Woodpecker on a mission for lump of goodies

Great spotted woodpecker
Great spotted woodpecker

They said the Vicar of Stiffkey looked just like a woodpecker. If you are of a certain again you will know of whom I speak, just as you will know who Bing Crosby was.

Many youngsters today have never heard of him either, even though Bing was the first pop star to sell a million discs (for which you needed a machine called a record player).

The Vicar of Stiffkey became as famous as Steven Ward in the Profumo affair for whom a new musical has just been written to include Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies.

With his beaky nose, red cheeks, and wearing his cassock and surplice, this fun-loving, eccentric little cleric from the back-of-beyond Norfolk village liked to start his church service with the 1920s hit tune Tiger Rag played on the organ.

The village people thought him a hoot and had some affection for Rev Davidson.

The establishment were not amused, however, especially when he collected fallen women from the streets of the East End and brought them down on the train to live in the vicarage as he e tried to give them more purpose in life.

He was de-frocked and found alternative employment in a Blackpool circus putting his head very bravely, into a lion’s mouth.

One day the lion forgot his part in the act and closed its mouth. The Rev Davidson’s last words were “Did I make the evening papers?”

My father had his farm in Stiffkey and he was the only mourner at the funeral and the only photographer at the cortège.

The newspapers somehow missed that story. But today the Vicar of Stiffkey rests in a prominent grave in the churchyard by the castle that was built by Elizabethan poet Sir Nicholas Bacon.

I am sure many of you have pet names for the birds that visit your bird table and the great spotted woodpecker being a male obviously has his. Yes, and he is eccentric.

There is a long wooden post near the bird table, and this bird lands on it, goes down the pole, and then up the pole several times, as he sees what is there for his enjoyment.

He hops awkwardly about as though tripping over a long cassock, and finally dives in and takes the largest lump of goodies he can carry.

I fear for his life every evening as he flies high in the sky with gay abandon across the wide apparently empty spaces of the heavens as he makes for his bed. One day, a peregrine or a sparrowhawk is going to close its mouth on the wanderer and snap it shut.

One day someone will remember his namesake and write a musical for the Vicar of Stiffkey whose life shocked half the nation and greatly amused the other half.