Dan the Bulldog StatueHereford
Riverside Walk
Herefordshire HR1
Near the cycle path along the southern banks of the River Wye in Hereford, England is a lovely wooden sculpture of a dog. This is not a piece of environmental sculpture but a tribute to a very special dog, two outstanding musicians and a very famous piece of music.
Dan the Bulldog was the constant companion of Dr George Robertson Sinclair, the Cathedral Organist from 1889–1917. Dan was a well-known identity around Hereford and never left his master’s side even during concert rehearsals.
George Sinclair was an accomplished musician and exceptional organist so it was inevitable that he should become great friends with another famous musician who lived in Hereford, Sir Edward Elgar.
Sinclair and Elgar would spend many hours together, walking beside the River Wye and throwing sticks for Dan to chase and bring back. One day in 1998, during one of these walks, Dan slipped down the steep river bank and fell into the river. He paddled upstream until he found a landing place, and scrambled out for a joyful reunion with his master.
George is alleged to have turned to his friend Elgar and said ‘now, set that to music’, which is precisely what Edward Elgar did.
One of Elgar’s most popular compositions is the Enigma Variations, or to give it its proper title, Variations, Op. 36. He composed the work between October 1898 and February 1899. It is an orchestral work comprising fourteen variations on an original theme. It is a very personal work with each variation reflecting the nature of a close friend or his wife. Initials on the score of each variation indicate who it is written about.
Variation XI has the initials G.R.S. indicating it is written for his friend George Robertson Sinclair. It starts with a musical interpretation of Dan the Bulldog’s fall into the river. Elgar wrote: “The first few bars were suggested by [the] great bulldog Dan falling down the steep bank into the River Wye (bar 1); his paddling up stream to find a landing place (bars 2 and 3); and his rejoicing bark on landing (second half of bar 5). G.R.S. said ‘set that to music.’ I did; here it is.”
The variation also depicts Sinclair's impetuous character and his skilful organ pedaling.
Getting There
The river bank path can be access from the Wye Bridge or the Victoria Footbridge. The Bishop’s Meadow is parkland in the centre of Hereford and only a short stroll from the Victoria footbridge and the popular Castle Green area of the city.
- By Car
There are ‘Pay & Display’ car parks at Wye Street and Castle Green.
Google Maps - Hereford Riverside Walk