It’s enough to make a Galloway Nag laugh

I know, I know, you wait years for a Galloway Nag blog and then two come along at once. Can’t be helped though. This is the result of discovering material that arrived too late for inclusion in the PhD, yet which deserves wider recognition.

The once popular little Galloway Nags were credited with speed, strength and great feats of endurance that belied their small size. For a good overview of some of the amazing actions credited to the Galloway, check out the Fell Pony Museum website here: http://www.fellponymuseum.org.uk/fells/17_18C/galloways2.htm

However, I (or rather my husband, for he gets the credit for its discovery) recently came across one feat that seems to have been overlooked in material published on the Galloway. It is to be found in an odd little publication from 1688, Coffee-house Jests Refined and Enlarged, by the Author of the Oxford Jests, who clearly wanted to maintain his anonymity (pretty sure it was a he) for reasons which should become apparent.

It contains such side-splitters as number 35:

A Gallant did fancy that he sung exceeding well, although he had a very bad and hoarse Voice; and having observed that a poor Woman did always cry when she heard him sing ; ask’d her the reason of it ? Truly Sir, said she,When I was forcd, being poor, to sell all my Goods, and nothing left me but one poor silly Ass,which was all my Support; and at last I lost my Ass too; and that which makes me cry, is, that whensoever I hear you sing, it puts me in mind of my poor Ass.

And number 142:

One was saying also, that the Tapster and the Brewers Horse are both alike; for they both do draw Beer; but yet I must confess they differ in this, That the Tapster draws Beer and drinks it; but the Horse draws, but drinks none.

Now that you’ve recovered your senses after the incontinent laughter produced by those witticisms, let us move swiftly on to what is surely the best story in the book:

Another was saying, that once upon a time it was his fortune to be in Hide-Park, where he saw several races run; and at length, says he, I undertook to run a race with my little Galloway Nag, with another of that size, a Race of a Mile long, for Five pound: And just as we were riding with full speed, he that rode with me was on the right hand, and so pass’d by the coach; but my poor Galloway (and being a cunning Jade, and unwilling that his Master should lose, for if he did, he thought that he should fare the worse for it at night); presently cast me off his back, and leap’d quite thorow the Coach himself (notwithstanding it went at a great pace) but it was done so nimbly and dextrously that all admir’d, and so well ‘twas ordered, that just as he came thorow the Coach when he came out, he catch’d me directly upon his back again on the other side of the Coach, and though ‘twas done so hastily, yet the other got ground of us; but my Horse so handled his Legs that without Switch or Spur I won the Wager. Now, says he, show me such  a Galloway Nagg in England again, then they all told him ’twas very much, and more than they could have believed, if he had not told them.

Now, if that isn’t, ahem, proof that the Galloways were the smartest, savviest, swiftest and most agile nags on the block, I’m not sure what is. It must be true – I read it in a seventeenth century book of jests, clearly the equivalent of today’s fake news on the internet!

Miriam A Bibby, 2021

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