Louis and the Barmaid

My mother and her sisters and brother grew up knowing very little about their grandfather, apart from his name, Louis Frederick Walford, and that he and his brothers had changed their surname from Moses. They knew the family was Jewish, and there was some connection with Tasmania, and they knew, and that his father had been a businessman.

Thanks to the resources of the internet and genealogical sites, I’ve found out a lot more, and even visited places connected to Louis and the family in Tasmania, as well as London, and visiting their graves. Now I am coming across newspaper reports from Australia in the 1870’s of Louis’s business and recreational activities. His parents had returned to London, but Louis stayed on in the land of his birth, and as well as working as a purchasing agent, he enjoyed many leisure pastimes, such cricket, horse-racing, and now, I’ve discovered, dog racing! It may of course be a different Mr Walford, but until I know otherwise I am going to imagine this is my great-grandfather!

Unfortunately the racing wasn’t as it is today with hounds chasing a scented lure, this was the hounds coursing – i.e. chasing hares. This to us now is barbaric and horrible (although it still goes on illegally) but obviously a hundred and forty years ago people had a different view. No doubt in 2140 people will look back at us and be shocked by things we do as normal.

I don’t know how many dogs Louis had, but one which received favourable reports in the newspaper was called The Barmaid.In the particular report I was reading, there was a competition for thirty-two dogs with wonderful names – or so they seem to me, no doubt in the world of dog racing the names are just names. There were ordinary names like Bertha and Sandy and Bruce, and noble names such as Queen Maud, Jewish Queen and King of Trumps (not a name which would ever be used to-day for several reasons, but of course then it was referring to the card game)

Here are some of my favourite of those long ago dogs –

  • Seaweed
  • Logic
  • Peeler
  • Blue Light
  • Pluto
  • Briseis
  • Beeswing
  • Miss T
  • Fly

Louis’s dog was Barmaid and in the first run she beat Mr. Dodd’s Jessie Bothan, in the second round she beat Clio, and in the semi-final she was beaten by Beeswing who went on to win the championship, The Berry Bank Stakes organised by Mr Joseph Mack.

Intrigued by this I looked up to see if Louis had other dogs. I came across a report from May 1879:

Sporting men whose proclivities run in the coursing line had yesterday an opportunity of examining three very fine greyhounds brought in the Victoria by Mr. George Jenkins. 

The second of the greyhounds described was:

The second is a red slut, Lady, bred at Bathurst, by Dick, from  Sill.  Dick was by Daddy, from one of Mr. Walford’s sluts, and Sill, by Doctor, from Mary Stuart. This slut was runner-up for the St. Leger of 1877, won by  Gill Gill, and was the winner of several private matches.

I was shocked momentarily – slut? … and then obviously I realised we would say ‘bitch’ for a female dog. Was slut more acceptable? Was bitch rude? Or was it just the word they used. It took a bit of working out as I’m not a dog person, or a ‘sporting’ person as no doubt the newspaper would have said. So…

  • the red greyhound was called Lady, and she was second in the St Leger in 1877
  • her parents were Dick and Sill
  • Dick’s parents were Daddy and a slut owned by Louis
  • and Sill’s parents were Doctor and Mary Stuart

I then began to wonder again about the word ‘slut’ by which is usually meant a slatternly person… it probably arrived in the 1300’s and meant pretty much what it means to say and came via German, Dutch or Swedish all of which have similar words. At one point it could be used for a man as well, and sometimes it was meant teasingly, not necessarily disparagingly.

So… having learnt a little about greyhounds and sluts, I’m off to see if Louis had any more apart from Barmaid who, I wonder might have been the red greyhound Lady’s grandmother!


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