron's Dog 'Boatswain' (1803–1808) (The Newfoundland)
by Clifton Thomson, 1808
Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Several weeks ago, one of my periodic raids on the Oxfam branch at Mapperley Top resulted in the acquisition of a handsome tome entitled Lord Byron's Best Friends.

The book concerns itself primarily with the dogs that Byron owned during his lifetime - most famously, Boatswain, who is buried at Newstead Abbey beneath an elaborate memorial. After Boatswain's death, Byron stipulated that, upon his own demise, he should be buried in the same tomb as his faithful friend. However, the sale of Newstead Abbey put paid to that idea.

Pleased with my purchase, I had followed my usual route home via Woodthorpe Grange Park, where, in an area next to the Grange, I was surprised to happen upon a feature that had hitherto escaped my attention - a headstone containing the words 'IN MEMORY OF POLLY'.

I concluded that 'Polly' must have been a pet - probably a dog - belonging to one of the former owners of the Grange. Subsequent online searches, however, drew a blank.

Fast forward to yesterday and, upon visiting the grave site again, I fortuitously encountered a member of the Friends of Woodthorpe Park, who not only confirmed that Polly had indeed been a dog, but told me that another dog, Tim, was buried in the same area. Memorials to the two dogs had been placed there, he informed me, by the last person to live at the Grange before it was sold (along with the estate) to Nottingham Corporation in 1921. That person was John Godfree Small, who was Mayor of Nottingham in 1915 and 1917.

Tim's headstone had been removed due to damage inflicted on it by vandals, but is due to be reinstated later this year.

Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that Woodthorpe Park has, these days, been largely taken over by man's best friend. Personally, I'd rather not have to live with dogs pissing and shitting everywhere, but they seem to have a jolly old time and make their owners (for the most part) happy, so I shall try to be less curmudgeonly about such matters in future.

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