The Heron and the Falcon

Falcon Mill still stands in Halliwell, sadly it no longer works, a memorial to King Cotton. The tower, a prominent landmark is easily seen from high points in the surrounding district. It must have appeared so to the German bombers who dropped parachute flares round it in WWII and to the heron that roosted atop the tower in the mid 1930’s.

Herons in Halliwell in the 1930’s were almost unheard of, let alone seen. Unlike today when garden ponds have to be netted to stop them eating the fish. A few people then may have seen pictures of heron at the Gem Cinema in Adventures of Trader Horn, an intrepid African explorer. However when one appeared in the flesh it was not immediately recognised. It was thought to be a large bird of prey, an eagle or a vulture. Women feared it might snatch babies from their prams or Stork like leave them holding a baby.

When it was proved to be harmless people were keen to see the bird. Crowds gathered on Halliwell Road, some with field glasses and telescopes to get a better view. Men and women going to and from work, children on the way to and from school stopped awhile to watch. Not that there was much to see, the bird stayed mainly in the railings at the top of the tower round the base of the flagpole. The flagpole from which, in those days, the flag flew on Empire day. In 1935 it also flew for King George V’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. Eight months later in January 1936 it was flying at half-mast when he died. I cannot remember if the heron’s visit was before of after these events.

Sadly its visit ended prematurely after only a few days, some moron with a gun shot it, for what reason I know not. The only good thing that could be said was that he was a good shot. I think he was prosecuted and fined but nothing more.

Percy Hindley, the local steeplejack, of St. Augustine Street was given the job to remove and dispose of the dead heron. Thus ended one of life little episodes that for a short time had brightened the depression of the 30’s.

By H. Jones