Biographical Poetry posted June 22, 2015


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A little collie goes a long way

Bob the Railway Dog

by CD Richards


From Adelaide we travelled north
to Peterborough and then set forth
upon a journey, back in time --
when locomotion in its prime
was king of transport; and when trains
conveyed our goods across the plains --
back to a time when every dream
of our young land was built on steam.

On our first night we pitched a tent
next to a local lad named Brent
and his friends -- Paul, Sue and Gus;
that is how he told to us
upon a winter's evening clear
beside the fire, whilst drinking beer --
quite far away from city smog
the tale of Bob, the Railway Dog.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

Bob at first was known to dwell
Around the Macclesfield Hotel;
but when about nine months of age
he left there for a bigger stage.
Bob met up with a railway guard
and thought "This might be just the card;"
"we'll go together, him and me --"
"there's a whole world out there to see."

September eighteen eighty four,
the beginning of Bob's "big explore";
he travelled with his rail guard friend
From Terowie to the railway's end.
But Bob could not abide one home
He had an inbuilt urge to roam.
The drivers, they all gave him time,
so on their engines he would climb.

From Adelaide to Broken Hill
the name of Bob is spoken still;
Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane --
he saw them all aboard a train.
They had for him a collar made
and on it were these words displayed:
"Stop me not but let me jog
for I am Bob the driver's dog".

Loved by children, known abroad;
by travellers he was adored.
This collie pup got all the votes --
he even boarded river boats.
Welcomed back in Adelaide
(it mattered not how long he stayed) 
he'd stop at a nearby hotel
and there they'd feed him very well.

A sheep farmer once kidnapped Bob
with plans the dog should tend his mob.
Bob heard the whistle of a train
and took off straight across the plain.
Confronted by the angry crew,
the farmer backed down and withdrew.
Never one to be tied down,
this collie went from town to town.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The last time Bob was seen alive
was back in eighteen ninety five --
Though legend has it that today
if you are round Terowie way
and venture out one moonlit night
keeping the rails within your sight
you just might glimpse, there through the fog
the tail of Bob, the Railway Dog.

 


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A newspaper cutting stuck to the back of the photograph shown above states:

"On a spring morning in 1885, 32 years back, Bob, then a young puppy, was among about 200 other dogs in a sheep van bound from Terowie to the far north, above Quorn, there to be used in exterminating rabbits. The train stopped at Peterborough, and I saw Mr. William Seth Ferry, then foreman porter at Peterborough, exchange another dog for Bob. Bob was taken from the sheep truck and commenced his railway career that minute. Mr Ferry trained him as a puppy to do all sorts of tricks, and later when he was guard on the narrow gauge northern lines, took Bob thousands of miles with him in the guard's van. Occasionally Bob went with enginemen, riding on the coal stacked on the tender. Mr Ferry left the road to become assistant stationmaster at Peterborough. Mr Short, now Railway Commissioner in Western Australia, was then stationmaster at Peterborough and the write goods clerk. Bob, however, loved the engine whistle and the rattle of the trains and took possession of his seat on the coal stacked on the engine tender of any out or homeward bound train. Peterborough was his home. Bob travelled hundreds of thousands miles this way. His cheery bark and wagging tail greeted thousands. Children in particular would exclaim 'There's Bob! Good old Bob', as the trains went by. There was not one permanent way man's kiddie who did not have a wave for Bob at one time or another. He did a steamer trip from Port Augusta to Port Pirie by mistake. A Pirie engine's whistle was enough for Bob. He was on the way to reach it almost before the boat touched the wharf. For many years he wore a collar, placed on him by friendly enginemen, inscribed: 'Stop me not, but let me jog, For I am Bob, the Driver's Dog'. If there is a better home than this planet for dogs, hundreds of railway men who knew and loved Bob will join me in hoping that he reached it. He died many years ago. His skin was stuffed, and for years stood in a glass case in the Exchange Hotel. If in existence now it would be a generous deed to send it to the railwaymen at Peterborough."
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