Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Swan Upping on The Thames.

I'd always meant to catch a look at the ancient ceremony of 'swan-upping', which takes place on the River Thames every year in July but I never bothered until now.

Today, I had a wasps nest in the house to sort out and so we had to go into Staines to get some 'stuff'....

Then we drove down to the river with a couple of chairs and just sat in the sun, basking.

The ceremony started in the 12th century - when the then king gave himself a monopoly over eating swans. Every year the monarchs 'Swan-Marker' (really, I couldn't have made this up if I'd wanted to) goes on a procession up the river Thames, marking the queens swans.

Sometime around 1500, the ownership of the swans was shared with The Worshipful Company of Vintners and The Worshipful company of Dyers. These are two of The City of London's ancient Guilds, which once were trade bodies but are now dining clubs for bankers.

The 'Swan-uppers' are supposed to move upstream, dividing all the young swans they find between the queen, The Vintners and The Dyers.

So, we set up opposite a place where people feed swans, in between Staines and Penton Hook Lock.

There were plenty of swans around;

It was gloriously sunny - the first really sunny day of the summer.

We sweltered. 

And then we caught site of the first boat, you can't see it but the red flag is from 'The Vintners':

This is one of 'The Dyers' boats in blue - the captain is wearing a swans feather in his cap;

Here's one of the royal boats;

While this is 'The Royal Swan Marker', David Barber, in his full, gold braided finery;

Now I support the Thames Lightermen and Watermen, who represent a tradition going back a thousand years - they provided the ferries that got people from one riverbank to the other, the boats that took people up and down river and they moved all the goods that passed through The Pool of London.

But the 'swan uppers'?

I didn't see them count any swans or weigh and mark any cygnets either and where we were there were upwards of 50 or 100 birds wandering around.

So while it may be a quaint old ceremony, it really seems to be just an opportunity for a lot of silly old bankers to spend a week being rowed up river.


But it was nice stealing an hour or so to sit in the sun on the riverbank.

And no swans appeared to be hurt in the making of this Blog!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
Home: helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com
Contact me: neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com

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