Wigan Pies And The Budgerytoise

Published by: Dolly on 6th Aug 2017 | View all blogs by Dolly

 A couple of days ago, I had a visit from my friend George. Some of you might remember him from his input into the Down The Back Of The Sofa episode. The town of Wigan is synonymous with pies, and their bakeries are reputed to produce the best pies in the land. George it seems, is concerned about the decline of Wigan pies, thinks they are becoming an endangered species, and wants to mount a fully equipped, two man expedition to discover the truth. In other words, he wants me to go with him. (Fully equipped means a packed lunch, a flask of coffee and a Blue Riband chocolate wafer bar, just in case his suspicions are true, and there aren't any pie shops.)

However, on this occasion, I had beaten George to it. About eighteen months ago my wife brought up the subject, and thought it would be a good idea to go to Wigan, find a pie shop, sit on a bench, and eat them. Alas, George's fears were well founded, there wasn't one local, independent baker making pies, or anything else for that matter. It seems the great tide of capitalism has swept them all away, and deposited the franchise in its place. You can now sample fifteen or more different ways of drinking coffee, eat the ubiquitous pannini, a variety of cakes and cookies and pay exorbitant prices for the privilege. This is true anywhere you go. Diversity is non-existent. However, Poole's bakery in Wigan are the only surviving maker of pies left, and they can be bought in supermarkets. It's not much, and a small cry from the glory days of King Pie.

George looked a bit crestfallen at this, and thought that Wigan might have held out against the sweeping tide of capitalism by putting up some sort of barricade or other. However, he vowed to carry out a one man expedition. (This is the same as a two man expedition, the only difference being, besides the one Blue Riband bar there is also a Jacobs Orange Club bar.) He is thinking of approaching the problem from a different direction, namely walking from Chorley to Wigan along the Leeds/ Liverpool canal. He thinks he might find some bakers on the outskirts, holding out against the creeping tide of the franchise.

Over tea and biscuits, George then brought up the subject of the Budgerytoise again. I say again, because we've discussed this before. Now the Budgerytoise is a cross between a budgerigar and a tortoise, a mythical creature, long since extinct, if it ever existed at all. Nevertheless, George believes there might be some truth in the tale, despite there being no evidence to support it. He sometimes exaggerates, makes things up or fantasises, and uses traditional, clich├ęd characters in his tales or explanations. The tale of the Budgerytoise is no exception. According to George, the Budgerytoise was created by a deranged scientist, (what else?) called Mad Rat Charley Plummer, who lived on an uninhabited island, where he had his laboratory. I pointed out to George, that uninhabited, meant no one lived there, but he waved it away, explaining that the population in general thought it was uninhabited, because they didn't know Mad Rat Charley lived there.

Like all proper, weird scientists, Mad Rat Charley had an assistant called Clarence, who wasn't physically deformed with a hump or gammy leg, but was unbelievably ugly, and keeping true to the tale, looked like a chimpanzee eating bonfire toffee. To make the tale complete, Clarence had a glum, thin, almost skeletal wife called Maud, who acted as a housekeeper.

Anyway, as mentioned before, Mad Rat Charley crossed a budgerigar with a tortoise, and created the Budgerytoise. Further experimentation created male and female who mated, and produced little Budgerytoises. The problem was, that although they had wings, they couldn't fly. Two years later, after many setbacks, he managed to produce male and female who could fly. They also managed to breed, and he soon had a number of them. Unfortunately, one day they managed to escape, but due to the climate, they couldn't venture any further north than Luton, so were confined to Southern England. Nevertheless, if you were lucky at that time, you might have seen one perched on your garden fence.

Due to the tortoise part in their creation, they were slow, cumbersome creatures, and outside of captivity their demise was swift, as they were easy prey for cats, foxes, stoats, weasels and birds of prey. Their last known sighting was outside a newsagents in Guildford in 1934, although someone called Sam, claimed to have seen a giant one devouring a cabbage on his allotment in Southampton in 1967. This was proven to be false, as Sam had accidentally overdosed on his medication, and what he saw, according to his wife, was a rabbit from a couple of allotments away.

George then became excited, as he had heard there was a photograph of one in The Natural History Museum. True to the spirit of conspiracy theories, this knowledge is a secret, and even people working there don't know of its existence. George has heard, that if you go round to the back door, (where else?) ask for Flathead Jim, tell him Harry sent you, give the password, 'there was snow on my roof in July,' he will, for a nominal fee of a couple of quid, show you the photograph.


I thought it was a load of old tut, but then again..... Anyway, I'm planning a trip to London in the Autumn, and I thought, well, if I just happened to be passing I might, you know, just pop in......I mean, it wouldn't do any harm, would it? And you never know, do you?.....I mean, stranger things have happened, haven't they?



  • mike
    by mike 11 months ago
    The demise of pie and mash shops is a matter of concern to Londoners. I don't go to pubs much but went to a play which was performed in an upstairs room. A plaque outside informs us that Thomas Paine wrote some stuff there. But the management insist their pies are the best,and oldest, in Londpn, It all seems very Sweeney Todd to me. This is Islington and, scrawled in chalk on a pub black board was the plea, "Dear Sun, please come back again." It was only gossip I heard as I left the play, but, apparently the lead part, Sonia Orwell, was played by an ex-girlfriend of a prince of the realm? Had I known, would I have viewed her in a different light? I was interested in Major Barbara. The film was made in 1941 and the outside locations were filmed in London as the blitz occurred. All irrelevant.
  • mike
    by mike 11 months ago
    The Budgerytoise. I could not think of what this reminded me of. It is Lewis Carol
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