Just Above Sunset Archives

January 25, 2004 Odds and Ends

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

This on the newswires Wednesday, 21 January 2004:

See You'll Never Guess Who's Still Alive


LONDON (Reuters) - British war leader Winston Churchill's foul-mouthed 104-year old parrot refused to surrender to newshounds Monday after a British newspaper tracked the bird down and discovered it was still alive. 

"They've been trying to get him to talk all day, but he's not saying much," said Sylvia Martin, who manages Heathfield Nurseries where parrot Charlie has lived for the last 12 years. 

Charlie, who kept Churchill company during World War II, was famous for occasionally squawking four-letter obscenities about Hitler.  But Martin told Reuters the bird has mellowed. 

"He doesn't say very much anymore - usually just hello and goodbye.  But he does get so excited about music and dances to it.  He's very fit."

Charlie - invariably referred to as "he" despite being female - is now owned by Peter Oram, the garden center's owner, Martin said.  Oram's father-in-law sold Churchill the bird and was asked to take it back after the prime minister died in 1965. 

Steve Nichols, founder of Britain's National Parrot Sanctuary, said that although parrots did not often live longer than 40 in the wild, some had lived to up to 110. 

"It's obviously had the best life possible," he said. 


Well, my friends tell me I think too much about history, and what happened in the past.  It's good to see this continuity.  And I'm sure Charlie is a fine old bird. 

All Monty Python references and comments about dead parrots who have "shuffled off their mortal coil" can be forwarded to
editor@justabovesunset.com if you'd like. 


On the MSNBC show Countdown I saw a feature on this.  I saw the bird. 

Now there is some dispute.  This seems to be a hoax. 

See Churchill's rude parrot seems to be a flight of fancy
The Star (South Africa), January 22, 2004

London - Winston Churchill did not own a macaw and certainly did not teach it to swear, according to his daughter and experts on the British wartime leader. 

They have been at pains to debunk reports that the parrot is alive and still cursing Hitler. 

"My father never owned a macaw or anything remotely resembling it," Mary Soames said, although she acknowledged he had owned an African Grey for about three years before the war. 

"The idea that he spent time in the war teaching it swear words is too tiresome for words," 81-year-old Lady Soames said. 

She was responding to reports on Monday that the macaw was still shouting "F*** Hitler, f*** the Nazis" with Churchillian intonations from its perch in a garden centre, at the age of 104. 

Charlie, the blue and yellow macaw at the centre of the controversy, currently lives in Reigate, south of London.  Its owner, Peter Oram, insists the bird used to live with Sir Winston, causing consternation to Churchill's guests and providing its owner with constant amusement. 

Oram says his father-in-law, Percy Dabner, sold Charlie to Churchill in 1937 and then took the bird back after his death in 1965. 

The story now appears to be a hoax. - Sapa-DPA

Oh well. 


Then I remembered something.

The bird in question lives in Reigate in Surrey.


The Sherlock Holmes story The Reigate Puzzle that Arthur Conan Doyle penned opens with this:


It was some time before the health of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes recovered from the strain caused by his immense exertions in the spring of '87.  The whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis are too recent in the minds of the public, and are too intimately concerned with politics and finance to be fitting subjects for this series of sketches.  They led, however, in an indirect fashion to a singular and complex problem which gave my friend an opportunity of demonstrating the value of a fresh weapon among the many with which he waged his life-long battle against crime. 


But when Watson and Holmes arrive at the home of Colonel Hayter in Reigate there is no parrot. 

I should have known.


But wait!


My friend the Wall Street Attorney gives us all something to consider:


Regarding Winston Churchill's 104-year old parrot, riddle me this.   Is it not possible that the elderly daughter of Winston Churchill would likely deny the story because she feels it might reflect badly on dear old Dad?


Alas, the game is afoot!


Will we ever know the real truth?  Alas, probably not.


But this not something that matters a whole lot.