Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Aug/1895) - Sol, the Lockwood Goose

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.

SOL, THE LOCKWOOD GOOSE.

(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")

He soon learnt where my milk-round ended, and when the last house had been served he would turn towards home, flap his wings, and loudly gabble, which I still interpret to mean:— “Come on, lad, we’ve done our work, let’s get home, for the’ll expect us.” Then when he got within sight of home and his wife, for Sol was married, he would give an extra shout, spread his wings, and away he would rush, looking back occasionally to see if I were following. Several of my customers are publicans, and as I take drink because I like it and because it is cheaper than wine, I of course have a glass occasionally. Again, I also go to the public-house because there is always somebody there ready to give or receive information, and further, because there is more open and honest truth spoken in an inn than I find anywhere else. I can assure you that a lie stands a poor chance of Irving long in a public-house. If it be not still-born it is generally scotched before it has learned to walk, not to say run. I wish I could say the same of the lies uttered in many professed religious societies, many of the members of which either never read the 1st chapter of Romans, or if they do invariably make it apply to their neighbours, when it would more fittingly and more truthfully apply to themselves. Of course. Sol followed me into the various inns, and would wait patiently enough if I did not stay long. On one occasion, however, a two-legged creature, who was sillier than the goose, gave Sol some drink. Rather liking it, and not knowing that it was one of those things which, if abused by being put into animals' mouths too liberally, steals their brains, Sol, like many unsuspecting fools, took too much, and was, by a beast, made into a drunken goose, and it was with great difficulty that he reeled or waddled home, his incoherent chatterings and befuddled gabblings plainly manifesting his woeful condition. When he arrived within sight of home he gave no salute to remind those there that he was coming, but shamefacedly sneaked into his pen, there to sleep off, as men-geese do, the effects of drink. On the next morning, and for nearly a week, he would have nothing to do with me, but cackled at when he could not avoid me. This I translated to mean:— “You got me into a bonny mess, old boy, the other day, so I intend to have no more of your bamboozling! No more of that stuff for me.” After a time, and with much coaxing, I gained Sol’s confidence again, and he went with me on my rounds as before, but refused, for a long time, to enter the public-houses, keeping at a respectable distance from them, to the great joy of teetotalers and the confusion of topers, for Sol was becoming famous not only in Lockwood and Huddersfield, but throughout the country and abroad. For a long time after Sol got tipsy, if I said to him “Come on, let’s have a drink,” he would at once excitedly gabble, stretch his neck, and hiss. This he did in the same manner each time, making the same noise, and going through similar motions, so that I was fully satisfied he understood what I said, and I laughingly interpret his answer to be — “Nay lad, nay lad, no more for Sol.” Sol is a faithful fellow, and no mistake, far more sensible than many human beings, while he is the most unselfish of creatures. Before he began to go with me I did not offer him any particular inducement in the shape of food, but doubtless the kindness of my customers encouraged him. No, the initiatory friendship between me and my singular companion was not bought by food, but was the result of natural kindness and the confidence begot of respect. After a time I did begin to carry a crust of bread, softened in water, wrapt in a piece of paper, in my pocket. On bidding Sol good morning I gave him the food, and he soon began to expect it. If at any time I did not at once give it to him he would poke his bill into my pocket and help himself. As I have before said, Sol was married, and I called his goosy-wife Sarah, and, like a gallant chap that he is and was, he always took care that she had enough before he touched any food. This is far from being the case with some human beings, for some of the ganders of that species act on the heartless principle, “First come, first served, and let him take who has the power, and keep who can.” No, there’s nothing of that about Sol. He’s a gentleman, if ever there were one on two legs. He does not like to be in a crowd, and hates big dogs, but bravely drives the little ones away. You should see him if anyone attempts to molest me. He will immediately assume an attitude of defence, and, if he can, will seize the assailant, and will also surprise him with the force of his grip. I can assure you that a goose can bite.

