A tug at the heartstrings - the story of BallyShannon

front page of Le Miroir

This picture shows the front page of the publication Le Miroir of June 17th, 1917.
There is no article in the magazine about it but below the picture is the statement (translated from the French): "A soldier and his dog who were wounded by the same shell. At the Brimont fort this liaison agent and his dog, who assisted him in his missions, were wounded at the same time. In hospital, the faithful animal refused to be separated from his master. The same nurse treats both of them each day."

The story of Bally Shannon, Dog of War appeared in Country Life, November 1918. Bally Shannon and his master were wounded by the same shell and the hound refused to be separated from his master. It seems to me unlikely that there were two Irish wolfhounds on the battle front in 1917, helping to rescue wounded soldiers, and both wounded alongside their master and then staying determinedly with them, through Hell and high water.

Le Miroir was a dedicated war news periodical which published many photographs of war scenes with a few articles. Pages from earlier issues of Le Miroir can be seen here

However, between the publishing of the Le Miroir issue and the Country Life story, there was also an article published in the New York Sun newspaper, which carried quite a different slant. In this story, Bally Shannon had not been a Red Cross Dog but a messenger dog, and had not been wounded by a shell but crushed by a falling cannon. His master had not survived the torpedoing of the hospital ship, but Bally and just two men had, and one of the men had later taken Bally into his care and returned to New York with him but had left him with the shepherd in Central Park. The Sun article appeared on February 3rd, 1918, almost seven months after the Le Miroir publication, and states that the hound was around two years old, which would go well with the youthful looking hound in Le Miroir, but not with The Sun's description of his having spent thirteen months (or six months) on the battle front, nor with his having been taken to France in the second year of the War. A publication in New Zealand - the Oamoru Mail - picked up the New York Sun article and published its own piece in the issue of May 13th, 1918.

The New York Sun article:-

"Bally Shannon, War Dog, Hero of the Trenches

Bally Shannon, a big soldier of France who is convalescing here has a record which, for all sorts of adventure, far surpasses that of any other survivor of the Hun’s fire who has come over to write or lecture about his war experiences. For several good reasons Bally Shannon will do neither. He can neither read nor write; besides, he is dumb.

For to be perfectly plain and direct in the second paragraph, the hero whose praises are here to be sung is a dog, a war dog and one of the finest specimens of a little known species that have ever come to America. Mrs James McLain owns one of these and Campbell Thompson has two others.

The breed is the Irish wolfhound, famous but always uncommon throughout the long and troubled history of Ireland. This kind of dog has ever achieved and merited distinction, but perhaps the breed, if aware of it, would cherish highest the fact that a place has always been reserved for the Irish wolfhound on the Irish flag. If you look in the right hand corner of this flag, in the big dog raised on his haunches you will have a perfect picture of Bally Shannon.

Bally is only a month or two over twenty-four months old and for thirteen of these months he was a soldier. In the second year of the war his master, who had him in training for a police dog, took him from Dublin to France.

Bally took to the life like a true Irishman – the harder the knocks, the more desperate the fighting, the better he liked it. What he didn’t care for was the enforced marches in retreat.

For six months or so Bally served his master, and the French troops, a faithful messenger. He weighs about 170 pounds, but for a big fellow he is splendidly lithe and sinuous and able to get very easily where a man dared not follow.

They say that when the regiment to which he justifiably belonged was ordered to Ypres Bally was the happiest and lightest hearted member of it. This proves that even a dog does not always know what is coming to him.

For Ypres was destined to be a dangerous if not fatal field to Bally. In the first action in which he was employed a heavy cannon thrown off its carriage rolled over on Bally and crushed him to the earth. There the Huns found the dog and seeing it was still alive they carried him into their lines.

For the first time in his military career Bally was a prisoner, helpless and apparently near death.  At least the Germans so considered him, and the next day they thrust the crippled animal back into the French lines. There at least he might die among friendly faces.

But Bally wasn’t to be so quickly killed. A surgeon examined him and a nun took an X-ray of his bent and contused ribs. They were not broken, and as his master was returning to Ireland to nurse a shattered arm he took the dog along to get well in his native air.
Bally’s worst adventure was to come and shortly.  Off the coast of Ireland the ship was torpedoed by a submarine and but three of those on board escaped with their lives, a sailor, a New York man named Maloney, and Bally. The three supported themselves in the water by clinging to a plank, and when they were finally picked up and put ashore in Ireland Mr. Maloney was so penetrated with admiration of the superb courage displayed by the dog that, there being nobody else to claim him, he adopted the animal as his own and brought him to New York.

That was last May. Bally, still almost unable to walk, was taken by his new master up to Central Park and put in charge of Tom Hoey, who has been shepherd there for a score of years. For seventeen of these Lady Dale, an Airedale, has assisted Tom. It is a question which was the more pleased by Bally’s advent, Tom Hoey or Lady Dale. Both welcomed the Irish wolfhound heartily, but with Lady Dale it was a case of love at first sight.

Since then Bally has lived in what ought to seem like canine paradise.  The shepherd, acting for Mr. Maloney, doctored and fed him medicine and food most calculated to restore his strength, while Lady Dale saw to it than in his exercise he should see all her favourite haunts in the Park.

A safe and pleasant life, Bally ought to be content to lead it, but he isn’t.
“The dog’s that restless at times,” said Tom Hoey, “that I fair believe he wants to be going back to the wars. It will be a sorry day for Lady Dale if he does, for that Airedale is in love with him if ever one dog was with another.”

