From the Archives previously explored the origins of the “Fighting Irish” nickname. Today, this name is represented by, and synonymous with, the leprechaun. Whether it be the iconic fighting leprechaun logo or the student mascot leaping around at football games, leprechauns have come to embody the Notre Dame spirit.
However, from the 1930s through the 1960s, Notre Dame’s mascot was not a leprechaun, but a dog. A succession of Irish Terriers with names like “Shaun Rhue” and “Clashmore Mike” rallied Notre Dame fans over these four decades, heroically representing the university and its athletic teams. In this edition of From the Archives, we forget the unfortunate events of the past weekend and instead remember the more positive past of these peppy pooches.
Shaun Rhue: trailblazing terrier
In 1932, Notre Dame football filled a crucial yet previously-open roster spot.
That fall, Shaun Rhue, fittingly an Irish Terrier breed, became the new mascot for the Fighting Irish football team.
“Our mascot comes from the best of stock, with reams and reams of affidavits attesting his lineage, and naturally is quite proud of blue blood,” proclaimed Scholastic Magazine.
After a quiet puppyhood in Ohio with owner Charlie Otis, Rhue arrived on the Notre Dame sidelines for their matchup against Navy on Nov. 14, 1932, played in his hometown of Cleveland.
The Irish won 12-0 against the Midshipmen and again the next week against Army, 21-0. It seemed that the newest and furriest member of the squad provided the spark for these two victories.
“His presence on the bench lent color to the scene and fire to the Irish attack,” Scholastic asserted. “He has Irish blood, and the Irish fight. And already he has love of the Irish team.”
However, Shaun Rhue’s career came to an abrupt end after the end of the 1932 season. As Nick Lamberto reported in 1936, Rhue “disappeared” in the spring of 1933, never to return.
Lamberto reflected on the terse tenure of Rhue. “Shaun was a likable dog in many ways, but also had a few bad traits. He, like many students, enjoyed nothing better than a little vacation in the form of a week-end…his latest ‘week-end’ extending from the spring of 1933 until now. His mental alertness was also of the questionable [sic] quality as he was often known to stand nonchalantly in the path of oncoming cars, only escaping injury and death because of the driver’s quick action with the brakes.”
While Rhue’s time with the team was short, he was still a trailblazing terrier who set the stage for future Irish mascots. Whether it be the cadre of Clashmore Mikes or the living leprechauns that leap around today, all owe a little something to Shaun Rhue.
“Facing mules, goats and panthers”: the history of Clashmore Mike
Oct. 23, 1974 | Dan Reagan | Researched by Christina Cefalu
The tales of Clashmore Mike, the chain of Irish Terriers that served as the Notre Dame mascot before the introduction of the leprechaun, have been immortalized in writing, on screen and through the very architecture of campus. Though the likeness of Clashmore Mike stands proudly over South Quad, almost leaping out from Alumni Hall, this treasure of Notre Dame is too often forgotten. The Observer’s Dan Reagan recounted the glamorous history of the furry performer in 1973, almost 10 years after his retirement.
Mike appeared before the crowds of Notre Dame fans in color-coordinated, blue and gold outfits created by the Spalding Brothers. The terrier is remembered for his gameday antics, challenging opposing teams’ mascots, reportedly chasing the Navy Goat, Army Mule and Pitt Panther around the field. Though Clashmore was at first sheepish when he encountered the Pitt Panther, their meeting ended with Mike victoriously chasing the cat into the stands in true Notre Dame spirit.
The dog was also known for his “frequent vacations” from campus, and his darting off brought national attention to both Notre Dame and the hero Clashmore himself. Though his free spirit often troubled the Notre Dame staff who went to great lengths to ensure his recovery, Mike won the hearts of the football team. In 1944, there was serious consideration given to Clashmore’s retirement from the traveling squad. However, when faced with a number of furious football players, coach Ed McKeever reversed his decision.
Clashmore Mike became a crucial member of the team. In an unauthorized biography by B.J. Williams, it is said that head coach Frank Leahy trained Clashmore to nab the football when Notre Dame had run out of timeouts to halt the game. And in 1956, Notre Dame finished their season with two wins and eight losses, a tragedy that Mike commemorated by walking over to a sign reading “1956, Notre Dame's 68th Football Season,” and relieving himself on it.
The dog was first introduced to the Notre Dame family in the early 1930s as a gift to Knute Rockne and was then cared for by a student manager. In 1932, after Rockne’s passing, another Irish Terrier appeared, Shaun Rue, in response to Navy’s goat mascot. The tradition continued when Clashmore Mike II was gifted to Head Coach Hugh Devore, followed by Shannonview Mike.
There are no remaining chronological records of the dogs after Shannonview, but it is known that at least two more terrier mascots followed him: Clashmore Mike III, and Shannonview Rudy. Beyond a picture from 1964, there are no further records to explain the disappearance of the Clashmore legacy. Though the memory of Clashmore Mike has faded, his role in leading Notre Dame football and warming the hearts of students and fans everywhere is nothing short of legendary.
Calls for the return of Clashmore Mike
Memories of Clashmore Mike can be found in photos, on football banners and even on the east wall of Alumni Hall, but the beloved Irish Terrier has not acted as Notre Dame’s mascot since the 1960s.
No one knows why Clashmore Mike was phased out in favor of the leprechaun, but Marge Andre, an active member of the Irish Terrier Club of Chicago, believed that 1986 was the time to revitalize the old mascot tradition.
“She has more than 3500 [sic] signatures from 48 states, the District of Columbia and eight countries as well as endorsements from such prominent people as ex-mayor of Chicago, Jane Byrne; actor, Burgess Meredith; sports columnist, Bill Gleason; ND full back ‘60, 61, 62, Mike Lind and donor of the first Irish Terrier, Queenie Otis-Hanna, just to name a few,” features writer Noreen O’Connor wrote.
Andre hoped that her petition to bring back Clashmore Mike would revitalize Notre Dame’s football zeal by having the dog work alongside the leprechaun.
The two were intended to make a formidable team as they were said to have shared the same Irish spirit. However, the decision to reinstate the terrier was rejected by the athletic department in December 1986 in favor of keeping the leprechaun as the sole mascot.
A week after The Observer announced the decision in late January 1987, Andre wrote a letter to the editor expressing that she would continue to work on bringing Clashmore Mike back to Notre Dame. She even went on to state that the losing hex on Notre Dame football would remain until the Irish Terrier was back on the field.
“Laugh if you will, but when the current student body is old and gray, they will realize there was not a football championship in their lifetime,” Andre wrote.
Andre’s comments proved comically incorrect as Notre Dame won a national championship shortly after in 1988. But there is still much love for the legacy of Clashmore Mike and all the faithful fidos of the Fighting Irish.
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