Sunday, 6 January 2013

Get my goat! by Lynda Waterhouse

As a teenager in the 1970s my friend Tracy Lee and I would take the bus to Manchester. Our destination would be the Manchester Art Gallery where we would look at the Pre-Raphaelite collection. Then we would go into a café and have the cheapest thing on the menu - tomato soup. I felt so sophisticated because the soup had a dash of cream in it and came with cream crackers and not bread. On one visit I bought this poster to put up on my newly painted purple bedroom wall. As a teenager with a tendency to melancholia the title, ‘Scapegoat’, by Holman Hunt appealed to me. Bingo! My mother hated it. Was I into devil worship or something? How I sneered and laughed.
Goats do get a bad press. In fiction it’s the sheep who are the good guys. They are the ones who help children to learn to count and to go to sleep whilst it’s the goats who are the giddy ones causing all the trouble. Big trouble. It’s the sheep who sit on God’s good side and take away the sins of the world   No guesses for who is on the wrong side.
The Rolling Stones didn’t make an album called Sheep’s Head Soup, did they?
 Since my adolescent rebellion I hadn’t given goats much thought. They didn’t impinge upon my urban existence or the landscape of my imagination. Until now..
Thanks to the work of Raymond Werner Parker, a colleague I have worked with in education for many years supporting children with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in mainstream settings. He is now very much involved in The Old Irish Goat Society which is trying to keep this breed from becoming extinct and to raise awareness about the illegal round ups of these beautiful creatures for slaughter.
According to the website, ‘The Society has worked to preserve the breed in the wild, bring it back into domestication as an ideal smallholder’s goat; study its benefits to land management; define its phenotype and characterize its genotype; work towards gaining it official rare breed status, and thus protection, and create a herd book to preserve its existing standard as an unimproved landrace breed rather than turn it into a “standard” breed.’
 Large numbers were once imported into England and Scotland annually, being called the ‘harbingers of spring’ as the drovers arrived in each town and village.
So I think its time to rewrite the bad press about goats.
Farmers used to keep them alongside their cattle to ‘bring luck’ to a herd. Goats are very good at nibbling away at herbs that could bring disease to cattle. Horses can’t get enough of the smell of a goat. It is very soothing apparently.
I feel a goat story coming on…….


Joan Lennon said...

Those are good-looking goats indeed! And luck from any source is not to be sneezed at.

Penny Dolan said...

Nice post, Lynda. These are quite amazing creatures - and doesn't Ireland have a lively Puck fair?

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Hi Joan and Penny
Just checked out the Puck Fair website - move confirmation of the luck goats's can bring.
Check out the British feral goat research group - they have recently save 100 goats from slaughter in the Cheviot Hills. There are less than 600 Old English goats left!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Good to hear that your delightful account of the fate of the poor goat will provide material for another story. :0)

adele said...

I have fond memories of the Manchester Art gallery and restaurant and indeed, that painting. You are good and noble to preserve goats, of course and I would hate to think of the poor creatures being slaughtered but a) they have a long history as a SINISTER's the eyes with the funny pupils I think. Quite spooky!and b) they do smell dreadful. Now everyone will come into this comments box and tell me they don't really, it's how you keep them etc. When I shall stand corrected but any goats I've met haven't been exactly fragrant!:)