Update (and Dead End, I'm Afraid) on "Ship," the British Life-Saving Dog

Last week, I told you the curious story (or what little I knew of it) about a rather fascinating object I had encountered at a local estate sale — a little stuffed dog named "Ship" that was apparently the mascot of Great Britain's Royal National Lifeboat Institute. The estate-sale folks described Ship as a "British Hero-Dog" because he was still wearing a little vest bedecked with various lifesaving medals.

Well, my pal Alasdair Halleron, who is more than a little familiar with that country, and also a great history detective in his own right, decided to take matters into his own hands. He contacted the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, which is still an active organization, and asked them about this dog. I'll let him tell you about it:

"Since we are surrounded by not-too-friendly seas over there [England, he means] the lifeboat service is a big deal. Most towns on the coast have a lifeboat run by volunteers (like a volunteer fire department), and it is all helped by contributions. Sailors (or idiots who float too far out) can't always wait for Prince William to fly in, so those folks go out in all kinds of horrific weather as volunteers. Needless to say, if you are rescued by them a large donation is usually "recommended."

So that's the story behind the Lifeboat Institute. And now it really gets interesting. Says Alasdair, "I got a reply from the RNLI this morning: 'Thank you very much for forwarding us news of this very intriguing if somewhat bizarre RNLI item! We will see if we can find any more information on 'Ship' and let you know.
Dr. Joanna Bellis
Heritage Curatorial Manager
RNLI Heritage Trust

Several days passed, as we anxiously awaited word from Dr. Bellis, hopefully telling us about Ship's heroic exploits, and perhaps how he came to end up in Memphis, stuffed into a glass case. Sadly, it was not to be.

From Alasdair, "Okay, here is what the RNLI in England says — a dead end I'm afraid. From Bellis: 'Thank you for your email and rather fascinating article which you found in Memphis magazine regarding 'Ship' the dog. I have passed the enquiry onto our Honorary Librarians to research, but they can find no reference to a dog called 'Ship' anywhere, sadly. My colleague has suggested it could possiby be a presentation carried out locally by the Lifeboat Guild/Fundraising of which we have no record. It's a shame we could not find anything, as this has definitely been one of the most interesting enquiries we've received! I do wonder how he managed to get all the way to Memphis?'"

So do we, Dr. Bellis. So do we.

Alasdair, showing the determination worthy of a Lauderdale, even tried to research the Denmark Inn, which was incribed on Ship's collar. The place was supposedly located on Denmark Street in Bristol. No luck there, either:

"I took a walk down Denmark Street. It is a nasty alley full of kebab shops, Indian and Chinese restaurants of dubious quality, and a place called 'Shadows Massage,' which I dutifully investigated for an hour. No pubs down there now. I also found a 1935 trade guide to Bristol that listed a Ship Inn at 21 Denmark Street, but there appears to hardly be any numbers now. Bristol was heavily bombed [in World War II] so it may have gone then. All the buildings there seem to be from post-war days, so the poor feller has no home to go back to."

That's a shame. But thanks for trying, Alasdair.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business. Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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