Well said: phrases that owe their ori­gin to fal­conry Hood­winked

Country Life Every Week - - Fireside -

in 2002. Founded by sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Old Hawk­ing Club—which was formed by a group of Nor­folk landown­ers al­most 100 years after the demise of the Con­fed­er­ate Hawks of Great Bri­tain—the BFC has ex­isted in some form since 1770. It now has about 1,400 mem­bers across 13 re­gions and is the old­est and largest fal­conry club in Europe. Species that were hunted dur­ing El­iz­a­bethan times, such as herons, bus­tards and sky­larks, are no longer on the menu for con­tem­po­rary fal­con­ers, but sev­eral game species are, such as red grouse on Le­visham Moor in North York­shire, where BFC mem­bers are sport­ing tenants and re­cent fi­nal­ists in the pres­ti­gious Purdey Awards. The sight of a pere­grine—the no­blest and most chal­leng­ing of fal­cons to train, pitched against the king of all game birds—climb­ing dot high above heather moor­land, be­fore fold­ing its wings in a mes­meris­ing 1,000ft stoop, is con­sid­ered by many to be the sport’s ul­ti­mate spec­ta­cle. At the other end of the scale, men on horse­back de­ploy fal­cons against ver­minous crows on wild up­lands in Devon and Northumberland with equal en­thu­si­asm and suc­cess.

Henry VIII’S sub­jects would doubt­less be stunned to learn that mews once home to their monarch’s birds of prey are now mil­lion-pound res­i­dences in cen­tral Lon­don. How­ever, they would recog­nise straight away many of the words and phrases—fed up, codger, hag and hood­winked to name a few (see box)—be­queathed by fal­conry to the English lan­guage.

The sport’s con­nec­tions to literature es­tab­lished by Shake­speare are also as strong as ever; witness He­len Mac­don­ald’s prize-win­ning novel from last year, H is for Hawk, which evokes mem­o­ries of T. H. White’s The Goshawk and serves as a re­minder of the spe­cial bond that has ex­isted be­tween hu­man­ity and birds of prey since time im­memo­rial. For more in­for­ma­tion on the Bri­tish Fal­con­ers’ Club, tele­phone 01692 404057 or visit www.british­fal­con­er­sclub.co.uk A han­dler calms his bird down by blind­fold­ing it with a leather hood and thus tricks his charge into think­ing it’s night

Fal­conry has been prac­tised since be­fore the birth of Christ and, de­spite the rise of game shoot­ing, is still en­joyed in the field

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