Sunday, July 17, 2011

National Identity Dies

Paddy the Wanderer was a ginger and brown Airedale terrier.
He achieved national celebrity status in New Zealand, due to his exploits on the Wellington waterfront (and beyond) during the 1930s. He was remembered as a 'little light in the dark days of the Depression'.
Paddy began life as Dash, the pet of a young girl who died in 1928. The girl's father was a seaman, so the dog spent a lot of time on the Wellington wharves when the family came to meet the father's ships. When the little girl died, Paddy (as he came to be called) began to wander the wharves. Some say he was searching for his lost playmate...
Paddy became a much-loved identity on the waterfront during those Depression years. Watersiders and harbour board workers, seamen and taxi drivers took turns at paying his annual dog licence. Wellingtonians got to know him well as he travelled throughout the city on trams and taxis. He was noted as being "extraordinarily intelligent", and would not cross a road until the traffic lights showed green. His national fame grew as he journeyed by sea to other NZ ports, as well as Australia. He was also rumoured to have made it to San Francisco and back. In December 1935 he took to the air in a Gypsy Moth biplane.
All of these adventures gained Paddy extensive media attention and his popularity with the public grew. Dianne Haworth, in her 2008 book, even notes a "dastardly attempt" by jealous Aucklanders to whisk him away up north!
The Wgtn.City Council awarded Paddy the 'Freedom of the City'. The Harbour Board made him 'Asst.Night Watchman responsible for pirates, smugglers and rodents'. But as he aged, Paddy wandered less: he was usually settled on the Tally Clerks' stand inside the Queen's Wharf gates. As his health deteriorated he was given a sickbed in a wharf shed, and many people visited to enquire about his health.
When Paddy died, today in history, 17th.July 1939, local papers carried obituary notices. A funeral cortege of black taxis escorted his coffin from Queen's Wharf to the city council yards for cremation. It was a scene more in keeping with the death of a high-profile public figure.
A drinking fountain near the Queen's Wharf gates commemorates Paddy's life. It was built in 1945 using stones taken from London's bombed Waterloo Bridge, and paid for with funds raised by the many friends of Paddy the Wanderer. When the drinking bowl overflows with water, it fills the two drinking bowls below, for any dog who pauses to quench a thirst.

1 comment:

Moon Over Martinborough said...

I didn't know this little bit of Welly history. I'll have to look for the water fountain next time I'm at Queen's Wharf. Thanks.