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Tirpitz, College Streets' Goose

Tirpitz with Bismarck

From Jo Hirons

Today, around 1 o'clock, Tirpitz, the female goose who has waddled slowly around the College Streets for as long as anyone can remember, was run over and killed by a car exiting the Robertshaw Road parking area, beside the old Wireform mill.

Earlier in the day, she had been spotted basking in some rare sunshine at the entrance to the carpark, guarded as usual by her mate Bismarck: it is therefore presumed that some hasty and intemperate human chose not to give her time to move out of the way, or the grace to remain where she was. Local residents arriving on the scene shortly afterwards noted the still-wet tyre tracks showing no hint of deviation.

The geese on the College Streets have been known by many names, several of which are not printable, with rather more being double-barrelled with expletives and exclamation marks. Their most well-known appellation, after the unsinkable pride of Hitler's navy, seems to date back many years and to various unfounded assertions in the Bridge Times, and elsewhere, that Hebden's infamous white geese were Nazis.

For years, there were four of them: daughter Scharnhorst's mate was hit by a barge, and after a while she, too, disappeared, perhaps to join the original flock in Sowerby Bridge. Since then, and despite being a terrible parent, who frequently abandoned her nest to gorge on bedding plants, Tirpitz produced several further clutches of eggs, and herded her dwindling string of goslings, (or Pocket Battleships), past the ever present dangers of barges, weirs, locks, and pike. Together, she and Bismarck, fought off badgers and foxes, menaced passing dogs and cyclists, and generally found ingenious ways to tell terrified toddlers that real Nature was a world without Disney.

Whatever their actual political leanings, if any, Bismarck and Tirpitz, wild birds leading mostly wild lives, were the mascots of the College Streets.

Tirpirtz was never a pet, but living so close to humans, she persuaded us all to watch her, and learn. Her neighbours regularly had to persuade well-meaning visitors not to leave grain and other treats beside her nests, explaining carefully about rats and pigeons.

She never liked grain, and treated carrots with contempt: but she did like peas and was particularly partial to falafel – being very Hebden Bridge.

We knew that, after all these years among us, she had become old and slow, that she had a deformed wing, and that Bismarck did everything he could to protect her. When even he was not enough, we hurtled out of our houses when trippers set their dogs on her, and faced off drunken idiots who yelled and kicked for sport.

Again and again, we walked her slowly out of our gardens, laughing as she snatched a last beakful of her favourite blue campanula, all the time, talking low and softly to her, until she honked softly back and, unafraid, knew it was just part of the regular game she played with humans. We will miss her lurching slap-and-waddle, and Bismarck's lofty accusation: "Are you looking at my bird?"

Whoever took her from him, and us, in a moment of shameful, thoughtless brutality, is not worth one ounce of the ghastly green effluvia she regularly ejected.

Bismarck and Tirpitz were the parents of the present crowd that hang about the Methodist Church and hold up traffic on Market Street. In the way of such things, they will not mourn the passing of their matriarch, for they are too busy being eternally surprised by the arrival of buses. In the next few days there should be goslings: it is a very small gene pool, and their survival rate is never promising, but perhaps among them there will be Tirpitz II, a new goose who will one day come to queen it over the College Streets. She will hold up our cars, bless us with her ridiculous perversity, and teach us the virtue of patience.

Tirpitz von Goose – God Knows When to 28 May 2022

Saturday, 28 May 2022

From Ian Collis: They both welcomed us to Hebden Bridge running towards us for food. First met by the wall by Lock 10 which is where we've buried her. 30 May 2022 

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