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Shropshire-based Royal Irish Regiment seeks new mascot

North Shropshire | News | Published:

He nobly fronted military parades and marches for five years while providing much-needed morale boosts for hero soldiers based in Shropshire.

He nobly fronted military parades and marches for five years while providing much-needed morale boosts for hero soldiers based in Shropshire.

But now the hunt is on to find a new mascot for the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, following the death of its popular canine companion, Irish wolfhound, Merlin - also known as Brian Boru VIII.

Merlin passed away just before Christmas and now military officials are scouring the land for a replacement, which will be known as Brian Boru IX.

Merlin had been a loyal and loveable servant for the regiment, based at Tern Hill, near Market Drayton, for five years - regularly attending parades, marches and other local events.

But he died from a heart condition just short of his sixth birthday on December 16 as he was about to be transferred by ambulance to a vet hospital in Liverpool for treatment.

News of Merlin's death has reached the front-line in Afghanistan, where soldiers from the regiment are currently on tour resisting insurgents and helping improve infrastructure.

Retired Major Hugh Benson, from the Market Drayton area, said Merlin's death had caused "panic" among the soldiers because "he belonged to all the soldiers in the camp".

But he said attempts to find another rare breed Irish wolfhound were already looking promising.

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He said: "There aren't many Irish wolfhounds about and they are hard to come by but this week I've been in touch with a man whose dog has just had a litter of 10 pups.

"So it's looking positive that in the next few weeks we could have a new mascot.

"First we will have to get the pup used to all the noise there is on the camp but in the end it will get used to being around people, they are 'people' dogs."

Major Benson added Brian Boru VIII joined the regiment aged about 10 weeks old, so when the dog died, the first thing Major Benson did was send word to the soldiers.

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"It caused a bit of a panic," he added.

"I've received more e-mails about Brian Boru than anything else.

"People from Canada and Australia have been in touch to pass on their condolences.

"He was very popular because we took him to schools and hospices.

"Since he died people have been stopping me in the streets around Market Drayton to pass on their condolences, so people were very fond of him.

"But we are hunting for a new Brian Boru and when we find him he'll be the ninth."

By Tom Johannsen

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