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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Uncle Freddy, his parrot, and the cat

You know you're overdoing it when you find yourself dreaming that you are talking to some long-dead ancestor. This happened to me recently when I dreamed that I was asking  Uncle Freddy if the story about the parrot was true.

The story in question was told to me by my Uncle Charlie, the youngest and only surviving one of all my father's siblings. Now at this point I should insert a health warning, as any tale told by any of the Collins brothers should be treated with caution. I loved my dad very much, but boy, could he spin a yarn! His stories were entertaining, and improved with the telling, and all his brothers were the same.

Anyway, back to Uncle Freddy. Charlie said that he had been a merchant seaman, in possession of an African Grey parrot. I was puzzled at first, because I couldn't figure out who he meant; I knew that he and Dad had an Uncle Freddy, but he had died aged only 13. My dad was the eldest of all the brothers, and he didn't even know about poor Freddy, who had died before he was born. I worked out that he was Fred Allison, their GREAT uncle, or to be exact, the husband of their great aunt, Maggie Cross. He was a merchant seaman, although I have no documentary evidence of the parrot.

He is supposed to have come home from the sea with the parrot in a cage, which attracted a lot of attention from the family cat. The cat kept jumping up at the parrot's cage, which didn't go down well with the parrot, and annoyed the humans too. Uncle Freddy's solution was to take the parrot out of the case, put the cat in, and swing the cage around a few times, after which the cat never went near the cage again. So, was Uncle Freddy the man who really did swing a cat? You decide. Sadly, I awoke from my dream before I got an answer out of him.

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