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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: The Saving Touch

Looking Back

Friday February 12

Looking Back: "It Was Jess that Saved Me"

A story from February 1916 about a troubled boy saved by his connection with a horse.



PATRICK DOCHERTY came to our Institution from the Gallowgate of Glasgow – came with the worst of reputations. In the space under the heading “Any other remarks,” we read, “Apparently incorrigible.”

I am an optimist, I readily confess – still an optimist, though many rude shocks have assailed my optimism. The first look at Patrick Docherty did not, I acknowledge, assist my optimism. He was very heavy-jawed, low-browed, furtive-eyed – altogether a most sinister-looking youth.

It chanced that the lad who worked the old mare, Jess, was laid aside with pleurisy. “Do you know anything about horses?” I asked of Patrick. In a decided Glasgow accent – an accent much maligned, for it is tinged with a geniality born of the breezes which come from the Gulf Stream – he replied, “No, I dinna ken naething aboot horses. But, d’ye ken, I kind o’ like horses.”

I introduced Patrick Docherty to the old mare Jess.

Jess turned aside in the stall and licked the hand of Patrick Docherty.

“She’s a frien’ly beast,” said Patrick, and stroked her.

We never had any difficulty with Patrick Docherty. With the exception of two hours in the morning spent in the schoolroom, Patrick practically passed his life with Jess. No beast was ever more tenderly cared for; in all the countryside no horse better groomed than Jess.

After two years’ probation Patrick left us for a position of comparative trust. The monthly reports about him were most favourable. Once a week he wrote me. The closing sentences of his letters always bore upon Jess.

The first Christmas eve after Patrick’s departure the post brought me a pasteboard box. It contained a letter and artificial roses.

This was the letter:-

“DEAR TEACHER – I wish you a Happy Christmas. The roses is for Jess. I would like you to dekkerate her on Christmas morning. I am getting on fine. It was Jess that saved me.
-Your greatfull friend,
                                      “PATRICK DOCHERTY.”

On Christmas morning Jess was decorated with roses.

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