Old Time Cinque Ports Dogs


By Arthur Woodgate

Now, here is a dog I have never met, his name is “Benjy”, he belongs to a nurse in Rye hospital, and they live together in Main Street, Appledore, and her name is Kay. Somehow I got very friendly with them and we would write to each other, she was a very good artist and would draw a picture of him with his tongue hanging out to indicate licks with me. I expect I will meet him one day, but as yet, all I can do is send her a picture of a rather funny cartoon dog from the newspaper. Benjy seems to be suitable to be one of the loose dogs of Rye, but he wouldn’t be in Rye very often, she did bring him into Rye, on a lead, and he nearly pulled her over going up Mermaid Street, sounds very lively. And perhaps I will see him someday, perhaps not.

At the other side of Rye there lived another one man and his dog, not so peaceful as some, if someone was to touch the latch of the gate where they lived in Winchelsea the noise was frightening from the loud dog barks, which would stop when Mr Bryant told him to. Mr Bryant was a shepherd, and his dog and he had nothing to do in the late afternoon, one would see a dog asleep, or it was the practice that a farm specialist had finished his daily duties early he would finish his hours by mucking in on big summer jobs, such as hoing. I walked up the headland and saw a brownish lump on the head of one of the rows of plants, and I suddenly heard a little growl. It was our shepherd, Bill Bryants dog guarding his masters belongings, had one tried to touch any item they would have been bitten, so it was a move two or so away (and a walk by on the other side) The old dog had been a good servant, and his master had ordered a Welsh sheepdog puppy and the railway staff had no desire to lose him at Rye station from where Bill had been told to collect him from, but he had no car, and got about on a push bike or motorbike, as well as his own two feet to get about on. So he asked me if I would help him and get the puppy in my car, so we went to Bryants home where I was not to help and went home by myself. The next time I saw it, it was running about, with the old dog in a field in “cruches” farm, Icklescombe, as to starting training to take the old dogs place, “dogs hill” funny name to talk about a dog, its just an area at Winchelsea beach with a church built on it, and as hares are seen shooting about very fast, I wonder if “harriers” were not kept on the hill. I suppose harriers are dog, some thought fo r those who think that foxhounds are not dog, how can harriers be. My reason for being at “dogs hills”at that time was, at that time there was a fairly wide drainage waterway which I was told to go and build. For the use of concrete and mortar the weather turned rather bad, and the ditch became frozen over. Whilst this was useful for getting about to fit up some shuttering, then, one could not pour concrete, until three in the afternoon and then have plenty of covers to put over. We managed to do most of the job like this and we beat the weather, so as the weather came our way, we were able to top the road wat over the bridge. As I finished off the surface, I heard my mate, Arthur Luck shouting and a dog barking and before I knew what was happening I wa surrounded by sheep, all over my finished roadway, and the dog was trying to drive them all across. I had let it be known to the shepherd what I was going to do that day and after the difficulty we had that day, I could have strangled the dog and his master, abandoned the site, gone home and cried myself to sleep, but I couldn’t. Of course, Lucky and I had to clean off my partly setting topping, so as to start again the next day. I don’t know now, just what I said to the shepherd, but it was not very kind and all went to believe my opinion, most such disasters are the fault of a dog. There was no dog there, so when I told him not to put his tractor in its shed that night and put a barrier across with “wet concrete” on it, he moved my barrier and drove his tractor straight into a wet concrete floor and buried it’s wheels into about nine inches of setting concrete, no dog there to blame, although some of those who believe hounds and harriers would not be thought of as dogs, I can’t see they are any better.

And here is a little story, amongst the group of sheds, there was one that had been there a long time, as one of the men went by with his dog, a rat jumped out of a stack of bags of grain, but the dog that disturbed him didn’t get anymore, so the baliff fetched his own real old fashioned dog, a big old long haired sheep dog that looked like he could not see through the hair over his eyes. He sniffed around the stack and as each rat came out he caught it in his mouth and gave it to his boss before it met the floor. Which was most human, the tractor driver or the old sheep dog, whilst one sees “one man and his dog” on the television, one might think of them as special dogs, who’s whole being is just show off, but this is not so! And one can see them working all over the place. Two men stood at the gate to a field full of sheep, one was wanting to buy them the other shepherd thinking of selling for his owner, both men had their dog beside them. The buyer expressed that they had better look at them and off went his dog, but the other dog remained still with sheep all around him, whilst the first one paced along the outside of the flock.