If you doubt this try Sol when you see him with me again. He knows my voice anywhere, and can pick me out of a crowd without hesitation. One morning when I called at Mrs. Clay’s Sol was shut up in his pen, so I had to leave him. He, however, heard me, and made a terrible row, shrieking and cackling in a great rage, and no sooner did he get his liberty than he ran or flew after me, calling at the house of each of my customers until he found me, when he manifested his pleasure in many ways. Why, bless you! he is as pleased as a child to learn anything, and knows both when he pleases and grieves me. He invariably makes certain sounds in reply to my pleasantry, but quite different are his tones of voice when I am cross. You should see how manfully he walks, with head erect and waddling stride, when he has done something new and clever. If I purposely go past my customers’ houses, or they have removed, Sol stops, and it is with difficulty that I can persuade him to follow me until I have served the milk. One Sunday morning Mrs. Clay was out, and Sol was again locked in, so that he could neither get out nor could I leave the milk. When he heard me at the door he set up a loud scream, and with his fierce gabblings roused the whole street. He does not like punishing, and on one occasion when Mrs. Clay chastised him he ran away and did not return again until I turned up. No sooner did he see me, however, than he ran to me and excitedly cackled, so much so that I concluded there was something wrong. When Mrs. Clay came to the door to take her milk Sol flew at her, attacked her furiously, seized her dress, and was with great difficulty got off. When in a rage he sharpens his bill on the ground and then rushes at his enemies. On another occasion, owing to building operations and street improvements, he was kept a prisoner, but on every opportunity he ran the blockade and joined me. Sol was now becoming very famous not only in Lockwood and the town generally, but enquiries came from far and near, at home and abroad, so I resolved to extend his acquaintance with the outside world, and in October, 1891, took him to the museum near Beaumont Park. As it was Sunday, previously to calling on him, I changed my clothing. He did not at first recognise me, I seemed so different to him in my Sunday black-cloth, but as soon as I said: “Come Sol, let’s go to Beaumont Park,” he fairly screamed for joy, and away we went through inquisitive and admiring crowds, fully a mile, to the museum. When we arrived a group of boys called out, “Sithee, a dog wi fethers on!” When we got into the museum Sol was both surprised and interested. All was new and strange to him, and he seemed amazed as he walked backwards and forwards, especially when he came across birds in cases, similar to himself, apparently alive, but do as he would he could not make them move. He strode to first one case and then to another, touched the glass with his bill, then tried to get behind the immovable creatures, gazed for a moment as if in deep thought, and then, dead beat, turned to me for an explanation. He was fairly bewildered. If I called to him, saying, “Sol, look here,” he would come running and chattering, and seemed to wonder what I should show him next. He was particularly interested with a case of ducks, walking up to them and frequently tapping the glass with his beak, and looking round for me to explain the mystery. As I intended staying at the museum some time I took Sol into the back garden, but he did not like being left, and when I returned for him he had flown over the wall into the next field. As soon as he heard my voice he called loudly to me, and was very pleased when I left this place of mystery. I also took him into Beaumont Park, and right properly he behaved. “Dogs not allowed” did not apply to geese, while “Keep of the grass” was faithfully followed by Sol, for he insisted on keeping close to me on the gravelled walks. He went up and down the steps much more quickly than I. Where I went he insisted on following, and always refused assistance, though I several times proffered it. He is the most independent creature in the world, and do as I will he neither requires nor will he accept assistance from me. I live, as you know, beneath the Bath Hotel, Lockwood, and have to go down several steps to my house. The steps are narrow, and Sol; on going down them, invariably rolled over the last two. I was sorry to see this, and fearing he would hurt himself on one occasion tried to help him down. He at once screamed, and with the knuckle of his wing gave me such a blow on the nose that he made me see almost as many stars as there are in the Milky Way, and for hours after I had a painful sensation as if my nose was bleeding. I have, therefore, to let him have his own