The British Bulldogs of Downton Doggie

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Lady Barksworth
Odelia, Dowager Countess of Barkley, dressed and ready for a walk.

Now that Downton Abbey is over for the season, I’ve turned to another English family for vicarious pleasure, one that is no stranger to sniffing around a family tree or two (in both the figurative and literal sense). Coming from a long line of kennel clubs, rascals and aristocrats, my bulldogs Boz and Gracie recently regaled me with a few stories of their own—juicy kibbles and bits of pedigrees (or not) from a bygone era—British bulldogs of historical note.

Odelia, the Dowager Countess of Barkley, known for her halting beauty and keen sense of style, brought Boz’s family to prominence as a steadfast and trusted companion to the royal family. Her insights and advice steered many a young prince away from the temptation of impropriety and scandal. Her brother Sir Dudley Osbourne Gainsworth, a poet and scholar, fell on hard times due to his unchecked habit of gaming, and his love of costly tobacco mixes and marrow bones. With his sister’s intervention, he learned to focus his energy on the written word and became a celebrated author and lecturer.

Uncle Beaux Deschamp
Sir Dudley Osbourne Gainsworth: Spinner of tales (and tails)

On Gracie’s side of the Atlantic,  her too-many-greats-to-note grandfather Broderick “Skippee” Bunkport was making a name for himself as an expert boat builder and yachtsman. His swore never to relinquish the America’s Cup under his watch or under one of his hulls, especially to likes of his arch-rival and distant relation Sir Thomas Lipton.

Uncle Skippee
Uncle Skippee stands his ground against contender Shamrock III

His revolutionary 90-foot yacht Reliance, the largest gaff-rigged cutter ever built, swept the America’s Cup in three races in 1903. After the race, Skippee married his long-time love Daisy Baker, whom he met in 1899 at the christening of another winning yacht, the Columbia. The two settled in Newport, Rhode Island.

Lord Grimsley bulldog.jpg
Broderick “Skippee” Bunkport: Yachtsman, Ladies Man, Raconteur, Cover Boy

When I asked why had I never heard these stories before, Boz and Gracie remained silent, their sheepish look reminiscent of the times I’ve called them out for a spot on the rug or a missing dinner roll from the table. Now I’m not one to question a storyteller’s veracity, but I may check my computer’s history for visits to Wikipedia or dust its keyboard for paw prints. 

Boz and Gracie
Boz and Gracie: Repose in the parlor

Update…

Boz and Gracie were gobsmacked that I had not included a photo of them in this post. I could see their point, and obliged by including their favorite indoor portrait, the one that makes them look “well-bred but not snooty.” (Their words not mine.)

10 COMMENTS

  1. Can you imagine…I just discovered Downton Abbey this season. What was I thinking!? I downloaded the first season on itunes and watched the first two episodes on planes coming home from vacation. Can’t wait to catch up.

  2. Tom – I didn’t read all of this because I didn’t want to spoil the TV series / movie (when is it due out?) but the parts I did read were rather humorous I must say.
    Gobsmacked? My new word of the week.
    Thanks!

  3. Tom — Please tell me that you’ll be writing a more comprehensive book on Boz and Gracie’s eccentric relatives. This little story has made my day!

  4. Hi Tom
    I am a neighbor and friend of Eileen in st Paul….and I wish you were our neighbor. Loved this post about Downton and your almost royal doggies. E and I have been seed shopping anticipating Spring…springs eternal, eh? Anything fun you would recommend for the veggie garden?
    Paula

    • Hi Paula, how wonderful to meet you, and thank you kindly for that generous compliment. From what Eileen writes, it sounds like your neighborhood is a special place. I have dinner club envy. As for fun things to grow in the veggie garden, I do have my favorites. I love a small quick-to-harvest head lettuce called Little Gem. There’s a wonderful small acorn squash called Thelma Sanders, creamy, meaty and prolific. My favorite pole green bean is Fortex. Ground cherries are definitely fun to grow and yield a bright sweet tomatillo like flavor. Blue potatoes are really nutritious and delight dinners as well. And I love evergreen hardy bunching onions, they are perennial in our Seattle climate and you pick onions bulbs when you need them and the plant produces more for you. Try Indigo Rose tomato, a blue purple tomato that quite unique and full of vitamins. And that should do it for now. Take care, let me know if you need more suggestions.

      • thank you very much for the veggie garden ideas….I’ll have to look for those seeds….the garden seems to want to get bigger each year. would rather grow veggies than flowers these days.
        Paula

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