How appropriate that this country’s most loyal dog was not a Scottish terrier but Bluey, an Australian cattle dog. In 1927 a ‘Swaggie’ was critically injured when he was hit by a car. He was taken to the St. George Hospital in Kogarah, but died soon afterwards. The man’s young dog had followed the ambulance to the hospital and that is where his long vigil began. For months he waited at the hospital, hoping his master would reappear. On one occasion he was removed and locked up, but he escaped and returned to keep watch.
Eventually, respecting the dog’s unswerving loyalty, he was ‘adopted’ by the hospital. The matron paid for his license and his meals were provided by staff. No-one knew his name, so he was dubbed Bluey, for his colouring. Bluey met every vehicle that appeared. He only snapped irritably at cars, but followed each ambulance until it stopped, checking the sick or injured occupant. Years went by and the dog’s commitment was unwavering. In an article published in The Sydney Mail on March 27 1935 a reporter wrote;
‘At the out-patients’ department opposite the entrance gates he is a great favourite with the ‘regulars’. Several times per day he enters the waiting-room and marches up and down the forms, carefully inspecting each person. He has very good manners, never molests the children no matter how roughly they handle him, and although he is civil to all, he refuses to be really friendly with anybody,,,,, One wonders how long his faith will endure, and how long he will remain in waiting.’
Australian cattle dogs have a reputation for being a big ‘nippy’ due to their strong herding instinct. It’s lovely to think that Bluey was so gentle with everyone, especially children.
1939 was something of a milestone for the Swaggie’s dog, as his loyalty was publicly acknowledged.
MADE HISTORY, BUT JUST ANOTHER DAY TO BLUEY.
Bluey, a dusky-blue cattle dog, sniffed dejectedly around the entrance to St. George Hospital yesterday. Inside the hospital 100 people waited to pay him tribute…… Yesterday a hospital bed, purchased with the money raised to honour Bluey, was handed over by the Mayor of Kogarah (Ald. Bell) to the Matron, The Mayor also unveiled a small brass plaque above the bed, briefly telling Bluey’s story. ‘This memorial is unique in Australia” said the chairman of the hospital board. A notice on the hospital gate says NO DOGS ADMITTED, but it does not apply to Bluey. He sleeps under the verandahs near the entrance gates. A kennel was bought for him, but he would have nothing to do with it.
The article was accompanied by a photo of the Mayor and a now aging Bluey.
The main person behind the memorials was popular Sydney radio announcer Miss Joan Read, from the station 2CH. She had launched an on-air appeal for funds. Money raised was also used to purchase a large kennel at the King Edward’s Dogs Home at Waterloo. A brass plaque on the kennel honoured Bluey, (Information from The Propellor, March 21 1940)
By now Bluey was very old, and failing in health. He died in the hospital grounds in November 1940.
Bluey’s death had a big impact on the public. The following year a middle-aged lady called Eslie Parton sent a framed photo of him to the hospital, along with a poem she had written in his memory. Here is the final verse;
He was remembered again in 1945, when an illustration appeared in Melbourne’s Argus newspaper. (23, June)
NEVER DID A DOG DESERVE TO REST IN PEACE AS MUCH AS DEAR OLD BLUEY .
NOTE – We are left to wonder about the identity of the swagman who inspired such loyalty in his companion.
UPDATE – Unfortunately no mementoes of Bluey remain at the hospital. However, following my inquiry I was sent this extract from the 1962 Annual Report. My thanks to Richard Carroll, from St George’s media and communications department.
FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG, CLICK HERE.