Bradford Daily Telegraph (16/Nov/1891) - Remarkable Intelligence of a Goose at Lockwood

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


Some weeks ago, Mr G.F. Laycock, a Lockwood milkman, stopped me in the street and told me he had something interesting for me, and he related several of the facts given below. It seems that this particular goose (which, by the way, is a gander) belongs to Mrs Clay, who lives in Albert Street, Lockwood. It has been ill-treated by children throwing stones at it, or chasing it, until it had evidently formed the opinion that all human beings are enemies to geese. Mr Laycock delivers milk at the house where the goose is kept, and his first acquaintance with it was that it used to come and peck at him when he called to leave the milk. The pecks were sometimes not of a very mild character. In fact, had not the milkman’s trousers been made of a bit of real “stuff,” he might have been smartly nipped. Mr Laycock is of a genial spirit, and delights to show kindness even to dumb creatures. He spoke kindly to the bird, did not return the blows, and when he could get near enough touched it gently, until in time the goose gained confidence, and would allow him to stroke it down the back, and it did not attempt to peck at him. After a few weeks of kind treatment the goose would run to meet the milkman when it saw him coming in a morning, or it is saw him in the street during the day, calling out loudly as it ran. Then it would begin to follow him, going into houses with him, or waiting at the door until he had served the milk. It soon began to know the houses where he had to call, and if it got there first would wait until he came up. It learnt also where the kind people lived — that is, those who had a dish of water ready for it when it came. This it appreciated very much, far before anything to eat. Sometimes it would be a little in front, but general, if no one molested it, it would walk just behind or by the side of the milkman, going up passages, into yards, down cellars, or up steps, chattering most of the time in a language which Mr Laycock did not pretend to understand. It soon found out where the work ended, and as soon as the milk was delivered to the last house, and he had come out, it would gabble away as much as to say, “Come on, lad. We’ve done our work, take the lead home,” and when it got within twenty or thirty yards of home it would again call out as loud as it could to let them know it was coming. It now marches straight home when the work is done, but at first it stopped before the public-house where the man delivered milk on his homeward journey, because some of the company had let it drink with them. One day, however, it got rather too much of something stronger than milk, and it walked home with difficulty, waddling and chattering all the way. Never either before or since that morning has the goose missed giving the salute as it neared home. For nearly a week it would have little to do with the milkman, simply gabbling a little when it saw him, which property translated would be, “You got me into a mess, old boy. No more of your bamboozling tricks!” But after a short time it gained renewed confidence, and now goes on the rounds as before. It knows “Red” and “White Lions,” however, when it sees them, and keeps a respectable distance, and if Mr Laycock stops and says, “Come on, let’s have a drink,” it gets quite excited, and gabbles something which evidently means, “Nay lad! Nay lad! No more! No more!” I asked My Laycock if he had given it anything to tempt it to go with him, but he says it had gone months before he gave it anything at all. His kind treatment alone seems to have been the cause of the friendship. Now he takes it a crust every morning softened in water and wrapped in a piece of paper: this he carries in his coat pocket. The goose found out where he carried it, and one morning last week it got its head into his pocked before he knew, and the next morning it pulled the bread out, and now, if it finds a crust in the road, it carries the bread until it finds a pool of water, when it puts it in to soften, and then eats it. Mrs Clay has another goose (not a gander), to which the one in question seems very kind, and sometimes will not eat until its companion is satisfied. It does not like to go among a crowd of people, but is not afraid of the trams. It is frightened of dogs, and if it sees a big one, runs to the side of Mr Laycock for protection: if a little one, it sticks up for itself. If anyone seems about to molest its master, the goose immediately resumes an attitude of defence. It appears to understand what he says, and will go to him when he calls it. One morning it could not get out when the man called with the milk, but as soon as it got its liberty it ran after him, calling at every house where he leaves milk until it found him. It seems proud of its learning, and carries its head erect, and is greatly admired by all who see it. The Sunday before last it went with Mr Laycock to the top of Mount Street, after having been up the Scar, and as far as Lockwood Church, and did not seem in the least tired. The goose will not allow the man to miss any of the houses where he usually delivers milk if it can prevent it. One Sunday morning Mrs Clay was out, and the milk could not be left, upon which the gander gabbled and screamed and roused the whole street. One day Mrs Clay punished it, and it ran away, and did not come back until the milkman came. It then came running to his side, and as soon as Mrs Clay came to take the milk it flew at her, hanging on by its beak to the top part of her dress, and she had some difficulty in getting it off. When angered it sharpens its bill upon the ground, and runs for the offender. For some time it has to be kept in on account of the repairs going on in the street, but it has several times tried to run the blockade to get to its old friend. My Laycock things the old saying “As silly as a goose” out to be used no longer.

S.L. Mosley

On the occasion of the visit of the members of the Bradford Naturalists’ and Microscopical Society to Huddersfield an opportunity was afforded them of seeing this extraordinary bird. Mr Mosley had previously written to say that he had “invited the goose and that man” to honour us with their presence, and sure enough at the appointed hour both made their appearance, to the great amusement of all present. A later communication from Mr Laycock — who by the way is a Bradford man and before going to Huddersfield resided in Horton — states that the goose went with him to vote at the Town Hall, Lockwood. After mounting a large flight of steps leading to the voting room it waited for its master with the dignity of a Mayor, and was a source of amusement to a large number of spectators.