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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Somerset

A Bulldog Called Jimmy

Whilst sorting through the acquired archive of Plater College (formerly Catholic Workers College) we discovered several records relating Jimmy - the "Jesuit" dog. These include a poem written by Fr Charles Plater SJ (1875-1921) to honour Jimmy, whose dog he was, as well as several photo postcards featuring Jimmy. There also is a glass plate negative, and another photograph showing Jimmy pulling Fr Plater in a wheelchair.

Digging a bit deeper, we found more about Jimmy among the appreciations included in Fr Plater’s obituary. For example:

Fr Plater departed from the usual custom amongst us, and kept a dog, “Jimmy”, of which a contributor writes in appreciation. He was a good-tempered bulldog; a source of very needed recreation, and a help to the Father... [L&N,36,138]
At times, when Fr Plater was too tired, obviously, to talk, he would play with his bulldog Jimmy, and the community would soon be laughing and happy while they watched them. I may say that the ‘famous RC dog’, as he came to be called, has always been a real apostle in the town, especially during the war. Everyone knows how terribly difficult it often is to begin a conversation with shy young men, or with men who, young or not, are awkward during their first encounter with a priest, especially those, indeed, who most need a priest! You cannot begin the conversation by asking when they last received the Sacraments, and you need, after all, an alternative to the weather. Jimmy always breaks the ice. Within a minute of making his acquaintance, they find themselves talking, like old friends, to his master. No one forgets him; in the very numerous letters I still receive from ex-cadets or ex-blesses now home in Australia, he is always inquired after; and, in the case of men sick in hospital, I expect, to see him perform his antics was as health-giving a spectacle as to see St Ignatius dance (as once he did) the fandango in an infirmary. It has been touching to find, in newspaper paragraphs, from Protestant admirers of Fr Plater, lines like this: “And now I’m just one of many who receive the news of the Rev Father’s death with a sort of indescribable feeling. He seemed too full of life, and too earnest in his mission, to break off at this stage. And remember Jimmy, the fine old massive type of British bulldog-always his platform partner? Jimmy’ll miss him.” [L&N,36,153]

Images of the discovered records are included here:

This photocopied document contains the poem written by Fr Plater in honour of his dog. The first verse is:

I'm Jim the bull dog. Candid friends remark They wouldn't care to meet me in the dark. My face perhaps is ugly. I don't mind it, I have the happiness to be behind it.

One of the postcards is shown here from both sides.

The message on the back reads as follows:

Oxford 26.6.18 A line to say that all's well. Just off to Portsmouth to lecture-the Bishop in the chair. Here is a peaceful group, interrupted by Jim. C.P.

Jimmy can be seen in these two photo postcards.

Both sides of the glass plate negative are shown here. The note on the back reads:

I certify this to be the very image of Father Plater's famous dog Jemmy known all over Oxford. Keep it by all means. Joseph Rickaby

The final record relating to Jimmy in the acquired collection is this image of Jimmy and Fr Plater.

A man sitting in an old fashioned wheelchair with bulldog on lead in front
Fr Charles Plater and Jimmy

You can see Jimmy again in the front of this group taken from our collection:

Group of men formerly arranged in 3 rows, mostly in military uniform with 3 in clerical dress and two in suits. At front of group sits a dog with a hat on his head.
Campion Hall Service Men Weekend Retreat 1918


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