Queen Victoria and Islay – a cross gender dog
‘Islay’ a small bronze terrier based on a sketch of Queen Victoria sits begging outside the popular Queen Victoria Building – now a shopping arcade – in Sydney. When I wrote about this statue and that of the ‘dog on the tuckerbox’ I had assumed that Islay was a female dog. The newly released free online diaries of Queen Victoria tell a different story . Her journal for Wednesday 13th March 1839 says: ‘I am charmed with my new little dog, whom I have called Islay. He is so gentle, so good natured and friendly and so funny, for he begs delightfully.’ There are some 150 references to this specific dog – as well as to her other animal companions. Good to see an archive catalogue search mechanism that recognises non human animals!
The building owes its preservation trade unionists in the building trade and activists like Jack Mundey. As Mundey said: ‘Everyone should be interested when Sydney’s history and beauty is going to be torn down, and when people in the way of this so-called progress are regarded as minor inconveniences’.
This radical history is now ignored and outside the building is a statue of Queen Victoria and of Islay. Neil Glasser, a business man and self defined ‘unashamed royalist’ had tried to move an existing statue of Queen Victoria, by Joseph Boehm, from Eastern Park, where it had stood since the 1888 centennial celebrations. Permission was refused, but Glasser was undeterred by this setback. Nor was his enthusiasm dampened by the refusal of the Yemeni government to dispose of its own monument of Victoria.The Yemeni authorities had wanted, so they said, to keep their own statue,‘to remind them of the oppression they had suffered at the hands of their former colonialist oppressors’. The businessman had continued his mission to locate a statue of Victoria for some three years until he was successful. The statue,found in a field in the south of Ireland, was bequeathed by the Irish government on the strict understanding that it was not to be portrayed as a bicentenary gift and was required to be unveiled prior to the 1988 ‘celebrations’. Thus the statue of the queen was unveiled some three months after the unveiling of Islay and a few days before Christmas 1987.