A Burnley man and his dog who fought to save the Settle-Carlisle Railway

Graham with Ruswarp showing petition with paw print

Graham with Ruswarp showing petition with paw print - Credit: Archant

Emily Rothery recalls a Burnley man and his dog who fought to preserve our most scenic line

Ruswarp on the Southbound platform at Garsdale Station.

Ruswarp on the Southbound platform at Garsdale Station. - Credit: Archant

When the Settle-Carlisle Railway was threatened with closure in the 1980s it is said that the petition to save the line was signed by 32,000 people and one dog.

Ruswarp (pronounced ‘Russup’) marked the petition with his paw print and in doing so became part of the dedicated group who won the battle to save the line 25 years ago.

His print was accepted as a valid signature as he was a fare paying passenger. Ruswarp, a 14-year-old border collie, was the faithful companion of Graham Nuttall, who was co-founder of The Friends of the Settle-Carlisle line.

Graham lived just long enough to witness the reprieve. In January 1990, aged 41, he went missing in the Welsh mountains. He and Ruswarp had got a day ticket from their home town of Burnley but never returned.

An extensive search for the inseparable pair was unsuccessful but three months later a walker discovered the body by a mountain stream. His devoted old dog had stayed with him through 11 weeks of harsh winter weather and incredibly, managed to survive. He was so weak he was carried off the mountain.

Ruswarp was nursed back to health by the local vet and was awarded the RSPCA’s Animal Medallion and Collar for Vigilance and the Animal Plaque for Intelligence and Courage.

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Despite numerous offers to take care of Ruswarp, the dog lived only long enough to attend his master’s funeral. According to an eye witness Ruswarp sat quietly throughout the ceremony only letting out a low mournful howl as the coffin slowly disappeared behind the curtains.

In 2009 Ruswarp was immortalised in a life-size bronze sculpture, initiated by the Friends of The Settle-Carlisle Railway and beautifully crafted by the sculptress Jo Walker, who works under the name Joel.

The statue, which was funded by public subscription, is situated at Garsdale Station which lies at the south eastern edge of the Lake District and below the western flanks of the imposing Pennine Hills. In this striking setting, said to be their favourite spot, Ruswarp poignantly looks northwards towards the hills and to a bench on the opposite platform that is dedicated to the memory of his beloved master.

This year the Settle-Carlisle Partnership will be celebrating the 73-mile line’s reprieve with a series of events throughout the year, including a special celebration on April 11, the day on which the announcement was made in 1989.