The Irish Wolfhound and the Irish Guards

By Colonel C.W.D. Harvey-Kelly

Recently it has become apparent that very few written records exist concerning the various Wolfhounds the Regiment has had. In this article I have tried to assemble what I can from evidence in photograph albums and other sources. I hope that those who are in a position to know better will write in and fill in the gaps or correct inaccuracies.

The Irish Wolfhound was the ancient hunting dog of the legendary Irish warriors led by Fionn mac Cumhaill, and so it was appropriate that shortly after the Regiment was formed the Irish Wolfhound Club should have presented us with a dog "Rajah of Kidnal", re-christened "Brian Boru" and apparently also known as "Paddy". He appears in many of the early photographs of the Regiment. In 1908 he appeared on St. Patrick's Day with a companion. Was this "Leitrim Boy" who eventually succeeded him in 1910? Both dogs wore collars of Shamrock for the occasion, instead of the sprig common today. Should we not go back to this custom? In those days he was known as the Regimental Pet, until in 1961 it was appreciated that advantage could be gained by having the wolfhound classified as a Mascot and this was duly authorised by the War Office on 26th July that year. The advantages include free travel, quite a considerable item with recruiting tours in Ireland, but not unfortunately free rations, which would have been an even bigger saving for a dog with an appetite for three to four pounds of meat and biscuit a day.

"Leitrim Boy" continued until 1917 when he was succeeded by "Doran". Little is known about Doran. When did he died for instance? The first three Irish Wolfhounds were all painted by Heywood Hardy and their portraits hang in the 1st Battalion Officers' Mess. The next dog was "Cruachan of Ifold". Until 1965 little was known about him except that his name appears on the silver collar which was used up to last year. The Irish Wolfhound Association Annual for 1925 figured him and his handler, Boy Mooney, as the frontispiece. He was winner of the Height Cup at the Irish Wolfhound Show in 1924 and was shown successfully on several other occasions. We were also fortunate to receive a painting of him by Mrs. Horace Colemore, which shows him as fine dark grey. The story of the rest of his life was told in an interesting letter from General Val Pollok published in last year's Journal.

The Irish Wolfhound Association Yearbook also brought to light another item. The Irish Wolfhound Club (as it is now known) has a shield, the Irish Guards Shield, presented for competition at the Club's Annual Show. This magnificent shield of silver was presented by the Officers of the Regiment in 1924.

"Cruachan" died in 1930 and had no known successor till "Pat" in 1951. His portrait with his handler, Boy (now Sgt.) Sullivan, hangs in the Officers' Mess. A notable veterinary operation was carried out to replace a diseased bone in his leg, but in spite of this he had to be put down in 1954, having spent little time with the Battalion, who were abroad during most of his service.

"Shaun" (Rory of Ballygran) who succeeded him in 1959 is well known to most. He was the property of an officer in the 11th Hussars stationed at Omagh who, when his Regiment was posted abroad, offered him to the Regiment. His portrait was painted and presented by Captain Steengracht Van Moyland. Like "Brian Boru" he appeared on parade together with his successor and is now enjoying a comfortable retirement in Scotland.

"Fionn" (Samando Silver) was presented to the Regiment by the Irish Wolfhound Club in 1967. In 1966 the Club honoured the Regiment by inviting the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel to become its president in succession to the late Princess Royal. A previous president in the 1920s had been the Earl of Cavan, Colonel of the Regiment. During the last three years the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel has given away the prizes and trophies (including the Irish Guards Shield) at the Club's Annual Show at Olympia. Finally in 1967 the Association presented a new Silver Collar to replace "Cruachan's" which was no longer safe to use.

Apart from being a good specimen of his breed, the first essential in the Regimental Mascot should be a good and kind temperament, and both "Shaun" and "Fionn" have been outstanding in that respect. There is no doubt that every parade and Regimental occasion is enhanced by the Wolfhound's presence and he certainly is our best recruiting and Public Relations Officer.

The Queen Mother and Fionn

St. Patrick's Day — Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen
Mother and Fionn

From The Irish Guards Association Journal, February, 1969

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