What is a Tarrier?

December 07, 2023

Charles Wright Academy is the home of the Tarriers, but what is a Tarrier, anyway? School mascots are an important part of building school pride and community. Our mascot is a symbol of excellence and perseverance, two of CWA’s school values.

Tarriers were Irish immigrant railroad workers who contributed to the construction of the United States railroad during the mid-19th century. The job of the Tarrier was to drill holes in rock to blast out railroad tunnels. Tarriers were later immortalized in the 1888 American folk song Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill.



The History Of CWA’s Mascot 


The Tarrier was chosen as CWA’s mascot due to the shared association with our namesake, Charles Barstow Wright, and the Tacoma railroad. Wright was a railroad executive who served as President of Northern Pacific Railway from 1875 to 1879 and was instrumental in deciding on Tacoma as its western terminus. Wright was active in the founding of the City of Tacoma and Charles Wright Academy was built and named in his honor in 1957. 


The Tarrier’s Attire


The Charles Wright Academy Tarrier is represented by a mascot named Spike, a man wearing a plaid shirt and a bowler hat while holding a mallet. In early years, a student would dress up in a green and white plaid shirt, blue jeans, and work boots. In recent years, a more modern full-body costume, including a mask, has been worn.



Due to the obscure nature of the term Tarrier and it being a homophone of the small dog, the “terrier,” the Charles Wright Academy community spends a great deal of time explaining our beloved mascot and its origins honoring the hard-working Irish immigrants in the United States, who toiled day and night for the “sugar in their tay (tea)” to build the Pacific Northern Railroad all the way to the Pacific terminus in Tacoma, WA. 


The “City of Destiny” as Tacoma is still called to this day, is and was the “end of the line” for the grand railroad, selected in 1873. At the Lower School, we have an original bell from a vintage Pacific Northern train line. Students have the opportunity to ring it throughout the day (with ear protection, of course!) to signal the end of morning and afternoon recess. Students and faculty across our 107-acre campus can hear it ringing proudly throughout the day, connecting Tarriers of all ages to the rich history of our community, our mascot, and our school’s namesake.