Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

A true sea dog

July 28th, 2012

DOG STORIES are always likely to get a good reception from the Man with Two Dogs. Better still is a story that might have associations with Sea Dog Bamse whose story, retired Montrose GP Andrew Orr, and I, wrote together.

Bobby was a black Labrador who lived at No. 3 River Street, Ferryden during and after World War II. He belonged to Stewart Nicoll, but I got his story from Stewart’s cousin, Evelyn Annandale, who grew up in the village and has Ferryden in her DNA.

As a historical aside Stewart is son of the late Councillor Alec Nicoll who was a mainstay of Ferryden life for many years, and in whose honour the historic Ferryden Pier was renamed Nicoll’s Knuckle when the Montrose sea oil base was opened. Alec was also Launching Authority for the Montrose Life Boat – which is relevant to this story.

Bobby was another true seadog and shared Bamse’s fascination for the sea, and never lost an opportunity to jump aboard fishing boats and accompany the Ferryden fishermen when they sailed to the fishing grounds. There is another comparison with Bamse – Bobby’s concern for his human companions.

Up until at least the 1950s, two rockets known as maroons were fired to call out the life boat crew in response to a Mayday distress call. The first was for standby, the second for action.

When the wind was in the right direction I can remember, as a child, occasionally hearing the distinctive sound of the maroons exploding, and knew that the lifeboat was being got ready for launching.

At the time, seven of the eight crew members were Ferrydeners and speed was of the essence to get to the life boat which was launched from the then life boat shed – which will be well remembered by Montrosians of a certain age – situated on the other side of the River South Esk from Ferryden. (Another historical aside, Montrose RNLI Lifeboat Station is the oldest continuously manned station in Britain)

The fishermen did not have cars and the quickest and most direct means of reaching the life boat station was to row across the river. A heavy, clinker-built rowing boat with four pairs of oars was kept in constant readiness for the sole use of the life boat crew.

The sound of the maroons was Bobby’s call for action too and he would be waiting for the crew to launch the row boat, and jump into the bows. The story is told of the occasion when the maroons went off and Bobby found himself alone in the house with nobody to let him out; so frantic was the dog to take his usual place with the crew that he plunged headfirst through a closed window.

On another occasion he was late for the launching of the row boat and arrived at the water’s edge with the crew half way across the river. Without missing a beat the bold boy dived in and swam after them, to the consternation of onlookers who feared that he would swept out to sea and drowned.

In those days the lifeboat – which was the aptly named Good Hope – was launched down a steep ramp, entering the water with a dramatic bow wave of spray as she set off on her mercy mission, with their canine crew member invariably at his post too.

He was generally regarded as the best ratcatcher in Ferryden, but there was a softer side to him and he could pick up an egg in his teeth from the henhouse and deliver it unbroken to the kitchen. ‘Very couthy’ is how Evelyn describes him.

Bobby was another true canine character with a distinct personality and a strong affinity with humans. He thrived on human company, visiting friends all around the village and sometimes staying out all night.

His ratcatching abilities may have contributed to his sudden death aged fourteen. He was inadvertently poisoned, possibly by eating poisoned rat bait placed where he was able to get it.

Evelyn Annandale leads regular village walks round the old village of Ferryden talking about its history, the lives of the fishing families and the personalities. Proceeds go to Christian charities and she can be contacted on 0771 424 1903.

Written on Saturday, July 28th, 2012 at 11:29 am for Weekly.