‘ ‘ K E P P I E ’ ’,
The Phoenix, Smith Street, Chelsea, S.W.3
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EVERY proud dog lover I have come across and you will soon
gather that I have met many is full of the conviction that his
particular pet is the brightest, bonniest and cleverest of all the
canines. And they are all probably right–it’s rather like beauty,
which is a relative thing.
Similarly, all the landlords I have met and I have met many
more than appear in this slight volume”consider that each has
the best “bar” dog in the whole world. Again, they are all probably
The landlord of The Phoenix makes no bones about it. His dog,
Keppie, he considers, is the best of them all. But you must judge
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The Phoenix is a female bird of ancient legend. It was said that
she lived to between ﬁve hundred and six hundred years. The
Phoenix, about to die, is said to have built her own funeral pile,
lighting it by the ,apping of her wings, and then to have arisen
from the ashes”hence the emblem of immortality. It will be seen,
therefore, that she was a clever bird in the narrower sense, but one
has doubts whether she had the higher intelligence else she would
surely have started that ﬁre two or three hundred years earlier.
There was also the gentleman who ate the Phoenix, but that’s
another story, and you will have to ask Lord Dunsany about that.
The word Pha-mix can also mean a paragon or a person of
And that, of course, brings me to Keppie who is no bird, but
his conduct is singular in that he is a paragon of faithfulness ; and
there is no doubting his cleverness. Keppie is a black and white
terrier approaching the mature age of eight.
It was as a puppy
that he was taken to the hostelry known as The Admiral Keppel in
Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, to be sold to any prospective buyer
for the sum of £3.
The then unnamed little bit of stuff suffered the indignity of
seeing his price drop in three days to ten shillings. At that stage,
the landlord of The Admiral Keppel, sensing a bargain, bought the
little chap himself. That it was one of the best bargains of his life
he knows very well by now.
The Admirable Keppel
Some of the regular customers who know Keppie call the little
chap The Admirable Keppel. And Keppie does not complain all
In course of time our landlord transferred his affections from
The Admiral Keppel to The Phoenix, but Keppie is the same cheerful
dog wherever he is. Two summers ago the landlord, being but
human, desired to go on holiday”probably to see what a bar
looked like against the background of the briny.
Keppie was therefore boarded out in kennels, and seemed fairly content for about
two weeks. But when the phone rang to report the landlord’s return
to work, Keppie jumped from the ﬁrst ,floor window and was home
at The Phonix before Mine Host had taken in his luggage from his
car. You won’t deny his brains now, will you?
This year the same thing happened. He took a photo-ﬁnish
jump from the second-,oor window before the odd job man had
turned the corner to fetch him! During the fortnight this odd job
man called on several occasions to inquire about Keppie’s health,
but Keppie ignored him. What I want to know is h0w did Keppie
know that his master had returned from his holiday?
Most of the regular taxi-drivers and bus conductors know
Keppie well enough. Sometimes Keppie feels the need to visit an
old friend down in the Knightsbriclge or Sloane Street area and he
always chooses a No. I9 or 22 bus~the only two buses that go
in that direction. Keppie very wisely avoids the busier No. II bus;
in any case, as he well knows, the No. II branches off at Sloane
Square and journeys to Victoria. So when he feels like going to
Victoria Keppie follows a No. II to Sloane Square and (when no
one is looking) he just jumps on and gets to Victoria with a minimum
of canine effort.
Have I established Keppie’s brain power? So I needn’t tell you
that he knows all about opening time and “Time, gentlemen,
please”. He is fairly diligent in his attendance in the bar, but he
quite often takes time off for a visit to his friends. But somehow,
he usually manages to get back before closing time. Occasionally,
he might miss his bus, and then he’s locked out, but he takes it
all in good spirit.
There was a time when Keppie was latish. A
kindly policeman rang the bell on Keppie’s behalf, but there was
no response. The policeman reported to the landlord that as he
couldn’t get near the premises via the bell, neither could anyone
else. This was sound constabulary sense. The bell was, therefore,
Inside the public bar it is a pleasure to see Keppie sitting like
an old soldier of the canine wars on a form beside an old Chelsea
pensioner of other wars. Neither has anything to say, but no doubt
both are thinking of:
. . . Battles long ago . . .
While Kipp is gorging himself, we look around, and see two
interesting exhibits on the wall. One is a framed original copy of
‘1he Times, dated 22nd June, 1815. At the price of sixpence, you
could read the following communique (we can do the same thing
Thursday morning, 11 o’clock. London Gazette Extra-
Major the Honourable H. Perry arrived late last night
with a derpateh from Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington,
K.G., to the Earl qf Bathurst, His Majesty’: Principal
Secretary of State for the War Department. . . .
The communique then proceeded to state that a battle at a
place called Waterloo had been won against the usurper.
This of course was the battle at which the Prince Regent was
wont to say he had been present. But modern research has come
to the conclusion that far from being just vain, or silly, the portly
Prince was merely pulling important legs, including those belonging
to Arthur, Duke of Wellington.
Hanging next to this announcement of victory is a picture
which, by great good luck, was found in an old junk shop. The
picture shows some Chelsea Pensioners reading this very issue of
Just past our tavern is the Royal Hospital. This is no ordinary
hospital, for it has the honour to house the Boys of the Old Brigade,
without whom there would have been precious little chance of
our being in The Phoenix at all.
And in this house you will see just how it is that:
Old soldiers never die. . . .