Saturday, 12 January 2008

Baa Baa Fieldfare

I was discussing the lack of winter thrushes, locally, with a friend the other day, so I set out to find and photograph some nearby today.

I couldn't find any in the village area, but near Ripple I noticed some larger birds with a flock of Starlings. Above is a Redwing, a proper photo still alluding me.

I stopped and looked in the field, next to the trees, containing what I think was young Oil Seed Rape growing through stubble, and immediately the Starlings flew up to the wires accompanied by a good number of Fieldfares, again they were too flighty to allow a proper picture. Redwings and Fieldfares can be extremely confiding in cold weather, but in winters like this one tend to remain very unapproachable.

There seem to be a lot of sheep around, making use of the lush grass and today for the first time this winter I actually noticed a couple of black ones. Of course the nursery rhyme came to mind:

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

and I wondered where this strange lyric had come from. A bit of research shows that it goes back a long way, but that as usual people were complaining about taxes. This is what I found:

The wool industry was critical to the country's economy from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century so it is therefore not surprising that it is celebrated in the Baa Baa Black Sheep Nursery Rhyme. An historical connection for this rhyme has been suggested - a political satire said to refer to the Plantagenet King Edward I (the Master) and the the export tax imposed in Britain in 1275 in which the English Customs Statute authorised the king to collect a tax on all exports of wool in every port in the country.

But our further research indicates another possible connection of this Nursery rhyme to English history relating to King Edward II (1307-1327). The best wool in Europe was produced in England but the cloth workers from Flanders, Bruges and Lille were better skilled in the complex finishing trades such as dying and fulling (cleansing, shrinking, and thickening the cloth). King Edward II encouraged Flemmish weavers and cloth dyers to improve the quality of the final English products.

1 comment:

tut-tut said...

A nice miscellany today!