Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scarecrows are Us

Especially for those of you who have been enjoying the posts on country life in Dorset I have managed to persuade the lovely Maddie Grigg from The World from my Window to guest blog and this is what she wrote:

Behold the humble scarecrow.

In The Enchanted Village, various weird and wonderful figures come out once a year to compete in our annual scarecrow competition.

We’ve had monks and kings, cartoon characters, clowns and corgis. We’ve had cowboys and Indians, Cavaliers and Roundheads. We’ve had all sorts.

And occasionally, some stay in situ, scaring off the birds and becoming a permanent fixture until they rot away into oblivion. This one was on our allotments for some time.

Our scarecrow competition is a relatively new fixture on the village calendar. However, the keeper of our village history, the late Leonard Studley, who was born in 1909, tells us in his book, My Story, (ISBN 0 9514849 0 7) it’s nothing new:

As soon as the corn was sown in spring (or autumn) my father would construct a ‘mommett’ to keep the rooks off. Mother would have to supply a hat, preferably a straw one, ladies or gents didn’t matter, an old jacket, and if it was to be a posh ‘mommett’ a shirt, and a linen flour bag which would be stuffed with hay or straw to form a head.

The eyes, nose and mouth would be put in using the wet cork of the ink jar. He would then cut two sticks about 6ft long, one would have to be sharpened at the bottom end to enable it to be driven into the ground, the other would be tied across it to form the arms, and the clothes would be draped over the form.

Sometimes his nakedness would be hidden under a pair of trousers, sometimes not.

Leonard Studley says in the ‘earlier days’, boys were employed to scare off the birds and were known as bird starvers. This is the bird-scarers’ song his grandmother told him:

Heigh Ho Old Jack and Jennie Crow,
Let’s lie down and have a rest.
‘Spose my master was to come,
Thee must fly and I must run.

Sow four grains in a row,
One fer the rook, one fer the crow,
One fer to rot and one fer to grow.

It’s lucky for our children the practice has fallen into disuse. Or, if you’re inundated with birds on your patch of ground, maybe it’s something worth reviving…

That’s about it

Love Maddie x

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