Derbyshire shepherd Joseph Tagg lost his life on Howden Moor, in the Upper Derwent Valley. His loyal sheepdog Tip stayed by his side through a severe Derbyshire winter and a memorial to this is on the banks of the Derwent Reservoir.
Joseph Tagg was born in North Derbyshire in 1868 and for many years he served the XVth Duke of Norfolk as a shepherd.
He was a well-known Derbyshire character known locally as ‘Old Joe’ and lived with his niece Miss Helen Thorpe at Yorkshire Bridge, near Bamford.
In 1905 he was a founder member of the Hope Valley sheepdog trials and earned a reputation as a sheepdog breeder.
Even in later life he was still active and was 86 years old when he set off with Tip for to tend to some sheep in the Upper Derwent valley on the icy cold day Saturday 12 December 1953.
By the next morning Old Joe and Tip had failed to return home and RAF mountain rescue, gamekeepers and shepherds went out to search for them.
It was not until Saturday 27 March 1954 that they were found by two Water Board men, Sam Bingham and Joe Shepherd, who were rounding up sheep high on Ronksley Moor. It was exactly fifteen weeks since their disappearance when the frozen corpse of ‘Old Joe’ was found lying in a dip with a very weak Tip only a few feet away.
The eleven-year-old Tip had survived 105 days by her master’s body in one of Derbyshire’s harshest winters.
She was taken home to Joe’s niece, nursed back to recovery and was presented with the Bronze Medal of the Canine Defence League, equivalent to the Victoria Cross of the animal world. Unfortunately Tip lived for less than a year after this ordeal and passed away on 16 February 1955. Her remarkable feat had been reported far and wide a campaign raised funds to erect the memorial above Derwent reservoir.