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NATO Fleet in West India Dock – Part Two

After yesterday’s excitement of the arrival of seven NATO warships, West India Dock is a little bit quieter today.


The warships  include  Lithuanian Minelayer LNS Jotvingis,  Belgian Navy’s BNS Crocus, the German Navy’s FGS Datteln, the Polish Navy’s ORP Flaming,   the Estonian Navy’s ENS Sakala, the Latvian Navy’s LVNS Talialdis and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Zierlkzee.


Although unusual, there have been a few visits by ships in the NATO fleet in the last few years.


All the ships are generally involved with mine detection or mine laying and the detection of enemy submarines and ships.

The ships from Eastern Europe show how times have changes, before the end of the Cold War they would have been seen as the enemy.


How long they remain in dock is not known but any visitor to the West India Dock interested in ships and boats is in for a treat, as well as the Nato Ships, there are the historic ships the Massey Shaw and Portwey plus the Thames Sailing Barge Will.

For a different view, regular contributor Eric Pemberton has sent a couple of the ships turning into the dock.


The way the ships and tugs come down the Thames and line up to go through the Blue Bridge is always interesting  to watch.



NATO Fleet in West India Dock – November 19th 2014


West India Dock was a hive of activity as a number of ships from a number of countries arrived. As part of a larger fleet, many of the ships had been on a NATO exercise called Joint Warrior in October. It was Europe’s largest military exercise which started off the coast of Scotland and involved 22 ships and submarines, as well as the vast number of warships there was 52 fixed wing aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm and RAF and  3500 personnel taking part.

In the exercises, Lithuanian Minelayer LNS Jotvingis led the other fleet minehunters, Belgian Navy’s BNS Crocus, the German Navy’s FGS Datteln, the Polish Navy’s ORP Flaming,   the Estonian Navy’s ENS Sakala, the Latvian Navy’s LVNS Talialdis and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Zierlkzee.

It was all these ships who have arrived at West India Dock today.


M1068 Datteln built at Lürssen launched 1994.

Datteln is a Type 332 Frankenthal class mine hunter which is a class of German mine hunters. The ships are built of non-magnetic steel. Hull, machinery and superstructure of this class is similar to the original Type 343 Hameln class minesweeper.

Latvian Navy LVNS Talivaldis M06

HNLMS Zierikzee (M862) is one of six Dutch Alkmaarclass minehunters, based on the Tripartite design – built as a partnership program between France, Belgium and The Netherlands. The ship has a Glass-Fibre Reinforced Polyester Hull.

BNS Crocus (M917) is a Tripartite class minehunter of the Belgian Naval Component, launched on September 3, 1986 at the Mercantile-Belyard shipyard in Rupelmonde It was the third of the Belgian Tripartite class minehunters

Polish Navy’s ORP Flaming, a Projekt 206FM-class minehunter,
The Project 206FM class originally designated Project 206F, were mine-countermeasure vessels of the Polish Navy built during the mid-1960s  at the Komuny Paryskiej Shipyard in Gdynia.

N42 Jotvingis of the Lithuanian Navy is a Norway Vidar-class minelayer Minelayer , Former HNoMS Vidar (N52) of the Royal Norwegian Navy.

EML Sakala (M314) is a Sandown-class minehunter of the Estonian Navy and belongs to the Estonian Navy Mineships Division.

The EML Sakala  was built in the United Kingdom, in a Vosper Thornycroft shipyard. The vessel was launched on 27 February 1990 and she entered service a year later on 24 January 1991. She was known as the HMS Inverness  but was sold to the Estonian Navy.


As it was unknown that all the ships were arriving today, it is not known how long they will be here.


Remembering the London Trolleybus


One of my regular contributors, Coral Rutterford sent me a film about London Trolleybuses and she reminisced about travelling on one the trolleybuses that used to travel around London.

