Byron Society treated to talk by author on subject of poet’s dog

Lord Byron’s description of his Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, as his ‘only friend’ was likely to have been truly sincere and heartfelt, said Clive Brookes, of Mansfield, in a talk to fellow members of Newstead Abbey Byron Society.

Clive said: “Byron had a tough time growing up and the fact that, generally speaking, he did not like his fellow man was brought about by the enormous change in his life which came about after his cousin’s death in battle in Corsica.

“This put young Byron in line to become the next lord. When he inherited the title at the age of ten, he travelled with his mother to England. He had a strong Scottish accent which helped to make him an outsider who did not fit in with the English aristocracy.

“Being lame would also have been a great hardship, especially considering how cruel some people can be to anyone with an impediment.”

Clive said Byron acquired Boatswain in about 1803 while living at Burgage Manor, Southwell. He pointed out that Newfoundlands were large dogs noted for their gentleness, devoted to their owners and capable of protecting them from harm.

“There are many stories of Newfoundland dogs saving the lives of people from icy-cold waters,” he added.

The cost of constructing the famous Boatswain memorial must have been very expensive, with all the work done by hand and locally-quarried stone being used.

Clive added that a collar belonging to Boatswain and exhibited at Newstead Abbey was made in Mansfield.

Also, a battered brass dog collar belonging to Boatswain was bought at Sotheby’s in London by a private buyer for £600, which was £200 more than the top pre-sale estimate.

Byron’s wishes to be buried at Newstead were not fulfilled, with the abbey being sold in 1817, and he was instead laid to rest in the family vault at Hucknall Parish Church.