Goosey-goosey gander where did you wander…out to the sea and back again

By Noel Donaldson

Mother Goose (1920)

CHRISTMAS is certainly not a merry time for some of our feathered friends and one such bird escaped its customary fate if only for a few hours.

The incident didn’t elude my late father, John “Hot News” Donaldson who ran a 24- hours news agency based in Wick and was always on the lookout for a festive yarn for the national press.  He got wind of an unusual incident involving a goose near John O’ Groats, probably back in the 1950s.

The bird was one being fattened for the Christmas market at a coastal croft  and it had waddled onto the shore and got swept away by the tide. The owner was not on the phone but  Dad managed to locate a neighbour who acted as a go-between.

The owner was not amused, especially having lost her goose and was not inclined  to enter into the spirit of the festive story.

Dad, however, had enough to do a piece ,and ‘ran’ with it.  The Christmas dinner that appeared to have escaped the customary seasonal fate of its kind, went down a treat with the papers and dad, who was an inveterate gambler when it came to news, mused about a possible follow-up.

The tide, he reflected, comes in as well as goes out…. what if goosey had somehow made it back to dry land?  He did a check on the relevant tides with the coastguards.

Then he began to ring round his coastal contacts… and bingo!  The goose had waddled ashore a few miles further down the southeast coast, perhaps a shade lighter, but alive.  The bird had been spotted by a local resident and handed into Mey police station where it was logged as found property.

Back went dad to the neighbour who reported that the owner was even hotter under the collar having seen the daily newspapers and was even less willing to speak about it.

Dad informed the neighbour that her goose had not sunk without trace in the Pentland Firth or plucked from the sea by a passing trawler crew and was alive- a-live o!  There was a ten-minute interlude before the owner came to the phone, still unconvinced.  She alleged that dad was spinning a yarn to get her to talk.

Somehow, he convinced her he was on the level and, after getting a few quotes, informed her that her goose had been handed in at Mey police station.  A happy festive outcome for her but not for her goose.

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