A TRUE sea dog who was a constant companion to Admiral Lord Collingwood will be celebrated this weekend.
Newcastle-born Collingwood’s letters home during his 44 years at sea often mention Bounce, to whom he was devoted.
And the 43rd annual Morpeth Gathering, which begins tomorrow until Sunday, will feature a puppet of Bounce in its Saturday pageant.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Collingwood, whose family home was in Morpeth, the town’s deputy mayor Phil Taylor will dress as the admiral for the pageant.
A set of panels of scenes from Collingwood’s life by the Kirkley Hall wood carving group will also be on show at the Town Hall on Sunday afternoon.
Bounce the puppy joined Collingwood in 1790 on the 28-gun frigate Mermaid.
Collingwood wrote to his sister Mary in the same year: “My dog is a charming creature. Everybody admires him. He is grown as tall as the table I am writing on.”
There are records of Bounce accompanying Collingwood when he came back to Morpeth. Bounce was afraid of gunfire and during action at sea was confined to the dark, lower orlop deck.
Collingwood also writes of having to sing his dog to sleep.
“Bounce is the perfect example of the dog as man’s best friend,” said Capt Stephen Healy, chairman of the Collingwood 200 festival committee.
He said that Bounce would have been a comfort to Collingwood. “Any commander has to keep his distance from the crew in what would be a rather isolated existence.
“There are so many stories which make reference to Bounce that Collingwood must have had more than one dog of that name.”
Morpeth Gathering chairman Kim Bibby-Wilson said: “Bounce is a wonderful, real-life character and he is part of the Collingwood story.”
Naval historian and author Capt Peter Hore said: “ It is clear that Collingwood and Bounce were inseparable.”
After Collingwood was made a baron following the victory at Trafalgar, he wrote home about Bounce: “The consequential airs he gives himself since he became a right honourable dog are insufferable.”
In 1809 Bounce fell overboard at night and was lost in the Gulf of Leon.
Collingwood wrote to his sister: “He is a great loss to me.
“I have few comforts but he was one, for he loved me. Everyone sorrows for him. He was wiser than many who hold their heads higher.”
Research in Menorca, which was Collingwood’s base when he was commander in chief in the Mediterranean, shows that the ship’s carpenter made a casket for the lost Bounce and covered it with a Union flag to give the dog a symbolic send-off.
The crew bought Collingwood a replacement Bounce in Menorca and created a tarred pigtail for the dog and dressed it in a naval neckerchief .
The new Bounce would sit at the end of the line at daily parades.
THE Morpeth Gathering will feature more than 60 events, and a special focus this year will be the area’s heritage of people making their living from the land.
The Saturday morning pageant will include sculptures of cows made by local pupils. Tomorrow at 7.30pm in Morpeth Methodist Church there will be a Music of the Shepherds concert.