The Dogs of Applecross

Is this Friday?

Dogs are an important part of the Applecross stories, just as they were in real life. Without the courage, dedication and skill of the early settlers’ dogs, the development of the wool trade which made New Zealand prosperous in the late 1800s would not have been possible. 

Those of you who know me, know very well that dogs are an important part of my life. When it came to writing the Applecross books, there was never any doubt in my mind that dogs would feature in the stories. It was Friday’s tale that, in part, set me on the route to writing ‘The Wideawake Hat’, and she will always be my favourite, as she was James Mackenzie’s favourite too.

Nobody can entirely read a dog’s mind, but I hope I have conveyed a little of their feelings and thoughts, of their struggles against the elements and their lives of duty and hardship. Most of all, I hope you can appreciate the strength of the bond of absolute devotion of a dog for its human master or mistress.

Introduced in ‘The Wideawake Hat’

MEG – the pregnant collie rescued from a cruel owner by Edmund on his way back from Hawksbury in 1850.

ROY – the smallest of Meg’s five puppies. A gift from Nancy to Sophia.

FRIDAY – our collie heroine! James Mackenzie bought Friday and her brother from a farmer in Australia. Friday’s proper name in Gaelic is ‘Fradhac’, which means ‘long sighted’. This was mis-heard by English-speaking settlers as ‘Friday’. James occasionally enjoyed calling her ‘Dihaoine’, which is the Gaelic word for Friday! She is the cleverest dog ever, more black than white, with a splash of tan. She responded to commands given in Gaelic, although she was so good at her job that she hardly needed to be told what to do at all. Friday is not a dog of fiction. She did exist, just as her master is real too. Nobody really knows what happened to them in real life, but the photograph above is supposed to be of Friday. In our story, after many an adventure, Friday dies of old age in James’ arms in late 1861.

CUAIRTEAN – Friday’s brother. Died tragically after a snake bite in Australia. Cuairtean means ‘small circles’ in Gaelic. James’ names for his two dogs describe the nature of their work. Fradhac would run wide to catch stragglers or draw sheep down from the hills, while Cuairtean rounded them up into a tight pack before the pair of dogs drove the flock along.

ROY and FRIDAY had five puppies in late 1851.

SAFFY, SILVER and GOLD were sold to other settlers. RUBY and BLUE remained with James. They both shared Friday’s tricolour coat of Black, White and Tan.

RUBY produced a good many of the Applecross puppies over the years. James often regretted allowing his daughter Heather to name Ruby’s first litter of four pups, BUD, STICK, FERN and BLOSSOM.

TAM and PIP arrived at Applecross in 1861. Bred at The Levels station, they were Bearded Collies, with a rougher coat than the usual working collie. James agreed to mix the ‘beardies’ with his own dogs, to see how the resulting pups performed in the harsh environment of the Basin. Tam is named after the wee terrier that Sophia had to leave behind in Scotland. Pip shares the name of Edmund’s childhood pet spaniel.

FERN – one of Ruby’s puppies was mated with Pip. The resulting litter of mixed breed beardies became the mainstay of many shepherds in New Zealand.

BLUE – one of Friday and Roy’s puppies, turned out to be a reliable successor to Friday. Blue, and his father Roy, were James’ main dogs for many years before they retired. Eventually, Roy joined Friday in a grave on the hill, watching over their beloved pastures together. Then Blue joined his parents a few years later. But not before siring a good number of litters of puppies, several of whom shared Friday’s tricolour coat, an indication to James that the dogs would share her innate sense for handling sheep.

JESS – one of Blue’s puppies. Mated with Tam, the other beardie, their puppies went back to Tam’s original owners where they worked the flatter, greener pastures on the coast.

Introduced in ‘Shepherd’s Delight’

BLOSSOM – one of Ruby’s puppies. She was feeding her latest litter of puppies when Friday died. It was one of these puppies that James recognised as a direct descendant of Friday, the spitting image of her Great Grandmother. He named her ‘MAY’.

MAY goes on to be a perfect replacement for Friday. Sometimes James forgets that his old girl has gone when he sees May behaving in just the same way as her ancestor. It is as if Friday has come back to him. She lives to a ripe old age, though is excused from duty these days, spending her time seeking out sunny corners of the yard in which to lie.

Introduced in ‘Guy Pender’

ADLER – the short-haired St. Bernard who is the first to reach Amelie and Guy when they are rescued from the avalanche.

Note – Although he may get chased off the page by all these dogs, we cannot go past the third book without mentioning ALBERT, the tabby tomcat who lives in Guy’s apartment above the studio. His pedigree is unknown, and we can only assume he has prowled the neighbourhood for female company on the nights he chose not to curl up on Guy’s lap. There is little doubt there are many kittens in the square in Zurich who can claim Albert as their father!

Introduced in ‘Three Cedar Trees’

? – one of May’s descendants, belongs to Freddie. He is sad to leave him behind when he goes to Pine Tree Farm. His name has not been mentioned yet – perhaps we will learn more in Book 5?

PEG – shares Friday’s colouring and is directly descended from MAY. Six years after Friday’s death, Peg had puppies too. It is one of these pups that Jakob chooses when he comes to Applecross in 1867.

LEDA – Jakob chooses well. James sees straight away that Leda has inherited Friday’s colouring, and he suspects she will turn out to be a talented dog too.

MAX – Mr and Mrs Viner’s dog. Jakob meets the Viners on his journey to Applecross. Who knows, we may see more of Max in Book 5……?

REX – Guy promises Amelie a dog once they reach the Basin. Rex joins them after Amelie’s baby is born. His mother is described as ‘a terrier of indeterminate breed’ and who knows who the father was! Rex has a scruffy grey coat and is quickly learning to be an indulged dog of leisure in the Pender household.

Look out for more dogs to come in the next book in The Applecross Saga!

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