 I remember these and often the driver had to get out and put the trolley wires back in place and move on. This brought back memories of places where my relations once lived, where I lived, and places that I recall like Gardiners Corner when the huge shop Gardiners once dominated the crossroads. Sadly that has gone and a small stone plaque against a wall now marks where it once stood.

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Gardiners Corner

I must confess I have never seen an old trolleybus in action and was quite fascinated about how and why they took over from Trams. It seemed strange they did not just convert to motor buses but it did make some economic and political sense as the power generated to operate the trolleybus was from British coal fired power stations whilst much of the fuel used in cars and buses was imported from abroad. I was also quite surprised looking at the research that the modern nostalgia for trams was often at odds with feelings of the time a newspaper report of the time remarks

In 1933 London had 2564 trams, carrying 13 million passengers daily, but traffic conditions were so chaotic that other road users could only travel along main streets, even in off-peak periods, at a snail’s pace.

But the decision to do away with the trams was controversial, another newspaper report states:

As we anticipated when the announcement was made a couple of months ago, the proposal of the London Passenger Transport Board to seek powers to convert certain of their tramway routes to trolley-bus operation has aroused a great deal of opposition. It is now stated that 72 petitions have been deposited against the Bill, these emanating from such diverse bodies as the county and borough councils, the Trustees of the British Museum, ground landlords, like the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Duke of Bedford, the Automobile Association, and the Royal Automobile Club.

But when the decision was made to convert to trolley buses, the Times at least were happy

The ‘Times’ states: ‘For over 75 years the tramway, horse-drawn and electrically driven, has held sway. Today it is being fast replaced — and rightly so — by the trolley omnibus, which is that rare thing, a successful compromise.’

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Other than they were slow, Trams were costly to set down tracks and any breakdown would disrupt the entire system, Trolleybuses needed no tracks just overhead power lines, they could hold up to 70 passengers and were clean and quiet. The first routes were opened in 1931 and by the mid 1930s trolleybuses were introduced across the capital. In fact the system became so popular many other cities set up their own trolleybuses networks.

However, trams  just did not just disappear, in 1950 there were still 850 trams in use but the writing was on the wall.

 London Transport chairman, Lord Latham, said ‘buses were quieter and more comfortable. The same mileage could be covered in much shorter time and use of buses had transformed the most congested traffic spots. Bus services had achieved far greater regularity than was possible with trams, with consequent reductions in waiting time for passengers. ‘The changes in conditions at a number of key points are little short of dramatic,’ said Latham. ‘Improvements have been achieved because of the greater mobility of buses over trams where delay of a single vehicle affected all those behind it, and because tram conversion has freed the centres of roads from hold-ups. ‘Private and commercial vehicles using the affected routes are now able to do their journeys into and about London in much less time and with greater ease.’

However the victory of the Trolley bus over the tram was short-lived by the end of the 1950s, the increase of motor cars on the road and the cost of replacing the ageing trolleybuses led to a decision to convert entirely to diesel motor buses. By the 1960s , the age of the London trolleybus was over and although some 125 were sold to Spain, the great majority were scrapped.


Like Coral, many people who rode them tended to like them, they were large, clean and quiet. People tended to like the way the crackling on the wires let you know a trolley bus on its way and the shower of sparks from the connectors at certain points. Most people mention the driver  with a long pole to put the connector back on the wire when it dropped off. The trolley bus system did not come onto the Isle of Dogs but did have a terminus at the West India Dock and a stop at Poplar on the way to the Royal Docks.

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The age of the London trolleybus may have ended in the 1960s, but even as recently as 2012, there have been calls for them to be reintroduced. Many people believe the environmentally friendly Trolleybus is one of the answers to the traffic gridlocks in major cities.

