It’s a terrier’s world, we just live in it

Queen Victoria’s Skye Terrier

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Islay the talking terrier

It is outside the Queen Victoria Building, behind a statue of the Giant Queen herself. From a distance it looks like a Parisian pissoir, but as you get closer, you realise there is no way to get inside. It’s a sandstone circle with a bronze cage on top and a bronze terrier in front. Then a familiar voice booms out: “Hello, my name is Islay. I was once the companion of the great Queen Victoria. Because of the many good deeds I have done for deaf and blind children, I have been given the power of speech.”

The notion of a talking dog is not particularly surreal – we see them in cartoons every day. It’s the depth and timbre of the voice that sits so oddly with the tiny begging pup. That’s because you are hearing The King himself – John Laws. The non-pissoir was erected in 1987 and at the time the major attraction was a stone from the battlements of Blarney Castle embedded in it. A plaque was added in 1988 announcing that Queen Elizabeth had “graciously cast a gold sovereign into the wishing well”. Then came a poem by Len Green, which included the line “Her faithful companion of so many years/ She bids him farewell with the shed of her tears” (and you realise the sandstone structure must be that shed).

Then in 1998 came the piece de resistance – John Laws donated his tonsils to give voice to Islay. Sadly, a few months later, he was engulfed in the “cash for comment” scandal and certain cruel observers saw symbolism in the way Islay would bark if you threw a coin in the well. David Dale

Where: Corner George and Druitt streets, city.

Sydney Morning Herald

Islay by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer


Written by aterrier

August 2, 2008 at 5:16 am

Posted in Skye Terrier

Tagged with ,

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