I looked at my eight year old son and huffed in exasperation.
“You have to hand in a project at school tomorrow and you tell me about it NOW?”
He pursed his lips. “I forgot,” he mumbled.
“Ok!” I muttered. “We have to have something on a famous South African somewhere.”
Running my fingers quickly over the books in the bookcase, I paused as ‘The Adventures of Just Nuisance’ caught my eye.
Hmmmm ….. I wonder. Well, why not? Able Seaman Just Nuisance. Famous? Without doubt. A South African? Definitely.
And so my son spent his Sunday writing laboriously, tracing pictures, colouring, cutting and sticking industriously until his project on Just Nuisance – A Famous South African, was complete.
I wondered what his teacher would think of our rather creative interpretation of the topic. As it happens, she was delighted and my son came home smiling broadly and proudly sporting an A on his project.
Just Nuisance was born on 1st April 1937 and was sold to Benjamin Chaney, who ran the United Services Institute in Simonstown. The Institute was frequented by sailors of the Royal Navy, which at the time was in charge of the Simonstown Naval Base.
The Great Dane soon became a firm favourite of the navy ratings and took to following them to the base, the dockyards and even onto the ships, where he would lie sprawled on the deck near the gang plank. Unable to move him, the sailors were forced to step over him, which in the confined space proved to be more than a little difficult.
“Why must you lie here,” they grumbled crossly. “You’re just a nuisance.”
And so he became known as ‘Just Nuisance’ or simply ‘Nuisance’ for short.
Not only did Nuisance follow the sailors onto the ships and to the local pubs, but he also took to boarding the trains with them when they took to the bright lights of Cape Town. He proved to be very protective of ‘his boys’ and became particularly upset if any of them became involved in a fight. Many a drunken brawl was averted when Nuisance bared his teeth menacingly – and if that didn’t work, he would jump up and plant his huge paws firmly onto their chests. The message was clear. “Back off! – Or else!” Usually they did.
Nuisance considered it his moral duty to escort any drunken sailors safely home to Simonstown – even if they didn’t live there!
He enjoyed the odd tipple himself and had a particular liking for beer, which he consumed in vast quantities, seemingly without suffering the negative side-effects experienced by the sailors.
Having an enormous Great Dane who considered himself to be human was bound to present problems and it was only a matter of time before there was trouble
Disgruntled ticket collectors would unceremoniously throw him off the train. After all, he hadn’t bought a ticket. Nuisance didn’t mind. He would wait patiently for the next train to arrive and board it when the conductor wasn’t looking. Then he would join his mates in Cape Town.
Eventually a complaint was filed, and a warning was issued to Benjamin Chaney to control his dog.
Nuisance had no intention of being controlled and saw no reason to curtail his pleasure trips to Cape Town. An ultimatum was issued. Keep him off the trains or have him put down.
A storm of protest erupted as Cape Town residents backed the sailors. Nuisance was fast becoming something of a celebrity and no one wanted to see the beautiful dog destroyed.
Clearly something had to be done. It was decided to enlist him in the Royal Navy. As a serviceman, he would be entitled to a free pass on the train and could finally travel without being harassed.
Nuisance was discharged from the Royal Navy on 1st January 1944. He had jumped from a moving truck, injuring himself and causing paralysis to his hips.
It was recommended that he be put down and on 1st April 1944, on his seventh birthday, Nuisance was taken for his last ride to Simonstown Naval Hospital.
On the 2nd April there was not a dry eye amongst the naval ratings as they bade a sad farewell to their faithful friend. He was laid to rest with full military honours.
In Jubilee Square, Simonstown, a life sized statue of a Great Dane stands, a navy cap at his feet. Able Seaman Just Nuisance – a dog who lived an extraordinary life and had some extraordinary adventures.
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