A bird’s-eye view of history

BEING slightly older than Ian Clayton I also recall his memories highlighted in his column ‘Eggcellent memories of past food’ (Express, July 14). I too remember Jack Evans’ shop in Station Lane, Featherstone. Jack Evans had a brilliant shop which sold everything from lettuce to crabs.

My recollection of Bempton was actually waiting for the climbers to arrive from the climb off the cliff face, here I was greeted by two climbers covered from head to toe in bird lime. Both wore a Gabardine mackintosh and flat cap, although these were nearly invisible with the camouflage of bird droppings.

Each carried a wicker basket full with an array of multicoloured gulls’ eggs, all for sale straight from the basket, as many as you could carry for only a few coppers. It is here that I agree with Ian, they tasted fishy and pretty awful.

During the 1860s the Victorian obsession with egg collecting and shooting wild animals the area around Bempton and Flamborough on the Yorkshire coast was a noted black spot.

In June 1869 this reached the statute book as the Sea Birds Preservation Act, providing protection for 35 species by introducing a closed season running annually from 1 April to 1 August. In 1954 the act was amended to the taking of all eggs to be illegal.

Ian’s gull’s egg therefore was taken illegally. However, despite the law, there was an abundance of bird life and people were hungry, and so a ‘blind eye’ was turned to the taking of certain birds’ eggs.

That’s unlike today, when so many species are on the decline, we should now preserve the birds we have left.


Willow Lane