Huddersfield Chronicle (24/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.


(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")

Sarah was, however, always quiet, and scarcely ever called out, possibly concluding that one noisy creature in a family was sufficient. Whenever I left the house and Sol, too, he would call after me so long as he could hear my footsteps or my milk-cart, just like a child after its mother, and would also repeat his signs of recognition on my return, he being able to distinguish the noise of my approach fully 100 yards away. One morning Sol was calling out so loudly that I thought someone was molesting him, so I hurried home. When I reached him I found that one of the goslings had got into the water tank, and being but a week old it was fast becoming soaked with water and in great danger. Sol and Sarah were nearly wild with terror, and it was very touching to see how solicitous they were for my assistance, and how pleased they seemed after I had rescued and restored to them their wayward little one. Well do I remember when Sarah laid the third egg of her 14, which somehow got broken. True to the instinct of her nature she refused to let good food be wasted, so she ate it. Sol did not approve of that kind of thing, so went down the steps, knocked at my door with his beak, and screamed very loudly. When I opened the door he turned round and walked towards the goose-house, calling out all the way. Leading me up to Sarah, he looked at her and then at me very excitedly, apparently indignant at his wife’s heartless conduct. At four o’clock one morning Sol was very noisy. He awoke me, and though I held his beak again he persisted in his noise. I was letting him sleep in the house that night, but failing to discover any cause for his disturbing cackle 1 turned him out. When I got up at 6-30 he was waiting for me at the top of the steps, and immediately began to gabble so fast that I could not get a word in edge-ways. It afterwards transpired that two men had met and had had a chat in front of the Bath Hotel, and had thus disturbed his morning’s rest. After being turned out for doing what he considered to be his duty, he looked shy at me for some days, and only came round by degrees. Some people have the notion that geese will only breed where there is plenty of water, but I settled that fallacy by placing six eggs under Sarah. She sat for five weeks, daring which time she was only twice seen off the nest. While sitting she was fed by Sol, who would frequently run to her and fondly tell her the news, and listen to her incubatory stories. He was always glad to get near her and have a chat. I left them together on one occasion in order to get them water, and on my return found them standing over a broken egg, from which a live gosling was emerging. It seemed as if they were in doubt as to whether there should be any more sitting, so I solved the matter, so far as their firstborn was concerned, by setting the little thing free. The other five were hatched out in the course of a week. Sad to say, the first hatched was accidentally killed, and was taken to Mr. Moseley’s Museum, near Beaumont Park, there to be “immortalised” as Solomon’s first-born. The chapter of accidents was not, however, ended, for like many human, or rather inhuman, mothers, Sarah overlaid two more, so that only two remained, one of which I called Dick, he was just like his father, a chip off the old block, and the other Liddy, the image of her mother in every particular. In seven weeks they had grown so much that a stranger could scarcely have told which was the father, mother, son, or daughter. Before they had a family, Sol and Sarah were always most loving and affectionate towards each other, though he was, of course, the “head boss.” After he became a father they had their little differences. Sometimes he would stand with the three before him, and chatter to them for five or 10 minutes, occasionally warmly, at other times calmly, addressing them, but he never lost his dignity nor let his position as father of the family be usurped, or permitted himself to be in the least hen-pecked, or goose-pecked. If he, however, preached too long, or too severely, like many of the softer and harder human sex, Sarah would turn away, lie down, and dose; while, like most other children, Dick and Liddy would do as their mother did, leaving Sol preaching or swearing at large. When he saw this indifference to his preachments he, unlike the Scotch parson, who “had done lang syne, but wadna gie ower,” had the good sense to know when to give over, and would turn round, walk from them, and lie down with his tail towards them, as if disgusted. When the geese wanted anything to eat they soon learned to come to my door and knock with their bills, making a noise similar to a good, quick rap from a stick. To do away with that annoyance I fixed them a bell in the garden, which they soon learned to ring