Hunting the Wren 3 : Harleston



I had absolutely no intention to write a third post in this series which was designed to slip publicity for 'Our Christmas Past' under the radar (see what I did there) ! But a couple of Facebook comments have set me thinking. A few had clearly not read the original post and guessed (incorrectly) that I was supporting the idea of pursuing and slaughtering innocent wildlife. I clearly need take more care with potentially controversial headline comments!

But most interesting was a contribution from Roger Kent who dug out the quote below and also kindly provided me with a link to the original document (which can be accessed by clicking the extract).


This made me wonder whether wren hunting was a fairly common 'country sport' among the young. We do need to be wary of imposing our current values on the past.

Many of those boys would have seen the slaughtering of livestock as a regular occurrence.

I imagine that in the past the general opinion on my vegetarian diet would have been to consider it as decidedly eccentric - far from the rather fashionable choice it is today.

It also made me question again why the poor old wren should be a favoured quarry? Not worth eating nor troublesome vermin, unlike, say, rabbits.

Observing wrens in our garden their habit is to dig about in the leaves below hedges. Do they rely on their small size, russet brown plumage and the hedge cover to keep safe? In which case their self-defensive instinct may be to disappear deeper into the hedge rather than to fly away, making them a sitting target for a determined group of delinquents ranged along both sides of the hedge - especially in leafless winter.

If my guess is correct the ceremonial midwinter wren hunt may simply be a way of legitimising a 'bit of fun' with your mates - a Boxing Day hunt in miniature.


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