Researched and written by Tams.
Back in the early 1980s, in our Western Hill’s suburb of Belmont, where areas brim full of trees and bird life that may have been reminiscent of Dame Lynley Dodd’s own childhood surroundings of New Zealand’s Kaingaroa forest, a wee scruff of a dog named Hairy Maclary made his genesis. Lynley Dodd has Scottish grandparents but although she will admit that Hairy Maclary may have a bit of Scottishness to him he is a kiwi, and while Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Bitzer Maloney, Muffin McLay and Schnitzel von Krumm (based on a beloved pet) are all identifiable (correct answers identifying each characters breed in the comments to win lifelong glory) Hairy Maclary was never meant to belong to any real breed. He is his own unique shaggy self. A self that has led to some interesting attempts to capture him in soft toy forms, with a pretty decent version as part of Auckland Museum’s Tāmaki Paenga Hira – Parsons Doll collection.
Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 2017.117.58
One of Hairy Maclary’s most distinguishing features and one that maybe can’t be seen in this toy is mischief – but art and the eye of the observer is always subjective so any mischief sighted would be totally welcome in the comments. It was this sense of fun that came rollicking off the pages of the very first book as Dodd allowed her dogs to run free as they scampered past Barney’s Boat and Fishing, past cabbage trees, past Andy’s Fruit Supply and Evan’s Antiques, in a way that dogs today just would not, could not, do. In an interview with Tom Hunt, for the Dominion Post, Dame Lynley Dodd, talks about how of her inspiration was seeing a group of dogs go for a ramble up a hill near Belmont, just them, no humans. So I now know that there is some real life inspiration, nearly forty years ago, for the dog characters but I am curious, I have not managed to find any references online to any of the businesses featured in the book, if anyone can remember any of them or some that were similar please do feel free to talk about these in the comments section.
‘Hairy Maclary’, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage) https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/hairy-maclary
It is this sense of freedom and mischief that has seen Hairy Maclary and his friends win fans all over, from his home town of Lower Hutt to New Zealand and abroad. For Belmont School, a newspaper article in 2003 by Linley Boniface, for the Dominion Post, revealed how the series was so well loved that they were the most replaced book that year while the Epuni Primary School students loved this dog because he was “kindful” and “always getting getting off his leash doing things other dogs don’t do”. Meanwhile, age did not limit who was in his fan group and one of his fans was the school office manager who could identify with Hairy Maclary’s mischief making ways.
So great was Hairy Maclary’s appeal that he won his very first fan on his very first outing when Lynley Dodd had to quickly produce a replacement for her book ‘Wake Up, Bear’, as a book by that very title had just been published in the U.S. Luckily she had a previous drawing she had done of a wee black scruffy dog and inspired by this, and a ramble of dogs she saw go up a hill, the draft of ‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy’ was produced just in time to take to her publisher’s office in Oriental Bay who declared it a winner and which it has proved to be. And in 2002 this, and the impact of the rest of her other body of children’s literature, was recognised when she was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to children’s literature and book illustration – this was later redesignated with the title Dame Companion, a change she accepts as part of the drive to emphasize the importance of children’s literature.
Lynley Dodd at Greerton Library, 2008 by McCauley (Tauranga City Libraries)
For more on the life of Lynley Dodd please follow the links below to a Sunday Morning talk she gave on Radio New Zealand in 2013 and for Hairy Maclary’s first adventure nzonscreen brings ‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy’ to life with all the charm of the characters and illustrations intact:
Boniface, Linley. A shaggy dog story (Dominion Post, 30 August 2003)
Hunt, Tom. Out the gate and off like a rocket (Dominion Post, 6 July 2013)
Steger, Jason. Lynley Dodd (Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 2019)