Some good news in rural affairs, for once. At long last it seems that the Forestry Commission of Great Britain has decided that it is going to reintroduce breeding pairs of banjos back into the wild in some specially selected forests and woodland areas.
It has been many years, maybe a century or more, since wild banjos ran free in British woodlands. No more does the lone traveller hear the distinctive mating calls of banjos (the so-called duelling banjos) as he makes his way down the woodland paths and trails.
The English wild banjo was hunted to extinction during the last century. But this marvellous creature has never really managed to survive alongside mankind in an easy relationship. During the 18th Century, the wild banjo was widely believed to have some association with devil worship and witchcraft. For example, there are many accounts of witches using banjos to provide the ‘musique fore thane naqued dancinges and Sabbatts’. It was often believed at the time that any lone traveller who happened to hear the so-called duelling banjos would be in danger of losing his life. Although this ancient superstition died out long ago in this country, apparently immigrants to the Americas took this and similar beliefs with them to their new land and, apparently, there are still some there to this day who believe that the sound of duelling banjos foresees a sudden and violent death.
After that, the rapidly expanding Victorian middle-class, aping the manners and mores of the upper class, discovered the delights of roast banjo with parsnip jelly. Soon the forests and woodlands were no longer a safe refuge for the rapidly diminishing numbers of wild banjos. The last surviving wild banjo was reportedly shot and eaten by Lord ‘Smeggy’ Inbred-Wastrel in the forests of Walsall in 1901.
We can now only hope that the specially-bred wild banjos – imported from the wilds of Manhattan – do take to their new homes in the forest and woods of this – their once-native country – and soon once again the lone travellers will thrill to their mating calls as he makes his way through the woods.
Further good news!
There have been reports of wild bagpipes seen in the glens of the Scottish Highlands, once again. But whether these are really wild bagpipes, no-one is quite sure. It has long been believed the last wild bagpipe was shot by Hamster McBloodthirsty just north of Inverness in 1898 when he found it perturbing his sheep flock. Although, many experts believe these recent sightings are of feral bagpipes that have escaped from urban areas and, somehow, made it into the wild, rather than authentic ‘wild’ bagpipes.
So, until some of these wild bagpipes are caught and examined their true origins will remain a moot* point.
*Ironically, the moot is – of course – the sound of the wild bagpipes’ mating call.
A tale from the From the LFITW archive
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