This week we’ve been looking at what kinds of furry and feathered friends Edwardian people kept in their homes. A lot of us have been finding out just how important animals are during lockdown. Whether it’s getting out with your dog for a walk, listening to birdsong from your living room, or watching the latest funny animals on TikTok, our animal friends are really helping us to get through these difficult times. So what would people 100 years ago have kept in their houses?
The idea of a ‘pet’ was quite new in Edwardian times. For example, dog food wasn’t invented until 1870! Before that animals had to survive on table scraps. In 1907 Frank Finn wrote the book ‘Edwardian Annotated Pets and How to Keep Them’
This included animals as diverse as monkeys, hedgehogs, and armadillos! Some of his ideas about pets would be seen as quite unusual today, for example his suggestion that guinea pigs are a useful pet because they taste really nice. He even provides some cooking suggestions! Nowadays people are a lot more aware of how much our animals help us. We definitely wouldn’t want to cook them! For example, did you know that a cat’s purr can help to reduce your chance of heart attack or a stoke, and can even help to heal bones and muscles?
However, not everyone has a pet of their own. This is why it’s so lovely to hear the birds singing, or to see squirrels fighting in the park. Maybe you’ve seen some fat little bumblebees recently, who are just starting to come out of hibernation. Or perhaps you have enjoyed spotting other people’s pets when you go out for a walk or to do your shopping. If the Covid-19 outbreak had happened 100 years ago, chances are that people in Govanhill would have been heading to Pearson’s on Victoria Road to buy their essential items. And from 1952 onwards, visitors to the store could look forward to being greeted by Peter the Parrot!
Peter was an African Grey parrot, who really enjoyed talking to customers. In fact, Peter’s cheery ways sometimes got him into trouble. One night a police officer was passing the shop and saw movement. He went to investigate and heard someone say ‘Hello Boy’! He thought there was a gang inside the shop, so he rushed to the police station and returned with reinforcements, only to be greeted by a cheerful parrot. I bet he was embarrassed!
Now for an activity! We wanted to suggest something that everyone can do, whether you have a pet or not. So we thought we’d share some information about how to recognise some common bird sounds which you can listen out for wherever you are! These are birds which are commonly seen and heard around Govanhill: you don’t need to go anywhere special to hear them. Just open your window and have a good listen! Here are fikve common birds: try to remember how they sound and then see if you can recognise their song in real life.
Click to listen to Blackbird song
Blackbirds are one of the early risers of the bird world: they are often the first ones to start singing in the morning, even when it is still dark! The blackbird’s song is very rich-sounding, a bit like a flute.
Click to listen to Robin song
The robin has a beautiful song which can sound a little sad. It sounds very thin, unlike the blackbird. Robins are very proud birds and will sometimes fight to the death to defend their territory!
Click to listen to Dunnock song
The Dunnock’s song is very commonly heard, but many people do not know who makes it because a Dunnock is quite shy and will creep along in the bushes. But their song is loud, and we have heard it described as ‘squeaky trolley wheels’! What do you think?
Click to listen to Great Tit song
Great Tits are very chatty birds and they love learning new songs. They also love trying to imitate the calls of other species, which can make them tricky to identify! But their regular song is quite easy: it sounds like they are saying ‘Teacher, Teacher, Teacher’ over and over again.
Click to listen to Chiffchaff song
The sound of the Chiffchaff is the sound of summer on its way. These little brown birds fly all the way from South Africa to spend their summers in northern Europe. Their song is quite easy to remember, as it just sounds like their name: ‘Chiff-Chaff, Chiff-Chaff, Chiff-Chaff’. You will find them quite tricky to spot because, like the Dunnock, they are quite shy. But whether you spot one or not, think how amazing it is that this little brown bird has made such a long journey to sing for us.
Find out more
For more bird sounds, explore the rest of the RSPB’s website. They have an amazing Bird Identifier which can help you decide what you saw or heard. You can also search through all the British birds from A-Z, click to hear more amazing songs.
If you haven’t already got yourself a copy of Loved and Lost: Govanhill’s Built Heritage by Bruce Downie, now is a great time to do so! You can read more about Peter the Parrot of Pearson’s stores, as well as a great many other interesting tales. Click to visit our online shop to grab a copy.
Photos: Blackbird and Chiffchaff by Andreas Trepte; Robin and Great Tit by Francis C. Franklin; Dunnock by Smalljim; Peter the Parrot courtesy of Tom Pearson; Edwardian lady with bulldog courtesy of Paul Townsend.