Has Last Post sounded for HMV mascot?
In the doggie world, one name stands supreme – Nipper. Actually, that's not quite true. His name may be comparatively little known, but it's a fair bet everyone recognises his picture.
The little dog's fascination with the sound coming from the horn of an early gramophone gave rise to one of the most enduring commercial images of all time.
HMV stands for His Master's Voice – and Nipper's master was Mark Henry Barraud, a scenic artist at the Prince's Theatre in Park Row, Bristol. This theatre, well known for its fantastic pre-war pantomimes, was sadly lost during a Luftwaffe raid in 1940.
Nipper is commemorated in Park Row, where there is a model and a plaque, while Mark's brother, Francis, who painted the dog's famous portrait, has a memorial in Hampstead cemetery.
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A leading member of the Roman Catholic community at St Mary-on- the-Quay, in Bristol city centre, Mark lies in an unmarked pauper's grave in Arnos Vale, Brislington. He lived in Banner Road, Montpelier, with his wife and five children, and one evening in 1884 he brought home a puppy who was given the name Nipper.
After producing some attractive scenery, the audience would call for Mark and he would come on stage, accompanied by Nipper.
When Mark died, at the early age of 39, the family was destitute, but Francis offered Nipper a home. Four years later, the dog returned to live with Mark's family, who had by then moved to Kingston-on-Thames.
Nipper died in 1895 and is buried there, along with a commemorative plaque, under a mulberry tree.
Francis later recalled: "We had a phonograph and I often noticed how Nipper was puzzled where the voice came from. It suddenly occurred to me that to have my dog listening to a phonograph with an intelligent expression would make an excellent subject. It turned out to be the happiest thought I ever had."
In 1898, three years after the dog's death, Francis painted a picture of Nipper listening to a phonograph. He offered it to Thomas Edison, one of whose phonographs was in the painting. Edison rejected it, saying : "Dogs don't listen to phonographs."
So Francis offered the painting to the newly-formed Gramophone Company, which agreed to buy it if their own phonograph was pictured.
It was adopted as their trademark and the Gramophone Company even decided to change its name to His Master's Voice – HMV. Now, with HMV in liquidation, Nipper's picture, and his story, face obscurity.