“My Bonny lies over the ocean,
My Bonny lies over the sea,
My Bonny lies over the ocean,
Oh, bring back my Bonny to me.”
I was 10. My dog, Roddy, was dead, killed by a bus. When I had come home from school that day, my Mum told me. She was crying so hard she could hardly speak. “Maeve, Roddy’s dead, he was hit by a bus this afternoon. Oh, the poor bus driver. He was devastated.”
In bed that night the song kept going round in my head. I have never understood why, but now I want to tell you Roddy’s story.
My Dad came home from work one evening and entered into a private, secret conference with my Mum. Then, together, they said: “Come out to the van. We have a surprise for you.” The surprise was a tiny wire-haired fox terrier puppy dog, all white except for his black ear and black tail, age about 10 weeks. We called him “Roddy”, and it was love at first sight between Roddy and me. I was 7. My sisters Maureen, 12, and Rita, 11, loved him too, but he was my dog and I was his person.
As Roddy grew up, he was forever in mischief. At first it was digging in our neighbour’s garden, then chasing and barking at passing cars and bikes (fortunately we lived on a quiet road) then it was trying to get our hens to play with him, and lastly, it was going into the hen-house to steal their eggs! His taste for raw eggs was insatiable, until my Dad cured him. We all knew he had to be stopped, but how? That was the question.
Have you ever tried hot English mustard on your burger or ham? Yuck! Roddy did, his mustard was in a lovely freshly laid egg, carefully selected by my Dad, who put the vile mustard in a syringe, and carefully injected into a few eggs. At first Roddy seem to enjoy his stolen “tasty” eggs until Dad increased the dose of mustard, then he got sick and never stole an egg again!
When I was 10, we had -for many reasons- to leave Magherafelt, Co Derry and move back to Belfast, the city we came from. It was decided to give my beloved Roddy away, because he would not like or understand city life, so we gave him to our milkman. Joe, the milkman, lived 5 miles from us and delivered the milk every day driving a horse and cart! This was during World War II, and there was little or no petrol for cars. Two or three times Roddy ran away from Joe’s farm house to us, so we gave up trying to give him away.
In June 1944 we moved, and opened our shop, ‘T.J. & T.Lee Radio and Electrical’ at 346 Newtownards Road, Belfast, and lived above the shop. Eventually, Television and Bicycles were added to the stock and title. Then came that awful day in October 1944. Mum, trying through her tears to console me said: “Wouldn’t it be worse if it had been your Daddy or me who was killed?”
That set me off crying even more. I had a vivid imagination! Sixty-nine years later, the tears come back as I remember.