There are many tales as to how the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London got its name, but only one that involves a cow and two mastiffs. From this mysterious story comes this week’s ‘London song a week’ offering. I have creatively entitled it ‘The Isle of Dogs.’
Play song above, view video for story or read below.
The Isle Of Dogs
London is home to an abundance of strange street names and place names. Pudding Lane, Bleeding Heart yard and one so profane YouTube will prevent me from writing it. But one that sticks out is the Isle of Dogs because no one really knows how it got its name. Some say it used to be called the Isle of Ducks and ducks got changed to dogs. Others claim Henry VIII had a hunting house there. But there is one legend, one that many people have forgotten as to how the Isle of Dogs came to be.
It involves a man, two dogs and a cow. This man used to graze his cow on the marshes south of Poplar. In order to deter poachers who might choose to steal his cow, he decided to tie to mastiffs to the feet of this animal. Every week he would visit this cow on the marshes and throw these dogs some meat, but apart from that they were left to fend for themselves amongst the mud and the sludge.
One night a thick fog descended and covered the area like it would often do and this cow couldn’t see where it was. Tripping over the chain it fell into a bog and proceeded to sink to the bottom. Now these two dogs chained to those legs, got dragged into it too but they were lighter and so they stayed on the top. During this night howls and cries were heard all across the area, cutting through the air. Four days and nights this mist hovered, and for four days and nights these cries persisted. The residents of Poplar were terrified and spoke of devils, demons and goblins running through the marshes promising certain death to anyone who chose to step outside their door.
When the fog eventually cleared, the owner of the cow went out to search for his animal. Finding no trace of the cow, he did find two heads of mastiffs preserved in the mud with their mouth open. And that is how the Isle of Dogs got its name.