way, and now have little cause to complain, for he is a most sensible creature. I always smile at him when be, in reply to my call of “Milk, milk,” gives a similar number of quacks. He has caused more genuine amusement in Lockwood than ever did anything else. When the Corporation were resetting Albert Street, Sol could not understand, and certainly did not like, the pitch, as it stuck to his feet, and thus caused straw and other refuse to adhere to them, making him look painfully grotesque. He had, therefore, no doubt reluctantly, to stay at home in consequence. One day when I called, Sol was standing on a stone trough with the rest of Mrs. Clay’s poultry around him. I said to him “Come on, Sol,” but strange to say he only just turned his head and gave one quack. I waited a little and then repeated the request, when he turned to me and in a very important manner gabbled something, which evidently meant that he could not come. Whether he was presiding over some important and mysterious meeting about their wages, or rather food and drink — it could not have had reference to their clothing, as they grow their own and were in fall feather, unlike men, and especially women, who get other people to grow clothing for them, while some of them are so inordinately proud that they have a new suit or dress every week or so, and are never satisfied unless they are finer and more costly arrayed than their neighbours, while others are content, or otherwise, to remain for ever in the moult — I could never make out, but up to then it was the only time that Sol had refused to come at my call. His sense of hearing is most acute, and he can recognise my voice or footfall at a great distance, yet his sense of smell seems deficient; in fact I have never known him to distinguish anything by it. Consequently, notwithstanding his previous sad experience of the drink, if beer be now offered him he will readily taste, but soon puts it out again, its taste evidently reminding him of his carouse at the “Red Lion,” and it is plain that he has decided to be “had on” no more in that direction. What surprises me as much as anything is the fact that he seldom seems to tire. He will keep on the trot for hours, and then be as fresh as ever, and is always ready for a fresh journey, but it is when nearing home that he seems most interesting. He then invariably sets up a loud, glad shriek, spreads his wings, and runs and flies to his family, unlike human male-birds, who selfishly expect wife and little ones to run to meet and greet them, whether they deserve it or not. We have had our likenesses taken, and I presented one to Mr. Moseley at the Beaumont Park Museum, and when you see them you will agree with me that Sol, myself, and the milk can are the genuine, unadorned picture of our daily lives. I don’t know or care so much about myself, but of this I am certain, that my goose is both famous and popular the world over. In fact, I am frequently receiving enquiries from America, Australia, Russia, China, and other places from Englishmen, who have either seen or read of him, respecting his welfare. Yes, sir, Sol is as near and dear to me as my own family were, indeed, as I grow older and live by myself, I feel that I could not do without him, and that I am becoming more solicitous about his safety every day. I am often afraid he will be run over, but I am told that neither a goose nor a duck was ever killed in that way, as they always, in the nick of time, waddle from beneath the horse’s feet and just bob out of the way of wheels or crowds, when the human being would either stumble or undecidedly stand still, and be knocked down, lamed, or killed. There is one exception. The goose belonged to Mr. Bedford, Three Cranes Hotel, Barnsley, a gentleman well-known for his generous ambulance work among the miners, and for his large-hearted sympathy and kindness to dumb animals. The following verses from the Pogmoor Almanac records the event:—

Poor Ikey, nobbut a gooise wor he,
He went abaht booth jolly and free,
Nobbut a gooise, a lot could he see,
Poor Owd Ikey.
He went wan day ta hop and reel,
An walk i t’street, fresh air to feel,
An he wor crash’d wi a big cart wheel,
Poor Owd Ikey.

Sol has seemed to me to have many narrow escapes, but he is either clever or has a charmed life. When I purchased, him I bought his wife, too, whom I christened Sarah, and like the best regulated families they have conformed to the Scriptural injunction, “increase and multiply,” in fact, they have duplicated themselves, brought forth kind after their kind, male and female, whom I forthwith christened Dick and Liddy. Unless you had seen it you could have formed no idea how proud both Sol and Sarah were, and how carefully and anxiously they attended to the wants, of little Dick and Liddy.