The (Old) Isle of Dogs from A to Z by Mick Lemmerman

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Photo Cover, (Peter Wright)

Regular readers to the blog will know that I often refer to another Isle of Dogs blog called Isle of Dogs Past Life, Past Lives run by Mick Lemmerman,  Mick (who was born in Whitechapel, but moved to the Island when he was eight) with colleagues Con Maloney and Peter Wright have been responsible for collecting photographs and documents about the Island and making them widely available on a number of websites. Mick has recently started to collate all this information and now has produced a book that gives a comprehensive view of the people, firms, schools, churches, buildings, streets and landmarks on the Isle of Dogs.

As well as concise descriptions and interesting nuggets of information, there are a large number of historical photographs of people and places.  For example many Islanders remember the Glass Bridge, the book gives the following history.

24 glass bridge

Photo Glass Bridge, Jackie Wade (nee Jordan)

Glass Bridge   When the dock company stated at the end of the 1950s its intention to close the Glengall Rd. bridge over Millwall Docks, protests and support from the council lead to the construction of a high-level footbridge across the docks, very quickly referred to as the Glass Bridge due to its glass enclosure.
The bridge became a target for vandals and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed and it was demolished by the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1983.

One aspect of the Isle of Dogs is that it is always changing and the book lists many of the streets, buildings and landmarks that have disappeared over time. The ever changing nature of the Island  is especially noticeable when considering  the Island pubs, many now a distant memory but fondly remembered by many. One of my favourite illustrations is the ill fated actress Jayne Mansfield serving a pint in the George, which is still with us but pubs like the Anchor and Hope are in a sorry state awaiting demolition.

03 Anchor and Hope

Photo Anchor & Hope, (Peter Wright)

The book also offers some original photographs  of  well known Isle Of Dogs landmarks such as Mudchute.

39 mudchute

Photo Mudchute, (Mick Lemmerman)

Mudchute (aka Muddy)   The name derives from it being the former dumping ground for mud dredged from the Millwall Docks which had to be regularly dredged to prevent silting up. A novel, pneumatic device was employed which pumped the liquefied mud through a pipe over East Ferry Rd. (close to the George pub), dumping it on the other side.

However looking through the book  it is noticeable that many of the streets on the Island have changed almost beyond recognition. Cuba Street being a prime example.

14 Cuba St

Photo Cuba St, (Peter Wright)

Cuba St.   Name changed from Robert St. (after Robert Batson) in 1875. As with other streets in the area, it was named after places in the West Indies (a major source of sugar imports into the West India Docks).

This book would appeal to people who have lived in the area all their life and to the new residents who want to find out more about one of the most interesting parts of East London. It will also appeal to anyone with an interest in the area and the people and would like to  find out more. Even those of us who think we know a bit about the Island will find in the book a number of genuine surprises.

Mick has provided a valuable resource to the many people and amateur historians interested in the Island. This together with the Island Trust books are invaluable for understanding the amazing history of the Island.

If you would know more  about the book or would like to buy a copy in either print or eBook , visit the Amazon store here


Super Yacht Kismet in West India Dock -November 11th 2014


To prove that good things come in threes, we have another visitor in West India Dock that arrived yesterday afternoon. With due respect to the Sailing barge and the French Patrol boat , this ship is a bit of a celebrity causing considerable interest as it was initially moored near Tower Bridge for the last few days.  Part of the reason for the interest in the Super yacht Kismet is that it is suggested it is owned by the owner of Fulham FC, Pakistani-American billionaire businessman Shahid Khan.


Shahid Khan is also the owner of the NFL  team the Jacksonville Jaguars who played the Dallas Cowboys at an International Series game on Sunday.  It is reported in United States newspapers that he entertained the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and others at a party on the yacht over the weekend.


A major clue to the ownership is a silver Jaguar has been recently  attached to the bow, with one of its paws resting on a silver American football helmet. However it must be detachable because in West India Dock it is not there.


Kismet is 308ft long has  three decks and a private sundeck with a pool-Jacuzzi-BBQ area

This ship is the second vessel named Kismet owned by Mr Khan , a previous 223ft yacht was sold for a rumoured £69 million last year.  The  new Kismet is  94 meter (308ft) and  built at German boatyard Lurssen.


