Birds. I like birds.
I am not a birdwatcher, and try to refrain from twitching. But when out and about I try to take notice of what is around me, whether I am walking along the coast, through the woods, or down the street. Birds pay no heed to our borders and our boundaries. They are everywhere. I like that sense of freedom.
Corvidae is the latin name for the family of birds that includes Crows, Ravens, Jays and Magpies. These are considered to be among the most intelligent of birds. Crows can do all sorts of things, regularly featuring on YouTube. Look them up. Google ‘Crow funerals.’ Crows dance. Use tools. Fly upside down (really!) Recognise human faces. Upset a crow and its personal. I have been out and about and found a Crow studying me. Figuring me out. (Good luck says my wife.)
Jackdaws are the smallest of the Corvidae family. Maybe pushed to the margins by its larger cousins. They can be shy. Inquisitive. Raucous. Riotous.
In Celtic tales they sometimes spoke.
Generally wary of people in the forest or countryside, they are much tamer in urban areas. I am exactly the same since watching Deliverance.
‘This bird is considered sacred because it frequents church steeples and builds its nest there. It is said to be an innocent bird, though given to carrying off things and hiding them in out-of-the-way places. When ignorance of a fault is pleaded, it is a common saying, “I have no more knowledge of the fact than the Devil has of the Jackdaw.” The Devil evidently will have nothing to do with this bird, because it makes its home in the church steeple and he hates the church and everything belonging to it.’
– Wales, Folklore, Myths and Legends.
City Jackdaw was a weekly penny magazine that was published in Manchester from 1875 to 1880.
I first came across this publication when I was reading a book about those oh so nice Scuttler boys of Victorian Manchester. The hoodies of their day, what was described as Britain’s first youth cult emerged from the slums and degradation of industrial Manchester, this fair city in which I now live, in a fury of swinging belt buckles and thrusting knives.
City Jackdaw advertised itself as a humorous and satirical journal. Its subject matter was broad, covering all things current. Poetry, articles, sections on the theater and ‘Claws of the Week’ were regular features. With many advertisements, covering the front and back covers both inside and out, sometimes other pages as well. Twelve pages long, it was illustrated with plates.
I discovered it at a time when I was looking for a title for this blog, and I appreciated the synchronicity. It seemed to bring together many of the subjects I am interested in- poetry, literature, history, current affairs, and in its very title joins together my love of the natural world, with that of my urban surroundings, rooted as the original magazine was in this very place where many generations of my ancestors walked, and possibly scuttled, along these northern streets I know so well.
There is a great line from Birds of Britain about Jackdaws, which I think could also equally apply to some of those people of 19th Century Manchester, highlighting two similar aspects of our distinct species’:
-‘They may be rogues, but they are intelligent rogues.’
And so- City Jackdaw.
Look forward to seeing you.