when they wanted anything. While I was fixing the bell it was most amusing to see how closely Sol watched me. After it was fixed I pulled the string and went into the house. Of course he had seen how it was done, and before long Sol was pulling and ringing like the driver of a tramcar in a fog, or the sexton who tinkle, tinkle, tinkles, and ding, dong, dings in the various steeples on Sundays, splitting the ears of the well and making the ill iller by the discordant clangour. As the old cock crows the young one learns, and would you believe it? No sooner did Sol leave off ringing than his son Dick began, and then Sarah had a turn. I fed them every time they rang, and that taught them to ring when they wanted food or water. For a week Sol and Sarah rang every day in turns. Then Sol began to mount a little elevation and gabble for a while, when either Sarah or Dick would go to the string and ring. Sol gave orders and made them do the work. Each had a different way of ringing, and even when I was in my house I could tell which of them was pulling the string. Scores of people have seen them ring and admired their wonderful sagacity. Further, they were far more obedient than many children. If I told them there was nothing more to eat, they would go away, and if at dusk I told them to go to bed, without a moment’s hesitation Sol would march off and call the others after him. On returning home one morning I found my pet limping about, evidently in pain, so I took him into the house, made a poultice, and put it on his swollen leg. He was very quiet while I was dressing and poulticing his lame limb, and it was touching to see how thankful he appeared to be for the ease I gave him, but no sooner was he placed upon the ground than he looked at the poultice, set up a terrible scream, flapped his wings wildly, shook his leg in a great rage, and was not quiet until he had eaten off the poultice. I then bathed the injured limb with salt and water, which seemed to do it good, but he absolutely refused to to let me bathe it for more than 10 minutes at a time. If I persisted he would resist, screaming and fighting me with his wings until he got free. During the time that Sol had a family I asked him one Sunday morning to go with me on my milk round. He readily assented, and also called his wife and youngsters to accompany him. Although Sarah had previously attempted to go with us, he had invariably sent her back, after the manner of many men, who, though proud enough to walk their sweethearts out, yet when those sweethearts become their wives, and, therefore, ought to be sweeter-hearts than ever, they either absolutely refuse to walk them out or be seen with them, making all manner of lying excuses to cover their heartless conduct. When we got to the top of the street at the back of Bath Terrace Sol began to shout so loudly and gabble so noisily that he roused the whole neighbourhood. Men and women and children ran to their doors and looked out, and many crowded round Sol and his family, which on this occasion, at least, seemed greatly to please him. Although he had not been with me for some time he had not forgotten any of the places to be called at, and it would have done your heart good if you had seen how proudly he showed his wife and family to his farmer owner in Albert Street. On another occasion I took him that the wiseacres of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union might see him. We went by tram to the Town Hall, Huddersfield. He excited the liveliest interest among these gentlemen, and clearly demonstrated that, with all their knowledge of natural history, a goose could give them a wrinkle or two. Sol does not fear man, no matter how that man may be dressed, so he wandered about perfectly at ease amongst professors, rev. gentlemen, and all above or below them that were present, as much at home as if he had been a member of the union. Nothing escaped his observation, while he heard everything. Again and again he examined the various specimens displayed, particularly the cases of birds, and quietly took a mental note of the other rara avis, who thought to pluck him in Latin by calling him one. If Sol does not know all the dead languages he knows his own living language well, and probably doubted, if he ever does doubt, whether those around him could say as much of their mother tongue. If the first goose that Adam named were to rise from the dead Sol and he, or she, would be able at once to compare notes without the aid of an interpreter, while it would take half a hundred human geese of the present day to interpret what Adam said, yet these very men will still sneermgly sanction the silly phrase “As silly as a goose.” It is clear there must be something very wrong with mankind, or they would not have been punished by a Babelous (or cacklous) confusion of tongues, and they must be wanting both in head and heart, or they would have devised one universal language