The ship features exterior styling by Espen Øino and interior design by Reymond Langton Design featuring marble and rare woods, it will accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms, and has a crew of 20.

Unusually for the secretive super yacht world, a great deal seems to be known about Kismet and  if you fancy life aboard, the super yacht can be chartered for £940,000 or  1.6 million dollars a week.


French Navy Ship Pluvier in West India Dock – 10th November 2014


After the arrival of the Thames Sailing barge Will yesterday, we welcomed another arrival into West India Dock , the FS Pluvier ( P678 ).


The French navy are regular visitors to the West India Dock and the Pluvier  is a Patrol Boat of the Flamant Class.


Built by CMN in Cherbourg, the ship was launched in 1996 and commissioned in 1997.


Length: 54.00m

Beam: 9.80m

Draught: 2.60m Standard: 314 tons,

Full Load: 390 tons
Speed: 22.0 knots.


It usually has a ship’s company of around 20 crew.


This is quite a small ship, so it is unlikely that they will have an open day for the general public.


Although the purpose of the trip is unknown, ships often visit at this time of the year to coincide with Remembrance Day events.


Thames Sailing Barge Will in West India Dock- November 9th 2014


After all the excitement of the Tall Ships festival, West India Dock has had very few visitors but today welcomes a Thames Sailing Barge that is a familiar sight to many Thames watchers.


The Thames Sailing Barge Will is usually based at St Katherine’s Dock where she has been available for charter .


The ship has an interesting history, Built of steel in 1925 by Fellowes at Great Yarmouth, for Everards ,a family firm  who ordered four of the ships and named them after the  partners of the business. They were named  Alf Everard, Ethel Everard, Will Everard and Fred Everard. cost around £500 each to build, with dimensions 97.6 x 23.1 x 9.6 feet.


The Will Everard worked by sail alone until 1950, and spent a great deal of her working life transferring coal between Margate and the Humber.


In more recent times she was renovated and was once  the private floating dining room of the directors of P&O.


The Flyover Artists 30th Anniversary Exhibition at Bromley by Bow Centre – 7th Nov 2014 to 23rd Jan 2015


The Bromley by Bow Centre is one of East London’s great success stories, it has over the last 30 years built a significant reputation for its dynamic model of community regeneration. As well as providing a wide range of services to the local community, the centre has been a base for a number of artists who have individually and collectively developed their art practices in a community setting following the example of one of the centre’s early pioneers, Chilean sculptor Santiago Bell.

Known collectively as the Flyover Artists, they are based at, or have worked closely with this unique charity for the 30 years and to mark the occasion the artists have curated a special 30th anniversary exhibition of their work.

The exhibition is spread throughout the buildings of the Centre displaying works that follow the  traditional craftsmanship approaches to object making. With two painters, a sculptor, 2 stain-glass artists and a ceramicist, the show reveals how the different media reflect a common thread that draws the works together.

The Flyover Artists are: Frank Creber (painter), Margy Creber (painter), Paula Haughney (sculptor), Paul Shaw (stain-glass artist), Sheenagh McKinlay (stain-glass artist) and Murude Mehmet (Ceramicist)


Frank Creber  – Lloyds Register Looking South

Regular readers will know that I regularly feature Frank’s work most recently at a Lloyds Register exhibition and a large show at ExCel. In 2004, Frank Creber was appointed the artist in residence for Water City and for last decade he has provided a  chronicle of drawings and paintings, capturing the ever changing East London landscape. Frank is also known for his collaborative programmes working with many hundreds of children, professional artists, students, musician’s and local people.

MARGY CREBER lilies with a red backgrounD

Margy Creber – lilies with a red background

Margy Creber has developed her painting in tandem with managing a Children’s Centre in Tower Hamlets. Her painting is inspired by observing familiar objects in the studio environment and in the discipline of observing ‘still life’ objects such as chairs and flowers.

