The nickname of Moonrakers is occasionally used to describe Wiltshire folk, often as a derisory term. However, "we ain't zo stupid". For those not familiar with the legend here is the story.
Wiltshire smugglers were carrying illegal brandy when they were surprised by Excise men. In a thrice, they discarded the brandy into a pond & commenced to rake at the water with their long handled implements making out they were drunk. When the Excise men asked what they were about, they replied that they were "raking up the cheese", indicating at the moon's mirror image in the water. Considering them fools, the Excise men moved on, leaving the Moonrakers to recover their 'booty' & continue on their way.
The Great Bustard (Otis tarda) is the heaviest flying bird in the world & the males have been recorded at over 50lb & are at least as tall as adult Roe Deer. The bird last bred in Wiltshire in about 1830 & the last known records in the County are from the 1870s, they vanished from the rest of the country at about the same time. They were hunted out of existence, even though this may have been shared with changes in farming practices & land use.
The Great Bustard is the County bird of Wiltshire. It is on the County Crest, the heraldic device of the County Council, the badge of the County Army Cadet Force, the County Girl Guides, the badge of the Royal School of Artillery, & features throughout the county in forms ranging from pub names to school badges.
The name, tarda, is said to be from Latin meaning slow. The great Bustard is often majestic but the word ‘tarda’ is rather astonishing, as this species is able to run quickly, & has an amazingly fast flight.
The birds wear radio tracking devices, which the project has supplied, & this will enable them to watch released birds.
29th May each year, you will see a great village festivity which starts early in the morning, about 3 o'clock, by the villagers going round making rough music about the village until each house shows a light indoors, then they go on to the next house. Then they go up to the woods to gather boughs, there's a contest for the largest hand-carried bough. They then bring the wood back & garnish the cottages. Then at nine o'clock they catch a bus into Salisbury. Bus, you notice, there's no longer walking (not since Henri Ford & his Tin Lizzie!), & a few minutes before 10 o'clock, they dance, usually outside the Cathedral, the four women, & they read the charter inside. They shout "grovely, grovely, strength & unity" at the top of their voices & leave the Cathedral. What's charming is, that this whole thing is not mentioned in the order of activities in the Cathedral & the Cathedral staff do their best to ignore it. They go back to the village & at 12 noon a brass band sets off from town end, which is a big tree, & they do what I would call beating the bounds. They go round the lanes around the edge of the village & stop at the four corners & blow their hearts out on the trumpets they are followed by the Oak Apple Club. Well, they have this procession, the entire club have banners & the rest of the village have fancy dress, so when you go there you see a typical carnival procession, except there's nobody watching it because all the village is in fact in the parade, & it happens in the middle of whatever day the May 29th is. Which is, as you know, mostly a midweek day, & the local villages don’t bother to come for the Great Wishford bash? They dance again in the centre of the village & they have races, a beer tent, a marquee in which the Oak Apple Club have their feast. They then have a maypole, they've had a maypole with kids dancing round it since 1880 something or other, kids must be totally exhausted by now (har har!), it's one of the longest existing maypoles in the country for ribbon dancing.
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