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Just Nuisance

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434 – The Annual,2015-16

Official Sailor of the Royal Navy

by Ria Hörter

In February 2001, I traveled for three weeks in South Africa and Lesotho. Focused on dogs as usual, I was brought up short by a statue of a large dog looking out over the harbor in Simon’s Town, a picturesque community near Cape Town.

Simon’s Town has been a naval base for hundreds of years, first for the British Royal Navy, and today for the South African Navy. It was also the home of a Great Dane whose history is recorded in the collection of the Simon’s Town Museum. The museum gift shop sells souvenirs of the famous naval dog, and his life-sized statue stands on Jubilee Square.

The Story Behind the Statue

On April 1, 1937, a Great Dane puppy bred by Mr. M. Bosman was born in Rondebosch, a small suburb of Cape Town. It was registered by the South African Kennel Club as Pride of Rondebosch (Koning x Diana). At 11 months, Pride was sold to Benjamin J. Chaney from Mowbray, another suburb of Cape Town. In Simon’s Town, Chaney operated the United Services Institute, which was frequented by sailors of the British Royal Navy who were encamped at the marine base or from ships in the harbor.

The sailors loved the big dog and spoiled him with snacks, or took him for walks. The dog passed other men in uniform, but followed only the blue Royal Navy ones with the white tape on the collar. The Great Dane’s favorite spot was the gangway of HMS Neptune. Because he was in the way of the sailors and sometimes refused to leave the gangway, they often told him: “You’re just a nuisance. Why do you have to lie here of all places?” Which is how Nuisance got his nickname.

Bones and Muscle

Nuisance traveled with the seamen on the South African Railways and Harbours train to Cape Town. Angry conductors would put him off the train whenever they discovered him, but he would just jump back on. Sometimes, amused trav-elers would offer to pay his fare, but railway officials warned Chaney that they would have the dog done away with if Chaney didn’t keep him off the train or pay his fare.

Nuisance stood 6’3” on his hind legs and weighed 148 lbs. He was all bones and muscle without an ounce of fat, so putting his paws on the ticket collector’s shoulders while growling softly in his ear didn’t help his cause. He did the same thing to the sailors, but without the growling, and they got used to paws on their shoulders.

When the sailors heard that Nuisance’s life was threatened, they contacted the Navy and pleaded for his life. Their request was honored. A sailor presented Nuisance to an officer in charge: “Name? Nuisance, sir. First name? Just Nuisance, sir.”

Free Rail Travel

Like any other new sailor, Nuisance had a physical to be proclaimed fit for duty. Forms were filled in and Nuisance’s signature was his paw print. As of August 25, 1939, “… the dog Nuisance was officially enlisted as a member of His Majesty King George VI’s Royal Navy.” His rank was Ordinary Seaman (O.S.). After a short time, he was promoted to Able Seaman (A.S.) with HMS Afrikander. From then on, Nuisance slept on a bed with a pillow, and sailors took care of his personal needs. Nuisance became a guest at parades, wearing a sailor’s cap. As a Second World War recruit, he was entitled to free rail travel. Now no ticket collector had the nerve to throw him off the train!


On the train, Nuisance made himself useful by separating drunken and fighting sailors traveling from Cape Town to Simon’s Town. They were so drunk, they would nearly miss their station, but Nuisance escorted them to their sleeping quarters. However, he also escorted sailors who were not stationed in Simon’s Town!

Nuisance’s popularity knew no bounds, especially after his short relationship – in Hout Bay in 1941 – with Adinda, another Great Dane. Their romance resulted in five puppies. Nuisance and Adinda were so popular that postcards of them were sold to support the Naval Wartime Welfare Fund. Two of their offspring, Victor and Wilhelmina, were auctioned by the mayor of Cape Town; the proceeds also went to the war fund.

Invited for the occasion, Nuisance was transported to Cape Town in an open truck decorated with the Union Jack. A red carpet was rolled out in front of the town hall so Nuisance could present himself as the father.

Several Offenses

Nuisance lived up to his name. He lost his collar and traveled without his official pass. Small offenses, but he also slept in the officers’ beds and refused to leave the pub at closing time.

He fought with the mascots of other ships in port, HMS Shropshire and HMS Redoubt, and was responsible for the deaths of two dogs, in 1942 and ‘43.

Nuisance was cleared of the charges because he had been attacked by the dogs, not the other way around. Still, he was punished: no bones and no comfortable bed for seven nights. His registration form and the conduct sheet on which his “outrages” were recorded are displayed in the museum in Simon’s Town.

Because of poor health, Nuisance was admitted to a kennel near Cape Town. In January 1944, he was discharged from the Navy, “fit and well,” but his employment was terminated. Jumping on and off trucks, trains and buses had injured his back.

Full Naval Honors

In March 1944, Nuisance was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Simon’s Town. His entry form shows his personal data, and his religion as Canine Divinity League (Anti-Vivisection). The vet who treated him was not able to do anything about the paralysis of his sciatic nerve and on the advice of the surgeon, Nuisance was euthanized.

Ironically, that happened on Nuisance’s seventh birthday, April 1, 1944. The next day, Saturday April 2, at 11.30 a.m., Nuisance was draped with the Royal Naval White Ensign and buried at Klaver Camp with full naval honors, including a gun salute and the playing of the Last Post. According to witnesses, many sailors wiped away a tear.

Nuisance’s grave on Red Hill is visited by many tourists. I could not visit it, because my travel companions finally wanted to see the Boulders Beach penguin colony where they could swim with the African black-footed penguins. They could not understand why I wasted my time with a statue, and knick-knacks in a museum….

A Great Dane went down in history as Able Seaman Just Nuisance, R.N. As far as I know, he is the only dog to have served with the Royal Navy.

Pub Crawler

Terence Sisson, an English navy man quartered in Simon’s Town in the Second World War, wrote a booklet about the legendary Great Dane: Just Nuisance AB – His Full Story. The 8th edition, which is full of priceless stories, was published in June 2001. Another booklet was written by Leslie M. Steyn: Just Nuisance – Able Seaman Who Led A Dog’s Life. More recently, Able Seaman Just Nuisance, based on a true story, by Sherri Rowe, was published in May 2015. Coasters with Nuisance’s portrait were available to celebrate him as a pub crawler.

On April 1, 2000, 63 years after his birth, 26 Great Danes took part in the first Just Nuisance Commemoration Day Parade. Every owner hoped their dog would win the Just Nuisance look-alike contest.

The stories around Nuisance vary slightly; I did not mention all the versions because they change nothing about the life story of a special dog.

The Sculptor

In a national competition, Mrs. Jean Doyle won the commission to make a statue of Nuisance, which was unveiled in 1985. Jean Doyle is a well-known sculptress; her bronzes of African women, such as the Spirits of Women and African Images series, are internationally known. She is also the creator of two bronzes commemorating diamond miners, and of Angola’s national monu-ment Kifangondo, the largest work on the African continent. It weighs eight tons, is nine meters high, and took Doyle almost a year to finish.

A retired bookseller and publisher, Ria Hörter of The Netherlands is a writer of dog articles for ONZE HOND, the leading Dutch dog magazine, and other magazines. She also writes for the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of the Netherlands, of which she was one of the founders. She was nominated twice and a finalist in the 2009 Annual Writing Competition of the Dog Writers Association of America for her articles in Dogs in Canada.

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Posted by on Jan 15 2016. Filed under Current Articles, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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