Happy Christmas to everyone who is kind enough to read, like or comment on my posts…
In 1960 the Times Newspaper conducted a poll to identify Britain’s favourite bird. Not surprisingly, the Robin had a landslide victory and as a result there was a campaign to have it adopted as Britain’s national bird.
The Government however did not respond to the concept (the Tories were in power at the time and this had no benefit for the rich people in the country) and Britain remains therefore without an official avian representative! As a sort of consolation the Robin was used as a symbol of a Bird Protection Society but only for a few years before this was discontinued.
Unlike other woodland and garden birds the robin rarely migrates away and is probably for this reason that we associate them with Christmas, taking a starring role as they do every year on thousands of Christmas cards. Everyone gets a least one Christmas card with a Robin on it, go on take a look, you will see that I am right!
The Robin has also appeared on a complete set of Christmas postage stamps in 1995 and before that in 1966 in a ‘Birds of Britain’ set.
An old English folk tale seeks to explain the Robin’s distinctive red breast and legend has it that when Jesus was dying on the cross, the Robin, then simply brown in colour, flew to his side and sang into his ear in order to comfort him in his pain. The blood from his wounds stained the Robin’s breast and after that all Robins got the mark of Christ’s blood upon them.
Because their home colours are red at least eight English football clubs are nicknamed ‘The Robins’. Only one other bird is the nickname of more than one club and that is the Magpie, so the Robin is rather over-represented in this respect. Here is my list, but there are probably some more…
West Bromwich Albion Throstles (Song Thrush)
Norwich City Canaries
Newcastle United Magpies
Notts County Magpies
Leeds United Peacocks
Sheffield Wednesday Owls
Crystal Palace Eagles
Cardiff City Bluebirds
Swansea City Swans
Torquay United Gulls
Brighton & Hove Seagulls
Kidderminster Town Harriers
… and the Robins are: Cheltenham Town, Swindon Town, Bristol City, Wrexham, Altincham, Ilkeston Town, Bracknell Town and Selby Town!
None of these nicknames though are as interesting as my favourite. Hartlepool United are known as the Monkeyhangers because during the Napoleonic wars the residents of the town allegedly mistook a monkey for a Frenchman and strung it up from the town gallows.
According to local folklore a French ship was wrecked off the coast and the only survivor was the monkey, the ship’s mascot wearing a French uniform. On discovering the monkey, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial on the beach and since the unfortunate animal was unable to answer their questions (and many locals were unaware of what a Frenchman may look like) they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French spy and had it put to death.
This is H’angus the Hartlepool United club mascot…
Other famous Christmas Robins are the Boy Wonder in the Batman films because there is always a Batman movie on TV and the Robin Reliant car because there is always an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Also of course our most famous hero of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, there is always a Robin Hood film at Christmas.
When my dad was a boy he kept a notebook about wild birds, this is his page about Robins…