I was cheered to find out last week that “the best greyhound there ever was”, according to Bell’s Life in London, was called Snowball and came from the pretty village of Wold Newton in the east riding of Yorkshire.
This is just a few wolds away from where my mother grew up and I was back in Yorkshire last week starting research for a new project. At night, I started browsing through this old book, which is full of lively anecdotes of dogs. And that is where I found about Snowball.
Snowball is forgotten in the area now (I checked); but the image of him skimming the hills and lanes or coursing after rabbits, along paths long grown over, in that glossy coastal light is an enticing one.
Snowball was never beaten. He won four cups and more than thirty matches before being put out to stud. When he died – the date of which isn’t entirely clear but I’d say sometime during the Regency years – his owner, a Major Topham, had this epitaph inscribed on his tomb:
The Tomb of Snowball, by his Master
He, who outbounded time and space,
The fleetest of the greyhound race,
Lies here! – At length subdued by death,
His speed now stopp’d, and out of breath
Ah! gallant Snowball! What remains,
Up Fordon’s banks, o’er Flixton’s plains,
Of all thy strength – thy sinewy force,
Which rather flew than ran the course?
Ah! What remains? save that thy breed
May to thy father’s fame succeed;
And when the prize appears in view,
May prove that they are Snowball’s too.
Photo credit: Allan Harris