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Friday April 30 2021

Looking Back: Dog With a Bank Account

Paddy, the cover star of April 1968, had a habit which had become a nice little earner for the church.


“KEEPING an Eye on the Ball” might have been the perfect title for this piece about the dog on the cover whose chief delight – the location and recovery of lost golf balls – has proved of no small benefit to the Kirk; but for the fact that the ball must already have escaped all eyes – and, indeed, every search – before his canine interest can be aroused. Balls in play he disdains, he has but little interest in those new-lost; his vocation – his aptness – is the finding of balls long written off as irrecoverable.

Paddy, for that is his name, is a red Irish Setter who lives with his mistress, Mrs. David Scott, at Ferry Cottage, Elie, in Fife. Having taught himself the art, Paddy has made it his business for the last eight years to find lost golf balls – and find them he does: hidden in tangled marram grass clumps and buried deep in sand. On one occasion he dug a ball out from under a dead seagull on the beach.

He has been known to aggregate nearly three thousand balls in a year, and his best total for a single day was sixty-four. He was never trained to this trick – if we may call it that – but learned himself, and he is completely happy when employed at his vocation.

Golfing members of the Kirk who lose balls in the vicinity of Elie and Newtonmore – Paddy’s two hunting grounds – may find some solace in knowing that they have made an unintentional, but none-the-less welcome, donation to Church funds.

All balls found by Paddy are graded for quality and sold at the next Sale of Work or privately. In each case the money is paid to Paddy. He has his own bank account – to be credited to the Kirk. To date, he has contributed more than £500; how many of us would claim to have done as much?

It is quite impossible to say how it is done: not by scent, for Paddy has dived for balls in a peaty, fast-flowing Highland burn; nor by sight, for on several occasions he has dug out balls from under a nest of field-mice, without harming the mice. It is all very puzzling.

If there is so much that is mysterious in Paddy’s self-acquired technique, how much more must there be latent in human resources beyond the ken of mortals?

I left Paddy with his beloved mistress. He was stretched elegantly behind her in the chair; there was a quizzical look in his eyes as he watched me gather up my notes; as though he were a little surprised at all the fuss, but too well-bred to say so. Through a window, the spring sunshine framed his noble head and lighted yet again the warm chestnut brightness of his coat so that I marvelled at his beauty.

“Once in a lifetime,” Mrs. Scott had told me, “one owns a dog different to all others; a dog with a character and a personality that is all his own…”

Charles Brister.

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