The Intelligence Department file on Guide Nipper The Dog.
It is essential when selecting a guide to assist with missions into the past that they lived within a short distance of the focal point and conduit of the brief, the Corn Exchange Clock in Bristol, the only clock in the world displaying a past time. It is also necessary to ensure that the guide, when used by The History Maintenance Commission, isn’t compromised and every endeavour is made to keep the guide on the correct path history has set for their own experience with fame or notoriety.
NIPPER THE DOG
One of the world’s most famous dogs and definitely the mutt associated with selling the most records was born in Bristol in 1884. Nipper lived with Mark Barraud at the Prince’s Theatre on Park Row, Clifton where his owner was the artistic director.
DISTANCE ONE MILE FROM THE CORN EXCHANGE CLOCK
At the end of performances they often took bows together or, in Nipper’s case, bow-wows. The Prince’s Theatre was famed for its unique version of the panto which entailed Nipper taking to the stage and doing an impression of an out of breath Italian dog. He also acquired the habit of nipping at the heels of the theatre patrons from which he derived his name, although some of the fastidious audience members were more concerned that they would derive rabies. So the little terrier was a minor celebrity long before he was posthumously catapulted into global stardom.
In 1887, Mark Barraud died and his brother in London, Francis, took possession of Nipper. He found the dog pined for his former showbiz life. Thus, Nipper was overjoyed when his new master informed him that he was going to find him a lead part; sadly, this transpired to be simply a clasp. Francis discovered that Nipper needed a lot of attention, which he found difficult to provide as he endeavoured to carve out a career for himself as an artist. However, he found that the dog was fascinated by a recording he had made of his voice. Nipper would sit for hours in front of the gramophone speaker listening to Francis’s disembodied voice and wondering why it no longer reeked of alcohol. By this means Francis was able to concentrate upon his work and occupy his faithful companion at the same time.
As time passed, Francis extended the project and produced recordings of his voice asking Nipper to do the washing up, put the bins out and give the lounge a thorough dusting. He further added recordings encouraging his pet to do tricks. He must’ve been quite proficient at them as Nipper applied to join The Magic Circle in 1892.
Everything went well until the contented terrier died in 1895. Four years later, in a moment of reflection, Francis painted a picture of Nipper listening to his voice through the gramophone speaker. The image he created would become iconic. It didn’t strike the artist straight away, it wasn’t until it fell off his wall a week later while he was sitting directly beneath it that it did that.
Over the years visitors to Barraud’s studio commented upon the picture and the wish that their own dogs could be absorbed as the late Nipper appeared to be. This gave Barraud an idea. In 1903 he formed a company to produce mass recordings of his voice to enable dogs to be pacified. He called them His Master’s Voice and reproduced the painting of Nipper on the disc. The records were an intant hit and Fetch My Festive Slippers was the runaway Xmas Number One that year.
By 1904, Francis Barraud was so wealthy he was able to hang up his brush. But his riches came at great personal cost for it was soon evident that most of the world’s canine population considered him to be their master. This meant:
- He was barred from visiting China in case he gave a ‘Jump’ command and all the dogs there did so at the same time causing earthquakes and tsunamis.
- He was barred from entering newsagents for fear their entire stock would be reduced to shreds in an instant.
- Slipper manufacturers refused to issue him with a guarantee.
- He was barred from ever throwing a ball. This was particularly hard on his daughter as he had just booked The Albert Hall to celebrate her graduation.
- The Chancellor of the Exchequer barred him from making amplified speeches at Dog Shelters in case it caused a run on the pound.
Concerns were expressed that when Barraud died the site of his grave would become a mecca for millions of pining dogs, a bad combination with all the buried bones there. To allay fears, he announced that he would be cremated instead. His friends thought this a bad idea because he was still alive. Barraud took little notice of them because none of them were his best friend…he had about 150 million of those!
*It will be important when using this guide for operatives in the field to ensure that at no time does he find His Master’s Voice at any time prior to the depiction in the painting four years after his death. He must be kept away from anything that might cause him to sit there and contemplate whether or not he is listening to His Master’s Voice as this could provide Francis Barraud, upon hearing the anecdote, with a different scene for his later painting one where Nipper is sat in front of a broom cupboard, for instance, where his then owner, Mark Barraud, has accidentally locked himself in. The painting would then fail to have the same resonance.