MURUDE MEHMET snail lo res

Mürüde Mehmet  Snail

Mürüde Mehmet is a resident artist at Bromley by Bow Centre and runs a pottery studio. MüJo Ceramics was established in 2005 with John Crabb. Both run a number of ceramic workshops and tutorials, both for members of the community and private clients. The work focuses on producing original pieces  made from high-fired earthenware and stoneware which include Mürüde’s signature Mü and John’s drawn crab. The bowls and pots are inspired by organic, flowing shapes based on nature.

PAUL SHAW ps-2-castle

Paul Shaw – Castle

Paul Shaw spent most of his working career as a Civil Servant in central London.  In 2002 he was seconded to the  Bromley-by-Bow Centre to help with the development of social enterprises.  While at the Centre he learnt the traditional craft of stained glass and in 2008 left the Civil Service and set up in his own right as a designer and maker of glass. Paul Shaw designs and makes stained glass for commission and also studio pieces for exhibition and sale.  Two strands of his recent work are represented here in the show.  Firstly a group of abstracted images created by collage and using heavily textured and often re-used glass .  And secondly, work which explores themes contained in the early twentieth century movements of cubism, constructivism and art deco.

PAULA HAUGHNEY ph-motherchild

Paula Haughney. Mother and Child

Paula Haughney is a sculptor living and working in the East End of London for thirty years and first learnt stone carving at a Bromley by Bow centre evening class.
She uses the direct method of carving with stone that has often been recycled from redundant or demolished public  building .
The scope and scale of her work  ranges from Natures Throne in granite at the Middlesex Filter beds to her recent Fragile Earth series in translucent alabaster.
Paula has completed many public sculptures and has pieces in both private and public collections in Britain, Europe and America.”

Mckinlay.Sheenagh. Battle 2 of 3

Sheenagh McKinlay – Battle

Sheenagh McKinlay’s works on show are composite collages, made up of salvaged stained glass fragments, contemporary glass and magic lantern slides.
She  collects slides of war, fabulous high coloured images of the glory of war and photographic images of WW1. As she began to collect the slides she found battlefield scenes of the dead and dying from the Sino Russian conflict to the war in the Transvaal and was fascinated by the romanticism in contrast to intense poignancy of  the WW1 photographs.

In one of the rooms is  an exhibition of small works including a number of works by other artists who have used the centre over the past 30 years and have developed  their skills and gone on to considerable success.

If you visit the exhibition and work through the centre it illustrates  that even potential stressful areas like a doctor’s waiting room can be transformed by plants, space and works of art.  Even when the exhibition is finished there is lots of artwork in the centre and is an integral part of it. This plays no small part of the success of the centre it pays attention to the small details that make a big difference.

The Exhibition will run from 7th November 2014 – 23rd January 2015 but there are some special events.

Friday 14th November,
There will be Open Studios, exhibition private view and market
5.30 pm to 10 pm

Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th November
There will be Open Studios, exhibition and market
12 noon to 6pm

If you looking for a Christmas gift with a difference, many of the works of art will be available to purchase.

If you would like to find out more about the artists, visit the Bromley by Bow website here

Bonfire Night (Firework Display) at Millwall Park on November 2nd 2014


Last year  I published a post written by regular contributor L. Katiyo  about how she enjoyed the peculiar British tradition of Bonfire Night.  On Sunday she joined many local islanders and went to the fireworks display on Millwall Park and captured some of the action from the event sponsored by Tower Hamlets Council.


Photograph by L Katiyo


 Photograph by L Katiyo


 Photograph by L Katiyo


 Photograph by L Katiyo


 Photograph by L Katiyo


 Photograph by L Katiyo

Tales from the Isle of Dogs : The Fiddler and his Dog

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To mark Halloween, I am posting the following tale of dastardly deeds on the Isle of Dogs in the 18th century  when it was largely uninhabited and had quite a sombre reputation due to the hanging of pirates in gibbets  at certain locations on the Island. The story was written by Edwin F. Roberts, in a little publication, entitled ‘Christmas stories round the sea-coal fire’ in the 1840s.

