Sometimes even seasoned Bedford historians are surprised when a bit of lost Bedford lore resurfaces. This was the case last month when the Society received an email from a gentleman named David Murray, who was looking for information about his father, Gillis Murray, who recently passed away. Gillis was the son of a prominent Cambridge manufacturer and grew up here in Bedford during the 1930s and 40s. The Murrays lived in an old farm house on Wilson Road, still known as the Wilson Farm, and David was hoping to confirm and expand on an intriguing story from his father’s past that has significance well beyond Bedford.
According to David, Gillis Murray and his family were the final caretakers of the famous sled dog, Jack the Giant Killer. Jack, a Labrador-Newfoundland mix, was a lead sled dog on Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Second Antarctic Expedition. During the expedition, Jack earned the nickname “Giant Killer” because of his toughness and independence, and because he possessed the uncanny ability to lead his sled safely along the edge of dangerous crevasses, saving the members of the expedition on several occasions. Jack was so beloved that Stuart Paine, in charge of the dog teams for the expedition, published a book called The Long Whip: The Story of a Great Husky detailing the exploits of this remarkable dog. Unlike many of the expedition’s other sled dogs who did not make it back to the United States, Jack received a ticker tape parade on Fifth Avenue and Paine made sure Jack was with him when he returned home to Shankshassick, his family’s farm in Durham, New Hampshire.