As one walks down the steps between Cemetary and the bottom of Lesom there are a few trees. At various times of the day a shepherd and his dog come there to count the few sheep running among the trees and the open fields and paths. The shepherds just look at his dog and it runs off amongst the trees and brought back what sheep he could find, the man, as we looked, said to the dog that they were one short, and off he went again, and he came back with the lost sheep.

Way back, when the four of our family lived together, my sister badly wanted to own a dog but father did not agree that dogs should live in with humans, so she continued to badger him and after some time he gave in, under certain conditions. And he uncovered a kennel he had made, it was fairly big so it would have been made in sections in the stone yard, and I remember helping to get round in sections to our back door. His first condition was that humans and dogs should not live together, next was he should not be trained to be vicious with intruders. Now having got his home ready, I think dad then bought a puppy of many breeds and he seemed to like his own home, and his job to guard us. He was something of a spaniel but shorter legs which meant he had plenty of room to turn any way if he heard any one around and he seemed rather pleased with himself for being able to do that. If he heard a noise when and where there shouldn’t be he would just do a little murmer and come out so he made a noise of his own and it dragged over his door sill. They were all working as we had hoped, he wasn’t trained to be without some freedom all day, he was let loose and then he went where he liked but didn’t get to understand which of us four were his master so whoever of us he saw going out he would follow them. Most days he would go off with dad, and would sit with front paws in line with the inside edge of the groove of the sliding door. If dad heard him move, he would just say “brice” the name joan called “and everybody else by now”. The reason so I will tell you why, we all were members of the St John Ambulance Brigade, dad and Joan both officers and mum and me just members, although I was storekeeper which didn’t have a rank. The officer in charge of Kent, Sussex and Surrey was commissioner David Brice and he was very popular. What David Brice knew, I wonder what he would have thought, when I refer to Brice from now on, it means the dog (unless mentioned). So every time one of us moved he would look round the river banks for salves. Now on this particular afternoon, I had got home sooner than usual, I had just put my bike away and just going in the back door when I spotted Brice with a length of salvaged wood across his mouth and every time he tried to get through the gate it hit the posts, it must of hurt his mouth, he put the wood down and stood thinking, then he turned it so it was pointing through the gate, so he grabbed one end and pulled it through backwards. And now we come to Sid Ashenden who agreed with dad that his dog and brice, when they had a fight or two, that Brice had no cuts and the bigger Ashenden dog had done the attacking and the matter was dropped, and the two dogs seemed friendly again.

I was travelling to Peasmarsh to work in a 30cwt lorry with a temporary scaffold board seat along each side, it was in the middle of Rye Hill that the driver had found out our “racing dog” had run that far and fast, if you are wondering that we could have rung my sister to come and get him, it wasn’t easy in those days with no mobile. Anyway we both finished up back home and Brice still remembered his home, There came a day when Brice did not show up at the back gate and as time went on we thought he got lost and we started looking and enquiring with no avail, and we started our tea and a knock came at the front door, all the facial expressions were reflecting Brice, and Joan ran and opened it, she didn’t run back nor seem very happy. She had Brice’s collar in her hand, he had seen what had happened and Joans name was on the collar. It was Harry Britt, a railway workman, who we asked to come in and tell us what happened, he was chasing a cat which got clear of a moving train, but Brice got hit and killed, Harry had taken his collar off and buried the dog by the side of the track to save us the horror.

A while later my wife and I spent a few days in Lancing Staing with a friend, we were sitting on a seat in the sea front and just below us there was a rubbish bin with an open top. We were thinking of moving or finding something to cover the bin when up came a rough looking medium sized dog and it placed some rubbish in the bin and then carried on sniffing around and picking up rubbish among the pebbles and putting things in the bin, we watched as he carried on cleaning up the beach as far as one could see both ways and then decided to stop on top of the hill. That was too late because after using all that energy, he jumped over the backboard of a moving vehicle and sat down between my legs and wouldn’t move before I did, then we were given the problem of a field of lambing ewes, no food for him and the need to tie him up. We had an open building with strong stanions so that was east, but the poor fellow could only sit there and look at the sheep, I gave him some of my sandwich and any other bits I had with me.

Rye’s Own August 2013

All articles, photographs and drawings on this web site are World Copyright Protected. No reproduction for publication without prior arrangement.