The narrator is an old sea-captain who likes to ‘spin a yarn’ sitting in his chair at the Ferry House Tavern which still survives , being  one of the oldest surviving buildings on the Island.

Once upon a time, and many a generation ago, there used to be a good deal of contraband going on in this quarter. Schnaps and laces, Dutch waters and Nantz brandy and the like, were landed in the creeks, of which there were plenty, and what with the shallows which required good pilotage to avoid, and the boggy treacherous surface of the soil, which could only be traversed by those well acquainted with its nature, and what with the known desperate character of baggy-breeched Hollanders, the crews of light French luggers, and the boat men, or rather river-pirates of the district, a roaring trade — despite the daring and vigilance of the revenue officers — continued and throve.


Nothing could be better adapted for landing keg and bale than the hundred hiding places offered by clumps of pollards, willows, poplars, and the dense brushwood that covered the opening of the numerous holes and small estuaries formed by the tidal waters, the ditches, and streams of the marshes. Dark nights easily favoured any light skiff or wherry that might have, taken in cargo miles below, and ‘ Bugsby’s Hole’ was a place for a length of time especially favoured by these visitors, till the occurrence I am about to relate drew attention to it, and forced the lawless adventurer to find out other outlets.  As a matter of course the inhabitants of the neighbourhood favoured these proceedings, and when night had fallen, groups like phantoms, might be seen stealing across the dusky flats, defying-if not detection— at least all chances of present capture.  In this very house— the old Ferry-House— as it was then called, many a jovial rouse has been held, and drowsy, drinking songs from Scheldt, love-lays of Normandy, and roaring English ballads trolled out, over as many a can and cup.  You see it was no uncommon thing for a numerous but somewhat rough company to meet here at nightfall and hold revel. Broad and bulky Dutchmen, jabbering, lively fellows from Havre and Dieppe, might have had a little business, either over or to begin, three or four lads in for a spree, might come ashore by boat from some craft in the river, and the house itself being so lonely and isolated on this particular side, where there was neither road nor traffic, save in the day time, for passengers, cattle, and the like, making for the opposite ferry— besides not having the very best of good names in the world— all this would bring a wild and motley assemblage together.

Mercy on me what I have heard tell of these rouses they used to have. Half a puncheon, no less, for a bowl as would swamp the largest wherry on the water, and as there was many a can that never paid— but never mind, we’ll take that for granted. It isn’t all the likker that’s drunk, nor the baccy that’s smoked, that pays what they ought to pay, mind that.  Well they used to carry on tremen-jous, that they must, if only half be true what’s told, and if, as often happened, a bit of a rumpus, a sort of  brotherly pitching-in to one another affair took place, why, nobody but themselves was the wiser, for they could keep it without any interference of any kind, for the deuce a one was there to stop ’em. You may guess what a lawless, jolly, uproarious sort of night one might have spent here. If that had been the worst, however, perhaps, no great harm was done, but the knife was used as often as the fist — for them foreign chaps have them out in a crack — and when the blood is up and blazin, why out in course it must come, yours or mine.

