Friday Grey Matters: The Myth of Winston Churchill's Parrot

This Grey Matters is just slightly off-topic, as this week's episode involves a macaw rather than an African Grey. But, I hope you find it interesting nonetheless!

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Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of England, died in 1969 but (according to legend) was outlived by his pet parrot, Charlie. Many people in southeast England, where the bird resides in a zoo called Hansfield, insist that the 104 year old bird belonged to Churchill. Charlie often goes on anti-Nazi tirades, mimicking Churchill's voice and favorite profanities against Hilter and other WWII figures. It makes quite a story that a living, squawking, flapping piece of Churchill is still around to speak in his master's voice (and what words!). The caretakers of Charlie say they are absolutely certain that Charlie indeed belonged to Churchill, even going so far as to finding the son-in-law of the man believed to have sold Charlie to Churchill. Obviously, the zookeepers had a bit of bias; Charlie was a great tourist attraction for them, and garnered them much media attention. (More below the fold!)

But, did Charlie really belong to the late Prime Minister? Are Charlies' words those of Churchill?

One of Churchill's daughters has spoken out, saying that she does not recall her father ever owning a macaw. In 2004, NPR sent out a reporter to, er, interview Charlie. The bird whistled and squawked, but the blue and gold macaw did not grace him with an anti-fascist rant. That same year, BBC also ran a feature on Charlie, and at their prompting, Chruchill's family searched through pictures and records for clues about the parrot. They couldn't find any evidence that he had owned Charlie, or any parrot. They perhaps, also has a bias in the matter, seeing as how filthy Charlie's mouth is. Perhaps that might not reflect well on their father.

However, Charlie's owners stand by their claim:

Sylvia Martin, Heathfield's nursery manager, said: "He definitely did belong to Churchill.

"My boss Peter Oram's father-in-law sold the parrot to Churchill and when he died they were asked to go back to Chartwell and collect the birds and brought them away."

"When he died they were asked to go and collect some birds and Charlie was one of them."

One might ask if a parrot could really live that long. Well, yes they can. Macaws and other parrots (African Greys too) only rarely cross one-hundred years old, but it is not unheard of.

And the official word of the 'Churchill Centre,' an authority on all things Churchill, is that this is a myth and "bunk."

HOWEVER, get this!! (From a letter writted by Churchill's daughter):

My father never owned a Macaw in the 1930s or at any other time as far as I am aware. He did own an African Grey Parrot in the mid to late Thirties. I do not know how he acquired it...... I cannot remember the parrot's name; it was quite disagreeable and frequently bit those who tried to curry favour with it (including WSC). The parrot lived in a large cage in the dining room at Chartwell.

Impeccable taste, old chap! (Sorry for the bites though....)

More like this

Via History News Network: (Translation below the fold.) Apparently, the above cartoon, Der Bonker, in which a disconsolate (and rappin'!) Hitler is portrayed sitting on the toilet complaining about Churchill, is causing an uproar in Germany: A satirical cartoon about Hitler, where he sits on the…
tags: Alex, African grey parrot, Psittacus erithacus, cognition, learning, speech disabilities, Irene Pepperberg Alex, the African grey parrot, Psittacus erithacus, who worked with Irene Pepperberg for more than 30 years. Image: Illustration by Andrew Kuo, Photograph by John Woo. An article…
The wild bird trade, which is where exotic birds are trapped in their natural habitats and shipped away for pets, has devastated many types of parrot species. Thankfully this practice is now illegal in much of the world, however many parrot species have the unfortunate luck as to live in countries…
A British woman is facing eviction from her apartment over the "persistent and serious noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour" of her African Grey parrot, Sparky. Apparently the bird is fond of saying "show me your knickers" and other raunchy phrases. (Continued under the fold...) Hey baby, I'm…

was this a stealth post? Because I'm not getting email notifications all of a sudden on your bloggerings.

Sorry about that, I think there's something wrong with the mailer today. Should be fixed soon.....

Bah, i got you figured out. You don't want me reading anymore.

Any word on Hitler? Did the late fuhrer also have a bird brained companion, beside Eva Braun?

Rest assured I am very much alive and cursing the fascists - this time around of the Islamaniac variety. The Internet has given renewed vigor to my much sought after (and much needed) commentary and analysis; for in Sir Winston's absence I may prove, I fear, Western Civilization's last best hope. Enlightenment and inspiration await you at www.churchillsparrot.com.

Cheers,

Charlie (Churchill's Parrot)