Some of us will have grown up with 'The Dandy' and the adventures of 'Black Bob', the sheepdog and his owner Andrew Glen, the heavily bearded shepherd who shared his adventures in the weekly comic.
Sometimes the illustrations made Bob look more like a rough
Collie than a Border Collie and the countryside where he cared for
his sheep looked more like the highlands than the hills and
mountains of the Borders, but the writing told us otherwise.
There was something more believable about the life of this sheepdog than that of 'Lassie', a Hollywood counterpart of the time, probably due to the fact that Hollywood was not involved in the storytelling.
Black Bob, the movie, may have spun a different tales of heroic
adventure with Bob saving children from deep wells they had somehow
managed to fall into and maidens from collapsing mines they had
inexplicably decided to venture into without a trail of breadcrumbs
to help them find their way out and walkers from sudden snowstorms
in the mountains that they had decided to explore without the proper
protective gear or reference to anyone with knowledge of local
terrain and local weather conditions.
Lassie was good at such things.
Our Bob was smart.
He knew very well how to open a car door and stop a runaway horse. He could fetch a fire hose and even find a suitably shaped piece of wood to make a crutch for a disabled man, but for the most part his adventures were more likely to happen in the real world and his way of dealing with life's problems more like the way a real Border Collie would approach them.
The qualities of loyalty and faithfulness of the Border Collie
were illustrated in in every story.
Bob could become separated from his master, in foul weather or fair, and his prime motivation was to get back together. When Andrew Glen was injured on the fells, Bob kept him warm and then ran for help. He could set sheep in the deepest snow and knew where to find the strays lost on the hills.
Most of what he could do was perfectly normal for a Border Collie, although occasionally credibility was stretched.
This could be explained by the facts that many of the stories
were based on the activities of real dogs and the illustrator, Jack
Prout, had Border Collies through his life and in Scotland, you are
never far from the hills and the hills have sheep on them and
sheepdogs and shepherds looking after them.
The basis of many Black Bob stories were enacted every day on the hills and mountains. You only had to look and listen for inspiration.
The story goes that Prout was once given a spoof dog licence by
staff at DC Thompson, publishers of Dandy and Beano. The licence
allowed the dog to keep Prout as a pet and was signed with Black
Many of us who grew up in those times may find that their predilection and admiration for the Border Collie breed may have its roots in the influence Black Bob had on us as children.
Those were times when life seemed to move at a slower pace and there was time to read and admire the relationship between a sheepdog, his shepherd and the countryside.
So now, some of the good citizens of the town have
commemorated Black Bob by erecting memorials in and around Selkirk, where it is
supposed he lived his fictional life.
The terrain is right and the atmosphere perfect but there is more to it than that.
Selkirk is a beautiful town and already has historic associations with William
Wallace, James Hogg and Sir Walter Scott and of course there is the
Selkirk was also the home of the author of the Black Bob stories, John Hunter, who's name has been eclipsed by that of Jack Prout who illustrated his stories.
John ran a shop in the Market Place in Selkirk where he wrote
many of the Black Bob tales.
Without John Hunter there would be no Black Bob and Jack Prout would have had to find other employment for his skills.
The Friends of John Hunter and Black Bob are addressing this
On 'The Spirit of Black Bob Walk' they have built a cairn and a shelter and have put a commemorative plaque on the shop where John Hunter penned the stories. Routes that John would have walked can be downloaded from their website - https://blackbob.org.uk/
More about John Hunter and Black Bob is on their Facebook
Friends of John Hunter and Black Bob - Go have a look
Our thanks to Janis Cornwall for bringing John Hunter and the Friends of John Hunter and Black Bob to our attention
These days you are likely to come across less reverent references
to Black Bob like the cartoon above or like Viz magazines comic strip starring "Black
Bag - The Borders Bin Liner".
These demonstrate the wide familiarity of the original character.
Black Bob may have been fictional but he has certainly had his influence.