The Firs - Edward Elgar and his dogs

Edward Elgar with Marco and Mina

As an old man, much of Elgar's life was centred on dogs. He had grown up with them - one a family pet and another as a companion during the years before his marriage.

Alice, however, was not a "doggy" person and cited their frequent absences from home as an excuse for not keeping one.  After Alice's death, Elgar started to become more and more sentimental about dogs and over the next 14 years he made up for the deprivations of the previous 30.  First came an Aberdeen terrier called Meg, then Marco, a spaniel, and finally, Mina, a cairn.

Edward Elgar with his dogs Marco Mina and Meg at Napleton Grange.
Edward Elgar with his dogs Marco Mina and Meg

These animals were his constant companions, even seeming to take precedence over his music.  On the night of his seventieth birthday, Elgar conducted a massive concert of his music for the BBC.  At the conclusion he stepped up to the microphone and said: "Good night everybody. Good night, Marco."

For his Christmas card of 1929 he quoted lines from Walt Whitman:

"I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd:

They do not sweat and whine about their condition;

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;

Not one is dissatisfied - not one is demented with the mania of owning things;

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago;

Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth."

Marco and Mina Elgar's beloved dogs buried in the birthplace garden
grave site of Elgar's dogs Marco and Mina

Marco and Mina are buried in the garden at the Birthplace cottage.

" At tea-time the three dogs [Marco, Mina and Meg] line up in front of Sir Edward, who sits on the arm of a couch and gives them sweet biscuits and cake. At a word they simultaneously rise up like soldiers and stand at attention. A friend of Sir Edward's calls them "The Three Musketeers" because of this trick. "
- The animal writer Rowland Jones c. 1930