A book about Bart

GIANT elkhound Bart is just one of the colourful cast of characters to be written about in the forthcoming history of St Bart’s homeless shelter.

Since stepping down as St Bart’s CEO in 2012, Lynne Evans has put pen to paper and has nearly finished the first draft of of her 300-page history of the Perth shelter which officially opened in 1963.

Ms Evans initially approached the late Sir Charles Court’s biographer to write the book, but she was convinced to have a go herself after realising she had worked there for 13 years and knew the place better than anyone else alive.

“I wanted to centre the book around the people of St Bart’s and complement that with historical information,” she says.

“There are so many fantastic characters that have stayed at the shelter and tales to tell— the people are the real stars.

“One of our most famous residents was a dog called Bart, a huge Irish elkhound that we bought as a puppy—the residents loved him.”

Bart was somewhat of a local legend and bonded with many of the residents and visitors he rubbed thighs with.

 Jim Giltrap with Bart

Jim Giltrap with Bart

He even managed to soften the heart of ex-Kalgoorlie miner Jim Giltrap, a tough old larrikin who stayed in the shelter for more than 10 years.

The pair became inseparable and Bart would keep watch outside Jim’s room at night.

When Jim was diagnosed with cancer and eventually went into palliative care, he would get tenants to sneak Bart out of the shelter and smuggle him into his hospital room.

Jim missed Bart so much he discharged himself so they could spend Jim’s last days on Earth together: the dog didn’t leave Jim’s side for his final two days.

Bart died in 2009 and the shelter bought two new dogs—Little Bart and his sister Bling—to help keep residents active and happy.

Ms Evans says she is up to 55,000 words and has just started writing the final chapter, which will cover her last 10 years at the shelter.

“I must concede, the writing was a bit of a challenge at first and it came out in dribs and drabs,” she says.

“But I’ve joined a few writing groups, got myself two monitors and I’m motoring along quite well now. I hope the final result will be both informative and entertaining.”

Ms Evans says St Bart’s plans to publish the book online.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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