Blue plaque erected for bookseller's dog on West Hampstead railway bridge

Gathering in West End Lane to mark passing of bookseller's three-legged companion

Thursday, 2nd August 2018 — By William McLennan

cnjphotos 2018-08-01 at 22.34.14

John Henderson with Sugar

A BLUE plaque has been installed in West Hampstead in memory of a second-hand bookseller’s three-legged dog.

Sugar had spent the past decade outside the rail station in West End Lane alongside her owner John Henderson. She passed away last month.

Mr Henderson said: “She was my best friend and I was hers. We did everything together.”

He is known as “John the book man”, and his canine companion as “Sugar the book girl”. “She was a rescue dog,” he said. “One day a woman came up to me and said: ‘Would you like to have a dog?’ The next day this three-legged dog ran around the corner and ever since that day we have been together. I just loved her as soon as we met.”

The streets of Camden are peppered with blue plaques, installed by English Heritage, memorialising literary, political and scientific titans.

The tribute to “Sugar the book girl” was not selected by a panel of judges, but a local resident and friend of Mr Hender­son took it upon himself to have one made.

It reads: “Sugar. Amazing three legged Staff Bull Terrier, Soul of West Hampstead, Book girl, lived here with her dad John.” Mr Henderson keeps Sugar’s ashes with him at the stall. “She’s still with me every day. I can’t let her go,” he said.

The 48-year-old, born in Clydebank, near Glasgow, moved to London 30 years ago and has run the book stall for more than two decades. “I was a bit of a bad boy at one point, but ever since I started this [book stall] it’s kept me out of trouble,” he said.

Mr Henderson lives in Kilburn, but often sleeps rough in West End Lane, he said. “I feel more safe out here, because there are a lot of people around and they all know me.

The majority of them look out for me. They might wear shirts and ties and have big jobs, but they sit down and talk.”


Natasha Back, one of about a dozen who attended a gathering to mark Sugar’s passing last month, said: “It just shows how popular he is in the community and how much of an impact both of them had. She was a beautiful three-legged dog and they did everything together. She was there through thick and thin.”

She added: “John is West Hampstead. He is always there with a friendly hello to put a smile on everyone’s face. He is a lovely part of the community and it wouldn’t be the same without him.”

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