The New York Sun, Sunday, February 3rd, 1918"

The Oamoru Mail article was a copy of the NY Sun piece, apart from the first four paragraphs of the Sun article being replaced thus:-

"Bally Shannon is convalescing in the United States after having passed through a thrilling series of adventures in war-racked Europe. Bally is Irish through and through, and, notwithstanding the fact that it would probably break the heart of Lady Dale, he is eager to return to the battle-front. For Bally is a war-dog in the true sense of the word, a wolfhound of famous but uncommon breed. He was in training for the police force in Dublin when his master took him to France says the New York Sun."

For the story of Bally Shannon from Country Life, click here

The Irish Examiner blends the two stories in its article by Robert Hume at http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/the-dog-of-war-that-won-the-worldrsquos-hearts-268328.html

The Mentor Association, New York, dedicated one of its "The Mentor" publications to "Our Friend the Dog". This was Vol. 6, No. 16, of October 1st, 1918 and contained this picture of Bally Shannon [the same as in the Country Life article but with the background left in]:

Bally Shannon

On the back of the picture it reads: "The Mentor is fortunate in being able to reproduce the picture of a hero of heroes, one that has proved twice over the valiant stuff that dogs are made of. Bally Shannon, an Irish wolfhound, was taken by a British officer into the trenches, and served there as a Red Cross dog until wounded in the left shoulder by a shell. His master was also wounded, and together they were invalided home. Crossing the English channel, the hospital ship on which they rode was torpedoed in the night. The officer and two others found refuge on a piece of wreckage, but there was no room for Bally Shannon, and his great weight would have submerged the others. When he attempted to get aboard the floating timbers, his master warned him back with a gentle word of explanation. And Bally understood. Thereafter he made no effort to climb out of the icy waters; only when he grew over-weary he came close and rested his shaggy head and fore-paws on the edge of the improvised raft until he had strength to go on paddling about in the dark and the cold. At daylight they were saved, and later the dog and his master came to America to recuperate from wounds and exposure. Since then, though not fully recovered, Bally has again been a dog of service, helping the shepherd in Central Park, New York, to guard the sheep that crop the grass — tame work enough after succouring wounded soldiers on the battle-field. But his friends hope a life among peaceful surroundings will some day soften the sorrow of his war-troubled eyes."
[Prepared by the editorial staff of The Mentor Association - illustration for The Mentor, Vol. 6, No. 16, Serial No. 164. Copyright, 1918, by The Mentor Association, Inc.]

In the Country Life article on Bally Shannon, it is said that his master died of his wounds.

The Mentor's piece on the Irish Wolfhound as part of the Hound Family reads:
"Bran, "the mountain torrent", is known to readers of ancient British history as the comrade and aide of the chieftain, Fingal. His fame is sung for his prowess in the hunting field, and on the field of battle. Like other dogs of Ossian, the semi-historical Gaelic bard and warrior of the third century, Bran was an Irish wolfhound, akin to the greyhound, but rough and curly-haired, and tall enough to lay his head on the shoulder of his master sitting at table. In his "History of Animals", dogs of this renowned family are described by Oliver Goldsmith as standing four feet high. Sometimes they were protected in the hunt by "laced doublets, studded with metal points". After the wolves of Ireland were exterminated, the wolf dog became practically extinct, but the breed has within the past fifty years been revived to some extent."

My grateful thanks to Pat Reilley for The Mentor article and photograph.

The Mentor Association was established for the development of a popular interest in Art, Literature, Science, History, Nature and Travel. The inside cover of the issue on Our Friend The Dog reads as follows:

"We are alone, absolutely alone on this chance planet; and, amid all the forms of life that surrounds us, not one, excepting the dog, has made an alliance with us. A few creatures fear us, most are unaware of us..... They do not love us, do not know us, scarcely notice us.

"Now, in this indifference and this total want of comprehension in which everything that surrounds us lives, where not the smallest sympathy has ever made a conscious leap from one species to another, one animal alone, among all that breathes upon the earth, has succeeded in breaking through the circle, in escaping from itself to come bounding toward us, definitely to cross the enormous zone of darkness, ice and silence that isolates each category of existence in nature's unintelligible plan. This animal, our good familiar dog, simple and unsurprising as may today appear to us what he has done, is thus perceptibly drawing nearer to a world in which he was not born and for which he was not destined, has nevertheless performed one of the most unusual and improbable acts that we can find in the general history of life.

"When was this recognition of man by beast, this extraordinary passage from darkness to light, effected? Did we seek out the poodle, the collie, or the mastiff from among the wolves and the jackals, or did he come spontaneously to us? We cannot tell. So far as our human annals stretch, he is at our side, as at present, but what are human annals in comparison with the times of which we have no witness? The fact remains that he is there in our houses, as ancient, as rigidly placed, as perfectly adapted to our habits as though he had appeared on this earth, such as he now is, at the same time as ourselves. We have not to gain his confidence or his friendship; he is born our friend; while his eyes are still closed, already he believes in us: even before his birth, he has given himself to man.

"But the word "friend" does not exactly depict his affectionate worship. He loves us and reveres us as though we had drawn him out of nothing. He is, before all, our creature full of gratitude and more devoted than the apple of our eye. He is our intimate and impassioned slave, whom nothing discourages, whom nothing repels, whose ardent trust and love nothing can impair." MAURICE MAETERLINCK

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