Friday, August 1, 2014

Bruce - the famous fund raising dog

Bruce travelled 12,000 miles by rail and raised more than £890 for charity, mostly for the Swindon Victoria Hospital, in a life that spanned just ten short years.  Awarded 16 gold and silver medals and a solid silver collar, Bruce the famous fund raising dog has gone down in local history, but what about his owner.

Thomas Arthur Beal was born on January 31, 1878 at 5 Read Street.  His father, also named Thomas, was a railway coach body maker in the GWR works, and on his 14th birthday Thomas junior joined him in the railway factory, beginning a seven year apprenticeship in the Turning Department.

By the time of the 1901 census Thomas was boarding with a family in Portsmouth where he worked as an electrical engineer fitter, but it would not be long before he returned to Swindon. In 1905 he married Jane Rice and set up home in Nelson Street, living with his new wife, her 12 year old son and, presumably Bruce who was born the same year.

An obituary was published in the Evening Swindon Advertiser when Bruce died in July 1915 - "Mr T.A. Beal of 16 Nelson Street, Swindon, informs us his well-known collecting dog, Bruce died last Friday morning, after three months illness, suffering from an ulcerated stomach.  Two veterinary surgeons have attended the animal, and did all that was possible to save his life." The report continued - "He will be greatly missed on Hospital Collection days and especially by the children, with whom he was a great favouriteBy his death Mr Beal has lost a valuable pet.'  Bruce was photographed many times but Thomas only appears in one picture taken by William Hooper.

Thomas died in 1957, not at the Victoria Hospital for which he and Bruce had raised so much money, but at St Margaret's Hospital built on the site of the former workhouse at Stratton St Margaret.  Whether he owned any subsequent dogs remains unknown, but Bruce would have been a tough act to follow.

Images published courtesy of P.A. Williams and Swindon Local Collection.

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