Among Irene Mawer’s papers left after her death, there are two photographs of a small, white dog. His name was Nobby and I think he was probably a breed of terrier called a Sealyham.
It is interesting to think of Miss Mawer as having been a dog owner. I have not come across any mention of it previously – though I do recall Ann Cornford talking about a small dog coming into the room in Boscastle, but that was during the Second World War and Nobby was long gone by then.
Nobby was born on 5th April 1924 and died on 25th February 1933 and this fact was recorded in a book which Irene had written for her own pleasure. The book was bound, but appears to be unpublished.
Faithful companion that he was, Nobby would have seen Irene through many milestones in her life: the publication of The Dance of Words (1925), which was the same year that the Ginner-Mawer School really began to be very successful; performing as Pierrot in 1928; he would have needed a dog-sitter in 1930, when the whole Ginner-Mawer Company travelled to Greece to perform in Athens, though he may, perhaps, have been allowed to the performances in Hyde and Regents Parks in London; and Nobby would have had to get used to sharing his ‘Godmother’ with Mark Edward Perugini when Irene married him in September 1930.”
A different photo of Nobby shows him with Irene at her house ‘Bourne Stream’ in Boscastle. She bought the house with money left to her after her first husband was killed in the First World War, and as Nobby died in 1933, he visited Boscastle a long time before the School evacuated there in 1939.
Sealyham dogs are terriers and nowadays they are considered to be a rare breed. However, after the First World War they were very popular dogs, beloved of Hollywood stars, including Tallulah Bankhead, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock and by the author Agatha Christie – though I would think that their fame mostly came after Nobby had died, making Miss Mawer a trendsetter who was (doubtless unknowingly) ahead of the game.
Miss Mawer treasured her time with Nobby and I think her un-published book might be about walks that she took with him around Boscastle. She called the book The Little Pilgrimage and referred to the dog as ‘My Fellow Traveller, sitting upright on his back seat, deeply interested.” The unpublished, but professionally bound book has Mark Perugini’s name hand written on the flyleaf, so perhaps she wrote it especially for him.