The Real Lassie

The Real Lassie

 

A few days in Lyme Regis. Great cliff and  hill walks, historic churches, lovely lunches in Sidmouth and Beaminster. Now a middle class resort (more galleries than chip shops) the town was once a bigger port than Liverpool. Lyme  is famous for Jane Austen(Persuasion) John Fowles (French Lieutenants Woman) Monmouth(here the fateful Duke landed) and now I find the original Lassie.

During the Great War when the UK stood once again stood between the EU and domination by the Bosche, the battleship HMS Formidable with a crew of over 700 was going about its lawful business. On New Years Day 1915 with Auld Lang Synge still on the jolly tars lips, a U Boat struck. As this man of war submerged off the South Devon coast, once again the Lyme Regis lifeboat heard the cry and went out  to save those in peril on the seas.

Rough seas hampered the rescue and 500 perished. Bodies alive and dead were brought back to Lyme Regis and laid out in the Pilot pub which still sits at the bottom of Broad Street , opposite the Cobb Arms. Live bodies were placed in one room and the  immortal dead in another.

The Pilot owner had a cross breed  collie, Lassie. This noble beast sniffed around the dead and stopped at one Able Seaman John Cowan. The dog licked the matelot’s face, licked again, there was a stirring of the corpse,he awoke from his coma. The dog stayed with the sailor an hour until the owner looking for him discovered his dog and the barely alive hero.

IN a country which values its pets almost as much as its freedom from foreign interference, the dog that saved the sailor was  a story which caught the imagination. And when the stories which inspired the Film and TV dog, which saved many, came to be written in the late 1930s there could be only one name. Lassie. The Pilot like  most pubs in Lyme is owned by the excellent Palmers brewery who brew in nearby Bridport.

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