Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 5 May 2016

This Shepherd’s Life

Iconic shepherd pose, with lamb tucked under arm

Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good
life, but in respect that it is a shepherd's life,
it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I
like it very well; but in respect that it is
private, it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it
is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but 
irespect it is not in the court, it is tedious. 

I’m celebrating Shakespeare’s Centenary, so the above dialogue, between Touchstone (the court jester in disguise) and Corin, an elderly shepherd, in ‘As You Like It’ fits perfectly. Corin asks Touchstone how he likes ‘this shepherd’s life’ and he replies that he enjoys some aspects, but it’s clear from his answer that he misses his life at court. Indeed, a shepherd’s life then, as now, was very hard.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week is a photograph titled 'Ninety and Nine’ (by Joseph Gale c1890), showing a shepherd resting at a gate with a lamb under his arm and his sheepdog nearby. The picture recalls the parable from the Gospel of Matthew about the ‘Lost Sheep’.

It reminded me of a roadside statue we came across a few years ago, when travelling in Spain, near Burgos. It’s a monument to the rural shepherd and his dog, next to a shrine. Sculpted by Victor De Los Rijos, it was erected by public subscription in 1961. His Sheepdog is a large, but friendly looking Mastiff, and he also seems to have a young lad to help him. The statue is huge, as can be seen by me standing beside him!

A Colossus amongst shepherds

I delved into my ‘News From The English Countryside, 1750-1850’* for the  first time in months, to share two small news items with you which demonstrate the shepherd’s dedication.

1764: A Shepherd  for 90 years
Not your typical sheepdog

Last year died at Basingstoke one William Taylor, aged 102, as appears by the Register, in the Parish church of Basingstoke aforesaid; he was strong and healthy till a few days before his Death, and is said to have followed the business of a Shepherd upwards of 90 years.
Reading, January 28

1809: Shepherd Drowned in Mud

A shepherd to Mr Fisher, of Cotham, Lincoln was found drowned last week with a fat sheep, in one of the closes on the farm. The dog, it is supposed, drove the sheep in, and on the man endeavouring to get out, the mud was so strong, he could not extricate himself.
The Observer 
11 June 1809

The shepherd’s lad
Perhaps the second one was similar to the ‘Lost Sheep’; he had the other ninety-nine safely penned in and went off to look for Number 100 - it had to be the fat, dopey one didn’t it? And why did that daft dog drive towards the muddy pond?! Poor shepherd.

Coincidentally I’ve just watched BBC TV’s ‘Countryfile' for April 24th and it was, of course, a Shakespeare Special. One item was about the importance of the wool trade to Stratford-upon-Avon, and how it contributed to Shakespeare’s wealth and his ability to join the theatre. To make it more interesting a small flock of sheep were driven down Stratford’s Sheep Street. Unfortunately the sheep were spooked by the crowds, which and gathered to watch filming, and chaos ensued. Some sheep nearly ended up in the River Avon -  nobody drowned though. Here’s a link to the Telegraph’s report, including a short film clip.

* By Clifford Morsley: pub.Harrap

Join us at Sepia Saturday for more stories, images and anecdotes.


  1. I remeber the statue of the dog well. He didn't look dangerous, but he did look very sad. I wonder how many dogs William Taylor worked with over those 90 years!

  2. What a story about the shepherd dying in the mud! The stuff of nightmares...love the statues, though.

  3. Some lovely statues, although that mastiff looks rather formidable to me, but I'm a cowardy custard where dogs are concerned, live ones that is. The English language owes so much to William Shakespeare.

  4. I love the comment beneath the news photo of the sheep headed for the river saying it seemed the sheep had other ideas about their starring role. What a commotion that whole thing must have been. But sometimes the best memories are of things that didn't go perfectly, but of those that didn't - so long as there's a happy ending & no one is hurt, that is. :)

  5. Oops. I should have re-read what I wrote as it doesn't make sense exactly, but you know what I mean. :)

  6. Fantastic sculptures and a wonderful connection to the the theme and Shakespeare. In Britain, dogs are used for herding. In Spain, which once had wolves, dogs are for guarding. The Great Pyrenees breed are famous protectors. Smaller breeds do the rounding up.

  7. Good idea to stand next to the statue to give it scale. I like the way the shepherd appears to be gazing out at his flock.
    I enjoyed that episode of Countryfile, but then I enjoy them all. It has become required Sunday evening viewing. England is looking at its best just now. The blossom trees are in flower and everywhere is green and lush. The robins are busy singing their hearts out, but I’ve yet to hear a cuckoo. They are late this year – we usually hear them in March or April. Maybe I’ve just missed them.

  8. Lovely pictures of the roadside statues. What a kindly looking dog - We've three collie-crosses, but it would be a tight squeeze with three of these lads!

  9. What a wonderful bunch of shepherd stories! I went through every emotion.
    The most sad one was the drowned shepherd. I must say I feel sorry for the dog who just thought he was doing his job. I wonder if he survived?
    Barbara Finwall
    Thanks again for your help.

  10. I saw that Countryfile show too, it's no wonder the sheep were spooked.