Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Took the above photo of an odd, man made water feature on Sunday morning from the edge of a Churchyard a couple of miles from Highdale. About a hundred yards to the right of the photo is the village Manor House. It's always fascinated me. It is very obviously a man-made  long pond, fed from the left by a small stream, and draining into another long pond  which you can probably see if you enlarge this picture above the artificial pond/lake. It has a horseshoe shaped small island in the centre. Anyway - on Sunday I suddenly realised what it was originally made for, and later confirmed my guess with a friend who studies local history. It's an old duck decoy, and I should (as a Norfolk fenman by origin)  have realised that when I first saw it.
It would have been used with a long wickerwork or net funnel shaped tunnel, in the water leading up to the mouth of the horseshoe shaped small island, which, in turn would had been covered by a netting cage. It would have been used with a small reddish (or gingery) specially trained dog, which ducks always mob, suspecting it of being a fox, who would have led the ducks into the tunnel and eventually into the cage, the dog staying just outside the netting all the time. When all were inside the cage would have been sealed off with further netting, and the ducks would have had their necks rung.  I wonder if anyone remembers the old song, the chorus of which goes "Dilly dilly.  Dilly dilly. Come and be killed. For you must be stuffed, and my customers be filled."
If this all sounds a bit barbaric, only vegetarians and vegans have any real right to object. The ducks involved would probably have had a better, and more natural life than almost any creatures reared for human consumption today.

Good Night All.


Z said...

When I was in Kerala a few years ago, I saw a procession of ducks being taken to have their evening swim in the backwaters. Afterwards, they obediently filed onto the bank and back to their quarters.

"what have you got for dinner, Mrs Bond?" comes to mind for the rhyme. One of the odder nursery rhymes, I think!

Mike and Ann said...

Good morning Z. Nice birds, ducks. Especially mallards. Bright eyed and look as if hey're smiling. I think you're right about the song. The lines -
"Mrs. Bond she went down to the pond in a rage,
with her pockets full of onions and her apron full of sage.
Crying Dilly dilly, dilly dilly....." spring to mind. Funny the way memory works! Or sometimes doesn't.

Rog said...

I've seen similar ponds and wondered what they were. I wonder if the Dilly Dilly is the same one in Lavender Blue?

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Rog. I've just looked up 'Duck Decoys' on Google, and Wilkipedia says there are only four remaining in the U.K., but I think they must mean in working order, as there must have been several hundred, and I think many of them would still be recognisable. Ref the Dilly dillie, I should think the Lavender Blue one would be the same sort of Dilly, as would possibly the one in the Music Hall song My Old Man (or is that one a dilly dally by the way); and wasn't there a Boer War soldiers' one - Goodbye Dilly Grey? Or was she a Dolly? Or is the old man just becoming confused - he thought dully? There's a shop in Highdale that sells Dilly foods - or do I mean a Delly, and a town in India, much the same with an H in it.............

Crowbard said...

Dillytful stuff mike, but was it a campanologist who rung the necks of the ducks? He would have been completely wrung out after such exertions no doubt! I hope you don't think it rong of me to dibble (or do I mean quibble?) over such miner maters...

'Oh, what have you got for dinner, Mrs. Bond?'
'There's beef in the larder, and ducks in the pond;'
'Dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come to be killed,
For you must be stuffed and my customers filled!'
'John Ostler, go fetch me a duckling or two,
John Ostler, go fetch me a duckling or two,
Cry, dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come to be killed,'
'I have been to the ducks that swim in the pond,
And they won't come to be killed by me, Mrs. Bond;
I cried, Dilly, dilly, dilly,' etc.
Mrs. Bond she went down to the pond in a rage,
With plenty of onions and plenty of sage;
She cried, 'Dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come to be killed,'
She cried, 'Little wag-tails, come and be killed,
For you must be stuffed and my customers filled.'
Dilly, dilly, dilly, dilly, come to be killed.

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Crowbard. Well firstly, I notice there are slight differences between your version and mine. And, I must say that, knowing the tune, mine scans slightly better and more easily. Secondly, I must apologise for my spelling of 'wrung'. I rote both, and they both looked rong, so I put rung. Seriously though, I think they are both wrong. When I've had to do that job, I think the best way is to pull the duck's neck. Place the longest finger of the right hand over the neck, with the two fingers either side of it under the neck, grip hard (left hand holding the duck's legs) and a sharp jerk does the job. He'll flap a bit, but he's gone. When I've been wildfowling in the past, and only winged a bird (which was often the case) I've then had to administer the coup de grace, and that's the quickest way.
Sorry ladies, should have warned you not to read that bit.

Crowbard said...

I seem to recall we used to insert the word 'Singing' before the Dilly-Dilly 4th ,8th & 12th lines. And I've botched the 6th line with a repeat of the 5th. Was it something along the lines of "with garlic for the oysters and carrots for the stew"
I note I also omitted the eighth line entirely which should be a straight repeat of the fourth line.
Please put it down to my alarm and astonishment at finally finding an apparently unintended error in your spelling.

Crowbard said...

You're right about the pockets and apron, and I don't like the 'by me' in the 8th line now I come to read it again. Should it be:-
"And they won't come to me to be killed, Mrs. Bond"
I think I had a senior moment there Mike.

Mike and Ann said...

Yes, that scans much better. Thanks.
P.s. Good to know the old memory holds good re the pockets and the apron.

Pat said...

What a very interesting informative post. Thank you:)

Crowbard said...

I think Rog may have a point with the Dilly in lavender blue... There is a tenuous connexion. Dilly is an affectionate contraction of the once popular name Adeline which was also frequently given to domestic garden ducks because they often 'had-a-line' of ducklings strung out behind them and 'Aye-up me Duck!' is both a fatherly and a homely-romantic form of address in the Midlands.