It is now 25 years since the Settle to Carlisle railway line was saved, here is the story of the heroic Collie dog Ruswarp, his owner Graham Nuttall and the saving of a railway line….
In the 1980′s Britain’s most scenic railway line, the Settle to Carlisle, was under threat of closure. There were just two trains a day and no freight at all. Today, the line is busier than ever, open 24 hours a day and about to have its capacity doubled to cope with demand. An amazing turn-around.Among the people who formed the group that was to save the Settle – Carlisle railway line from closure was Graham Nuttall a very modest Lancashire man who shared with a growing number of people a sense of outrage that the S&C seemed condemned. He became the first Secretary of the Friends of the Settle – Carlisle Line (FoSCL) – still going strong and now the largest rail user group in the UK. Graham Nuttall’s tragic story cast a shadow over FoSCL’s early days, but inspiration too.
He and his faithful Border Collie dog Ruswarp (pronounced ‘Russup’) were inseparable. Ruswarp’s paw print had the distinction of being the only canine signature of objection to the line’s closure. He was deemed to be a ‘fare paying passenger’, about to suffer ‘hardship’ as required by the men from Whitehall, should the line close. Ruswarp was soon to suffer hardship indeed. FoSCL were then trouble makers – thorns in the sides of the powers-that-be. Undaunted by the odds they campaigned and won. Graham Nuttall lived just long enough to see the line’s reprieve in 1989 for on 20th January 1990 he went missing. He and Ruswarp bought day return tickets from Burnley to Llandrindod Wells, there to go walking in the Welsh Mountains. But Graham never returned.
Neighbours raised the alarm. Searches by police and mountain rescue teams in the Elan Valley and Rhayader found nothing. The case aroused national interest for a time. FoSCL produced Missing Person posters as did police in Lancashire and Dyfed Powys.Then on 7th April 1990, lone walker David Clarke found Graham’s body, by a mountain stream. Nearby was Ruswarp, so weak that the 14 year old dog had to be carried off the mountain. He had stayed with his master’s body for eleven winter weeks.
Ruswarp was cared for by local vet Bertie Ellis of Beulah – fees paid by theRSPCA, who quickly decided to award Ruswarp their Animal Medallion and collar for ‘vigilance’ and their Animal Plaque for ‘intelligence and courage’, on the nomination of Superintendent Ralph Rees of Dyfed Powys Police. Coroner Alfons van Hees recorded an open verdict and heard evidence from Home Office pathologist Professor Bernard Knight. Ruswarp lived just long enough to attend Graham’s funeral, having been lovingly cared for by Graham’s aunt and uncle, Gerry and Edith Maden of Clowbridge. The RSPCA had been inundated with offers to re-home Ruswarp.
“The elderly couple who had Ruswarp in their care sat at the front and, as ever on public occasions, Ruswarp sat patiently and slilently throughout the service, but as the curtains closed on the coffin there was a long low muffled howl. It was uncanny, Ruswarp’s farewell. I shall never forget this…”(from The Westmorland Gazette, April 25, 2008, courtesy of Francis Pritchard, Hon. Treasurer, Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line)
The Friends of the Settle to Carlisle Line have created a tribute, a life sized bronze sculpture, to border collie Ruswarp, who guarded owner Graham Nuttall of Burnley.
Mark Rand spokesperson for the Friends of the Settle to Carlisle Line said: “It was important to mark this dogs part in history and through JOEL’s sculpture we are able to do this.”
“This sculpture is being placed at Garsdale in recognition of the tens of thousands of people and one dog who objected to the proposed line closure between Settle and Carlisle. The one dog that protested was Ruswarp who marked the petition with his paw print and as a result of this petition the line stayed open.”“I hope visitors to the area take time to admire the sculpture and learn of it’s story, whilst also making use of this line that was kept open thanks to the support of people across the county – and one dog.”The life-size sculpture was unveiled on 11th April 2009 at Garsdale station on the beautiful Settle to Carlisle railway line, to celebrate 20 years since the saving of the line.