Tales of Britain

By Jem Roberts

The finest, funniest stories of England, Scotland & Wales, refreshed for the 21st century. By Brother Bernard, as told to Jem Roberts.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Liver Birds

A gloriously feathery bird-themed Folklore Thursday to you all!

Thank you to everyone who came to our London and Bath shows – particularly the little lad Ben who bought not just a book for himself and his little sister, but another for his school library! That concludes our pledge launches after all these years, but we still have three outstanding visits from Brother Bernard to co-ordinate with you, in Cheltenham, Peterborough and Winsham, and a personalised new New Forest story to write for one kind pledger, plus there's a big day ahead at the Ludlow Fringe on 15 June, and other exciting possibilities on our Live page...

But for today – a spot of folklore which we never captured in the book, but will definitely consider for further volumes and editions: Liverpool's iconic LIVER BIRDS, and there's so much more to them than football mascots and Carla Lane sitcoms! These two mighty cormorants atop the Liver Building gaze out over the city and over the sea, with laver seaweed dangling from their beaks…

To be honest, despite falling in love with Liverpool when I visited the Sci-Fi library there to research my official Douglas Adams biography The Frood, I never believed there would be any real mythology invested in the city's famous birdy figures, but it's pleasing to discover that there's almost enough for a complete narrative, with a bit of imagination – something Liverpool is singularly bursting with.

Ignoring the real history, of King John granting the city a royal charter complete with a dodgy seal bearing the image of a bird, which gave rise to the mascots, a wonderful mythology has grown around the brace of birds in the centuries as the city has grown, over generations of endless immigration and integration, into the multicultural pride of Britain that it is today.

Although there are many representations of the Liver Bird throughout the city, not least on Liverpool FC sweaters, the story clings to the huge metal birds atop the Liver Building, built in 1911. They are chained in the ravens-at-the-Tower-style belief that if they ever fly away, Liverpool would crumble into the sea, but there's more to them than that. The story has grown that 'Liver birds' are mythical beasts who have always haunted the Lancashire shoreline here, and scousers proudly call this specific pair Bertie and Bella – Bella gazes out over the sea which brought the city its prosperity as a port, while Bertie watches over the city itself, so they protect both sailors on the sea, and their families back home. Or, of course, Bertie is checking to see when the pubs are open. Either way, there's surely a story there to develop…

Time for an admission – there is an ulterior motive to mentioning Liverpool, in that your author's 6th book, FAB FOOLS, is heavily based in the city, and is going to launch for pre-orders this summer! It's the ultimate comedic history of The Beatles and Beatles comedy, Rutles and all, my 5th comedy history title, and as with Tales of Britain, we do need all the support we can get, so for now, anyone out there who had a proper appreciation of the greatest band in the history of music, please join this new campaign! This is perhaps the last ever untold story of The Beatles, seen from a completely different perspective, and one all Liverpudlians cherish – that of LAFFS. Please follow on Twitter or Facebook today, and the book will be out first thing in 2020!

You say you've seen seven wonders, and your bird can sing...!



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