Now about the fiddler. It so happened one beautiful bleak night— a regular night for business, with neither moon nor stars aloft for to use as the song says, a lot of rough-looking, brown-faced, bushy-whiskered fellows, speaking every tongue, Dutch, French, Spanish, Lingua franca, and a few tough, bulldog English, were met to have a rouse at this old house , and by the lights blazing at one time in every window, you might have fancied it was in a conflagration. Business rather than pleasure, however, seemed to have called them there together this night, for the shutters were soon closed  and the last boat crossing the ferry had now come in, and brought half-a-dozen lasses and their jolly young watermen, to meet half a dozen others, and their sailor chaps, and with them in the bargain, lame little Peter Cremona, the fiddler of the whole district for a whole generation past. The bushy-whiskered boys looked glum  and lowering enough at this, as thinking that there were a few too many among them. The moment Peter, however, made his appearance in the tavern, those who knew him greeted him with a jovial and hearty welcome. ‘ Peter, (so the story goes,) was liked by everybody. He was a kind-hearted, chirping, contented little body, and would play for the children by the hour together, without expecting a groat and a fiddler you see, is always welcome to a sailor as to a landsman if he’s merry. In fact, Peter topped all his good qualities by playing the fiddle like an angel and therefore, Peter’s presence was the signal for clearing the decks, or rather the floors, at once. All this time the foreigners were looking as black as a thunder cloud, but did not think it necessary to take any exceptions , so they sat in a group on one side of the fireplace, smoking and drinking, and talking in under tones among themselves. As they either were not known or only guessed at, nobody interfered with them, and the fun for a time went on. Peter after having been crammed with meat and drink, was lifted, up to his usual chair of honour, and the fiddle set to work in style, in fact the old boy was in his glory and looked it. Presently the dust flew about, the timber creaked, and the house, rather substantially built to, reeled under the vigorous footing of the hornpipe and double shuffle, while the dancers on the floor, when they grew tired, were as instantly replaced by others.

But the night grew late, and the landlord knew there was a time for everything. The grog was ladled out , little Peter dead beat, found his pockets heavier with coppers and silver bits than they had lately been. Even the poor doggie was not forgotten — sailors love dogs you know — and Tray was fed and petted to an extent that might have spoiled his nature only that, he was a sensible, sharp-eyed, keenish chap of a terrier— and so he knew that there was soon an end to every favour, and bore all as philosophically as the purser does his abuse on payday, or as he used to do.

So as it grew late, and the landlord had given his guests a broad hint, they very reluctantly began to separate, some across to Deptford and Greenwich., some to their vessels in the river, some to their homes at Limeh0use or Poplar, until at last only poor Peter, half nodding over his pipe by the fire, with poor Tray between his feet, and the bushy whiskered fellows, were left, until they, at last, went too  and Peter who was to attend a wedding at Stratford le Bow in the morning, and had to cross the melancholy tract stretching far away ; but which from long habit he knew well, was left alone — alone with his poor old dog.  Peter was enjoying his last glass and his last pipe with the greater relish, that he knew he must soon start and breast the keen bitter north easter, that was moaning and wailing over the flats  and as the landlord  now joined him and proposed a glass extra for their two selves, the warm pleasant fireside was more  difficult to leave , but Peter who was married, for all his wandering life, and consequently henpecked, had no choice, sooner or  later he must make his way, and the sooner the quicker said Peter, though every moment’s delay made the night later, and it was by no means pleasant to turn out.
The night continued to be very dark, one of first-rate value for the bushy-whiskered chaps that had last made sail, and the wind was heard coming in fitful moaning gusts, accompanied now and then by a sharp rush of rain. His way lay across the eastern end of the island, where a rude bridge stretched across the Limehouse gut, and communicated with the Middlesex shore, in the vicinity of the Lea, from whence the road was plain and practicable enough, though the worst of it now lay before him. Having given a last tune to the lasses at the old ferry, bagged his fiddle, emptied his glass, and roused up Tray who seemed very much to enjoy his present lodgings, Peter finally set forth, tolerably well primed, but by no means shaky, his head being too well seasoned to leave; a single sheet even fluttering in the wind. His queer old-fashioned coat was buttoned up to his ‘ nose, and his old cocked hat lashed down with a lanyard under his chin and with Tray feebly wagging his funny worn out tail, he was soon lost in the darkness.

