Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The great Dick McTaggart

A few years back when Sprocket was little more than a puppy, I noticed him sniffing and scratching at the front of the kitchen cabinets. Clearly there was something behind there so I moved the cooker to one side and, quick as a flash, he was in there like lightning, clamping his jaws round a tiny mouse and sending it rocketing skywards. By the time the poor mouse landed back on terra firma it was very much an ex-mouse.

Similar thing happened a few days back. Noticed Jock and Sprocket scratching and sniffing around the old granite trough just out front. Milliseconds later there was a little squeak as Sprocket flung something high in the air. Grabbed his rope, pulled him away and searched for whatever it was that had landed in the long grass. Spotted a rather large mouse lying on its side and breathing heavily. Thought it best to just leave it. Maybe just shock. Maybe it'll survive. But it didn't. About ten minutes later I shovelled up its dead body and left it on a rock. Couple of hours later it was gone. Maybe a hawk had it. Or maybe a cat.

Next day, I mentioned Sprocket's kill to Alain while he was planting tomatoes in his vegetable patch next to our garden. He asked for a description of the mouse. Told him it was black with a four inch body and three inch tail. "Rat" he said nonchalantly without any hint of disgust. Then I showed him a few mouse holes under the apple tree next to the trough. "Rats" he said, fearlessly sticking his fingers down some of the holes.

No wonder Jock and Sprocket have been digging there lately. If I was a rat I'd move out quick. Don't mess with a Patterdale. But I guess they've set up home there 'cos it's just by where I empty some of the buckets of used dishwater, thereby depositing bits of old rice and other tiny scraps among the weeds and grass. Have since started dumping the dishwater down by the rhododendron bush next to the compost heap at the bottom of the garden. Hopefully the rats will relocate down there. And where are these pesky wildcats that live in the barn out back when you need 'em? Maybe they steer well clear of Jock and Sprock's territory. Funny stuff this animal life.

Later that evening while sitting outside enjoying a leisurely scotch and fag within spitting distance of the rattery, my mind began wandering as usual. Never ceases to amaze me the amount of useless information that's stored away in the cobwebby cubby holes of the little that remains of my tiny brain. Suddenly thought of Dick McTaggart, Scotland's finest-ever boxer. One of my earliest heroes. Won a gold medal in the '56 Olympics at Melbourne when I was just ten. And a bronze at Rome's '60 Olympics. But the thing that stuck in my mind was the fact that he was a ratcatcher. Known as the 'Glasgow Ratcatcher' he actually hailed from Dundee and was one of eighteen kids (just looked all that up on the internet). Never turned pro' and always boxed in his amateur vest. Earned his money by being a 'rodent consultant'. But also worked for Rolls-Royce (presumably not as a ratcatcher). Wonder if he had a Patterdale? Wonder if he'd come out here and give me and Sprocket a hand? Dick McTaggart, teach us your tricks!

Dick McTaggart - then and now (Dick on right, next to Terry Spinks)

Rats, Pied Piper, Hamelyn, Tam Lin - haven't heard this Scottish 'folkie' in ages...


  1. My dog is a much better mouser than either of my useless cats - she always knows when there is a mouse about and goes mental until she gets it. Hurrah for dogs!!xx

  2. Dogs are great. Cats are rubbish.

  3. Good tale, Tommo. Unlike Roz's our dogs might sniff and prowl and chase, but have never caught anything unless it is already half way dead and then Gussy will eat it. He got caught munching his way through a baby hedgehog the other day, but I am sure it was already dead. Will remember to empty our dishwater further out now - usually I just chuck it out the front door, the area in front of the house being covered in rubble and mess anyway. But now will think again. Wouldn't do to have rats moving in too close. Hope yours move further out soon.