Tony Lord recalls tales of the headmaster’s ferocious dog

Best for you dog-lovers out there not to read this piece. In 1949 the headmaster of Christ’s College, a private school at St Germans Place, Blackheath, owned a large white dog of mixed pedigree. I think that the good Mr Crombie, a tall man of forbidding appearance, having had a classical education, was an admirer of the famous Roman general or possibly a fan of Portsmouth football club, because instead of naming his dog Butch, Fido or Snowy had given it the unusual name of Pompey.

Pompey enjoyed being patted and scratched behind his ears by the small boys at the school, but when the holidays came round and the boys went away the big mongrel was lonely and started biting people.

An interesting case for a dog psychiatrist. Four people were bitten and one complained to the police about being attacked, with the result that the headmaster appeared at Greenwich Police Court, summoned for allowing a ferocious dog to be at large.

Pompey’s first victim had been Thomas Stoker, who was a driver working for the White Line Laundry. He was at the tradesman’s entrance to the school when Pompey took out a small part of his buttock. “He got hold of my backside”, he told Mr Pereira, the magistrate, “And then it tried to bite the back of my neck.” (Obviously Pompey preferred scrag-end to rump steak).

Thomas was followed by postman George Willen, who said the dog attacked him when he was delivering letters. He heard a growl and was bitten on the right calf. A third complainant was Henry Raine, who was bitten on the ankle as he cycled past the school.

The fourth victim was Joseph Taylor, a heath keeper, who was picking up litter on the heath in front of the school when the dog mauled him.

Joseph stopped picking up litter and found PC Philpot on his beat in Shooters Hill Road and said that it was time something was done about that dog.

The constable (braving Pompey’s dripping fangs) saw the headmaster, who said: “I don’t understand it. He never troubles the children. During the holidays he is unhappy and misses them.”

Mr Pereira, the magistrate, made an order for the dog to be kept under control and asked Mr Crombie to pay two pounds costs.

Someone who would have known how to deal with Pompey was Dr Jones, who lived at Mycenae Road, near The Standard. In 1932, the doctor was constantly being harassed by Lucky, a terrier that would run out and snap at his ankles as he cycled up Old Dover Road on his way to the Brook Hospital.

Dr Jones took matters into his own hands one morning and filled a garden syringe with a weak solution of ammonia. As the little dog ran out, yapping and snarling almost under his bicycle wheels, the doctor stopped and squirted the irritant into Lucky’s eyes. Lucky ran away yelping with pain.

The dog’s owner, Mrs Zagger, after she found out what had hurt her pet, issued a summons against Dr Jones.

At the magistrate’s court Mr Pereira asked Mrs Zagger, “Is the dog alright now?” “Yes,” was the answer “but he runs indoors and hides when he (pointing at the doctor) rides by.” After this the magistrate ruled that Dr Jones had the right to defend himself from the dog and ordered that Mrs Zagger pay ten shillings costs.

Sixty years ago, my girlfriend, Olive, had a landlady who kept two little dogs (I never knew their names) and when I called on Olive I always carried a rolled-up newspaper to beat them off. However, after seeing the animals tear the postman’s trousers to shreds one day I went home, put on my oldest pair of pants and went back to Olive’s house hoping the dear little dogs were in the front garden. They were and happily chewed up the bottom of my trousers. The apologetic landlady gave me three pounds to replace them with a nice pair of Dak’s, top quality from Dunn’s, the gents’ outfitters shop in Lewisham opposite C&A. A happy outcome, except my ankle took weeks to heal up.

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