In an article from the Southern Argus newspaper22 August 1895 (one of the many articles that appeared following Bob’s death) Henry Hollamby said he bred Bob the Railway Dog. The newspaper reported-
“As there seems to be a considerable amount of curiosity concerning the breed, I take the liberty of writing to say that he was bred by me and that I owned his mother, grandmother and great- grandmother. He, when a puppy, was given to Mr. James Mott, who kept the Macclesfield Hotel. Bob’s father was a German Collie Dog. At the time the railway was being made to Strathalbyn and he followed some men to the line. He was then called “Navvy”. Mr Mott brought him back two or three times before he lost him. At about that time he was nine months old. The breed was well known here as first class cattle dogs, when my children heard Bob bark they thought how much he was like his mother in voice as well as looks. I made a good price of all the breed that I sold and could always find customers. I believe the breed came from Sydney with some of the first cattle, as the late Mr T. Oakley of Blackfellow’s Creek had them when first I came to the colony 44 years ago.’
The story of Bob, railway mascot, really begins at Terowie in the mid north of South Australia as was reported in the Advertiser’s 1936 article titled “Owned Bob the Railway Dog – an interview with William Seth Ferry”. According to William Ferry he first saw Bob in a cattle truck at Terowie (where he was a special guard) with about 50 other stray dogs from Adelaide who were consigned to a rabbiter at Carrieton. He took a fancy to him and when they got to Carrieton offered to buy him. The rabbiter refused. He would however do a swap – one dog being as good as another! Willam went on to Pt. Augusta, found a stray dog at the Police Station, returned and made the swap………….and the rest is history.
A few months later William Ferry transferred to Petersburg as Porter/Guard and by the time he left in 1889 for Western Australia was Assistant Station Master. During this time Bob had graduated from travelling the line with his owner, to free spirit, jumping on and off trains as the mood took him, making interstate journeys and short suburban trips on trams as well as trains (he also made river trips on the Murray Steamers
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What was it that made him so special?
He was a great charmer as this excerpt from the memoirs of Stephen William Quintrell shows – “So Bob continued on his merry way and travelled widely to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. At the completion of every trip he always followed the engineman home and was an important visitor. When back in Adelaide he always went for a feed at the Eagle Hotel and the girls always gave him the best. Every traveller knew Bob and the children adored him. I have had him follow me home from Kingston. He was a most deserving dog. Some peevish drivers would put him off, and he knew them and never got on their engine”.
Bob’ fame spread to overseas as these letters to the English Newspaper “The Spectator” show.
“I often see interesting letters to the Spectator about dogs, and I thought perhaps your readers might like to hear about the best known dog in Australia. His name is Railway Bob and he passes his whole existence on the train, – his favourite seat being on top of the coal box. In this way he has travelled many thousands of miles, going all over the lines in South Australia. He is well known in Victoria, frequently seen in Sydney and has been up as far as Brisbane! The most curious part of his conduct is that he has no master, but every engine driver is his friend. At night he follows home his engine man of the day never leaving him or letting him out of his sight until they are back on the Railway Station in the morning, when he starts off on another of his ceaseless journeys. I have not seen him on our line for some time, but noticed with regret last time he was in the station he was showing signs of age, and limping as he walked. E Cresswall. Adelaide, August 24th. 1895.