birding-aus Friarbirds and Pimlico

To: <>
Subject: birding-aus Friarbirds and Pimlico
From: "Bill Jolly" <>
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 10:58:53 +1000
Please allow a digressive response to an interesting point made recently.

Richard Nowotny added a comment about the OED definition for Pimlico - 'from
the call of the Australian Friarbird'.  That sent me off on a rambling
journey that took me along many interesting paths - rather like your
Richard's own wanderings through the dictionary.

My first question was, yes it does sound like that - but how old is Pimlico,
the London suburb? Answer: it was developed from 1825 into the 1840s, by
just one builder, Cubitt, who in the process joined the then outer fringes
of London to the village of Chelsea. (Incidentally Richard, if you tried out
the Scarlet Pimpernel I'd guess you watched Vanity Fair, - where Pimlico now
stands used to be the site of the pleasure gardens of Hoxton and Mulberry
Gardens - which I think Becky Sharp used to quite enjoy).

OK then, the establishment of Pimlico did post-date the first English
experience of Friarbirds. But I felt we needed more, after all by what chain
of events would a London suburb come to be named after the call of, at best,
a very recently discovered Australian bird?

That is when the longest stage of the rambling began, in the course of which
no light at all was cast on the mystery. Then, having pretty well abandoned
hope of finding an answer, I wondered if there was a pub called say the
Pimlico Arms or something similar.

Lo and behold, there is a pub in that area called the Pimlico Tram! But
trams are much too recent to account for the naming of the area. However,
one reference suggests that there was said to be an innkeeper named Ben
Pimlico there in the 16th century, whose family name was transferred first
to the inn (presumably just Pimlico's Inn rather than Tram!), and ultimately
to the area in which it stood.

Which leaves us with the subsequent rendition of the call of the 'Australian
Friarbird' as pimlico, one imagines by a visiting Londoner back in the
1840s. We know how difficult it is to come up with accurate descriptive
renditions of bird calls that can communicate the essence of the call in a
meaningful way to others, but I doubt if it has ever occurred to many aussie
birders to render it pimlico!

It occurs to me that a consequential bonus flows from this short thread.
Birding-aus scrabble players now have a new (non-proper) noun at their
disposal - thankyou Richard!

Bill Jolly
"Abberton", Helidon, Qld
ph  07 46976111
fax 07 46976056
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