which their two-legged kind could understand, and that as of one blood all the nations of the earth were created, so with one language the hearts and the minds of those people might be understood. At first the naturalists present did not quite understand the presence of the goose, but after explanations he excited much interest. One cleric, appropriately enough, considering that it his business or duty to preach of the Resurrection, with a twinkle in his eye said that his first thought was, on seeing Sol, that one of the “stuffed birds had come to life again and had escaped from the cases.” Sol and I eyed the rev. gentleman somewhat closely when he emphasised the word “stuffed,” and as Sol is the soul of honour and truth, and never uses a word with two meanings, and that also I like the absolute, unstuffed truth, neither of us fully justified the cleric’s reference to the stuffing of geese, and even he might have considered that the occasion was an intellectual feast, and not a stomach’s saturnalia. The rev. gentleman had better beware. The “Huddersfield Ha’porth” has died, and gone the way of many Huddersfield papers since it sneeringly said of Sol, on the 18th of July, 1891:— “Probably by the time Christmas approaches we shall hear of its setting forth at its own instigation to purchase sage and onions, and doubtless it will be able to leave on record the exact brand of apples it would prefer having served up as sauce to its gandership.” Geese live long, if left alone by hungry man, and Sol will be no exception to the rule if I can help it, so I should recommend both rev. gentlemen and unrev. gentlemen to bear this in mind when they compare their small wit with Sol’s wisdom. Of course it was impossible for such a famous bird to keep out of the papers, religious, irreligious, good, bad, and indifferent, and I have no doubt that Sol will yet get into the Times itself, when that mighty organ of sober, practical news unbends a little more and folly discovers that the heart of laughter is the soul of sympathy and true joy, and that he will also get into Punch before he or that refreshing fount of wit dies of old age. He will deserve both honours whether he gets them or not. I was very pleased with the Northern Daily Telegraph’s reference to Sol, which was as follows:— “The goose shares with the donkey the disagreeable privilege of being used as a figure of speech for dulness. But even a goose can be wise. Mr. G.F. Laycock, of Lockwood, Huddersfield, owns a goose which is so wise that its master has given to it the name of ‘Solomon.’ Mr. Laycock gave him 'a bit of a trot out’ one afternoon, taking him by tram to Huddersfield, and passing through one of the main streets, and then going to one of the newspaper offices. It is stated with naive simplicity that he visited the reporters’ room and other apartments of light and intelligence. The goose has for several years displayed a remarkable amount of understanding. He is seven years old. On that account, as well as in the interests of would-be consumers, it is to be hoped that this sage biped may never be served up to onions.” That was in 1893, so Sol is now nine years of age, and he is not only sager than ever, but gets wiser every day, and has nothing but contempt for those clever or gluttonous people who think a goose is of no use but to be eaten. Further, the following letter, which appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle on February 17th, 1894, headed “A Remarkable Goose,” melts my heart and taps my tears every time I read it:— “Uncle Toby returns his hearty thanks to Mr. W.H. Spivey for having furnished him with such a capital story as is contained in the following letter”:—

Friendly Street, Huddersfield
Dear Uncle Toby, — “As silly as a goose” is a term of reproach that is often used by one person to another, but I think the following incident will tend to show, in one case at least, that the very useful bird has in the past had its sagacity much maligned by the above saying. In the Lockwood Ward of this borough we have a milkman who has a goose which he has reared, and which follows him in his daily rounds delivering milk. The bird will enter the dwellings or stand at the doors, as the case may be, faithfully waiting until its master has transacted his business, and then “toddles” after him as patiently as a dog. But there is one establishment the goose cannot be induced to enter, and that is a public-house. It appears that some time ago the goose went with its master on business, when some person gave the bird some ale. Evidently the goose did not like the effects of having imbibed, and ever since that time it has steadfastly refused to go inside any public-house, but calmly waits outside until its master returns. How much more sensible is the much maligned goose than a great number of men! — With continued success to the Dicky Bird Society and health to Uncle Toby, I am, yours very truly,
W.H. Spivey.