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Nowadays there are many books about the Newfoundland dog but in my opinion there is a very notable omission in virtually all of them; it is a song from the Victorian era entitled The Newfoundland Dog. It was written in 1843 with lyrics from F.W.N. Bailey and melody by Henry Russell. Mr. Russell was a renowned composer and singer during the Victorian era with a career spanning 70 years.

Thanks to the World Wide Web I discovered this most delightful song, initially just the printed lyrics and later the melody played on piano for which it was composed. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate a sung version but I’m still working on that. The tune is quite lively and the documentation states that it was sung by Mr. Russell with “enthusiastic applause”. When I first heard the melody I could picture the singer clapping away as he sang the ode to a wonderful Newf named Carlo.

In an age when there were no sound or video recordings, the sales of sheet music along with the personal performances of Mr. Russell singing of the valiant life saving efforts of a Newfoundland dog jumping from a trans Atlantic passenger liner would have been the equivalent in that era of the videos today on the internet showing Newfs jumping out of helicopters to save people from drowning off the coast of Italy.

Although Henry Russell wrote or composed over 800 songs, based on various accounts of his career along with his obituary in the New York Times this one seems to have been one of his signature songs. The obituary from 1900 states:

Carlo, the Newfoundland Dog,” was one of the most popular of his songs, and he always prefaced it by telling the story of its origin. A mother was on an Atlantic liner when her child fell overboard. A Newfoundland dog saw the child, and immediately sprang in after it. The dog kept the child afloat until both were rescued.

Here are some excerpts:

Life saver! Wave Stemmer!
Deep Diver! Away!
And where e’er he be driven,
We men cannot see.
Ho! Carlo! Newfoundland!
Go follow his cry…
Wave stemmer!
Deep Diver!
We owe you a life.

Online you can find the entire lyrics, the tune played on piano, and sheet music.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

October/November 2011