Above, all was of a murky hue, while a thin line of semi-lurid light on the edge of the horizon, broke by ragged trees and other obstructions served as a sort of landmark for the belated fiddler  and as the wind come moaning and shrieking over the long level flats which seemed now and then to yield to his feet, chirping merrily to himself, he trudged on beside a deep ditch, or rather water course, till he had almost attained the worm-eaten bridge which was flung across beside Bugsby’s Hole, when the flashing of a torch some distance below, drew his attention, and deviating from his road through a more perilous and boggy portion of the marsh, he came under the shadow of a small headland which, aided by a clump of pollards, formed a capitally screened hiding place. Peeping down from this, he beheld a large flat-bottomed boat drawn up, half-filled with kegs, partially covered with a huge tarpaulin, and the bushy whiskered fellows, in their great boots, fishing jackets, and Kilmarnock caps, busy in passing the tubs and packages from one to another till they reached some carts on the opposite shore, which just at this moment, being well loaded, were silently driven away.


Perfectly up to the work that was going on, and feeling that he had no right to interfere, even if he had the inclination, he was on the point of turning quietly away, when the poor dog, who dreamed of no harm, wandered in the midst of the truculent villains, and thus betrayed him. With many an outlandish oath, the unfortunate fiddler was dragged away, and after that night became — lost — he was never after seen alive.

The merry harmless old man who was so universal a favourite with all, was missing, and in a few days the whole district was in a ferment about his absence.  Days went by and at a part of the island not often frequented, some people passing remarked that they beheld on a certain spot, a poor half-famished dog, whining and shivering, which was recognised as having belonged to the lost fiddler. The spot in question was on the edge of a deep black ditch, over which a hideous and ragged old willow tree spread its ghastly arms. No persuasion could get the dog away, but when any one approached he would set up a long melancholy howl and even after he was captured by a good-natured fellow who took him home, and fed him, the next day he had escaped and was found uttering his long sad, sorrowful wail on the very same spot beneath the very same willow, on the verge of the dismal ditch ; and this at the last, coupled with Peter’s unexplained absence, began lo awaken suspicion in the slow brains of the people in the neighbourhood.

This awakened suspicion, and at last several men examined the place, and out of the foul ditch the body of the ‘ Lost Fiddler,’in a very shocking condition, was carried to the Ferry House, where on examination and a coroners inquest, a fractured skull and a deep stab with a knife, told the dark story.  The body happened to be laid in this here room It strangely happened also, that some of the bushy whiskered fellows visited the house that day, and were observed to turn pale, to look agitated, hurried, and anxious to depart when they heard that the corpse of the poor fiddler was in the next chamber to them.  They were going forth, and passing by that door  to the head of the stairs, which was partially open, when in an instant, the miserable, worn out, half famished dog, who would never leave his master, rushed forth and seized hold upon one man with the ferocity of madness. The wretch shook and beat him off with curses and cries of horror, but Tray was on him again like a small tiger. The man drew his knife and stabbed at him, but the dog persisted in the attack, filling the house with yells and deep snorting barks, mingled with the man’s cries. The latter at last slipped in a pool of the bravo brute’s blood, and the terrier now fastened on to his throat, and in a perfect frenzy of terror and helplessness the assassin confessed his guilt, and was in due time properly hung at Execution Dock for more misdeeds than one.  The dog who had thus avenged his master lay dead of a dozen wounds. So you see it was not because the king once kept his hounds on the island that this was called the Isle of Dogs, but because a poor fiddler’s dumb brute, who was faithful until death, associated himself with this identical spot. And now my yarn’s over, and the bowl is empty.


What is interesting about this story is that it is a version of a similar story that had been known for at least a century before.  Charles Dickens refers to the story when he visits the Island in the 1850s and notes that it is mentioned by Strype the historian in 1720.  Although it is doubtful the story is the reason the Island is called  the Isle of Dogs , the fact the story survived for such a long time might indicate that it might be based on some incident in the dim and distant past.