KEE-MOO-VING: About five people a year are killed by cows and walkers with dogs are more vulnerable
Q – Can you please help me? My son can’t understand why, when we’re out in the countryside, I’m frightened to walk in a field of cows. How many people have been hurt or killed by cows in a field in recent years? Is it more likely when they have dogs with them?
Beryl Hazelgrove, Mitcham, South West London
A – You’re right to be a little scared. According to the Health and Safety Executive, four to five people are killed in accidents involving cattle every year, though only 24 per cent of them are members of the public, the rest are farm workers. In 2015 cows were even listed as the most dangerous large animals in Britain but we are not a country with many large animals.
Most attacks by cows are, as you suggest, made on people accompanied by dogs and by animals that have recently calved. Despite these figures cows are still rightly seen as gentle creatures. Billions of trips to the countryside are made every year and only a very small number of people are attacked by cattle. You are more likely to be struck by lightning.
Q – What is the history behind the Three Lions England badge? Whose idea was it and do clothing manufacturers have to get permission to use it?
E Thornley, Dukinfield, Greater Manchester
A – The history of the Three Lions goes back to the 12th century. It all began with the Lion of England, which Henry I had on his standard when he took power in 1100. His second wife Adeliza, whom he married in 1121, also had a lion on her family shield which Henry added to his own to bring the number of lions to two. These two became three when Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1154 whose own lion joined the pride.
It was Richard the Lionheart in about 1190 who adopted the three golden lions on a scarlet background, which has been a symbol of the royal crest ever since. When the FA was formed in 1863 they needed royal permission to adopt the royal device. But others have got around the copyright law by making subtle changes to the design. Some versions change the pictures of the lions, others omit the roses between the lions and some even have four lions.
ROYAL PRIDE: Richard the Lionheart created the three golden lions crest
Q – Can you tell me anything about a programme on the wireless in the 1950s called Penny On The Drum? It was a quiz show hosted by a man called Clay Keyes. If you got a question wrong you had to throw a penny on the drum.
Stella, by email
A – Penny On The Drum was part of a feature called Can You Beat The Band? in a programme called The Old Town Hall which was broadcast in the war years between 1941 and 1945 on the BBC Forces Radio programme. Listeners would phone in with clues to song titles which were put to the resident musicians of Billy Ternent and The Town Hall Orchestra.
If they could not give the right answer, the host Clay Keyes would say the catchphrase, “Penny on the drum” and money was raised for charity (though I am no sure who donated the pennies). The phrase itself may have come from a song called Penny On The Drum recorded by Stanley Holloway in 1932.
Q – Is it true that Lonnie Donegan’s old man was really a dustman?
C Pope, Isle of Wight
A – No. Lonnie Donegan (whose real name was Anthony James Donegan) had a No1 hit in 1960 with My Old Man’s A Dustman but his father was definitely not a dustman. Nor, as far as I know, did he wear a dustman’s hat or gorblimey trousers or live in a council flat. He was a Scottish classical violinist who had played with the Scottish National Orchestra but was often unemployed and later joined the Merchant Navy.
Q – Fifty-odd years ago I bought fish and chips to eat at my girlfriend’s, now my wife of 52 years. The fish and chips cost one and threepence (6½p in today’s money). I recently bought fish and chips at the same chip shop and they cost £6.45. In 50 years’ time, will fish and chips cost over £600?
John Rudd, Appleby, Cumbria
A – To judge from your figures the price of fish and chips has gone up far more than most things in the past 50 years. According to the Office for National Statistics the average annual inflation rate from 1968 to 2018 was 5.81 per cent which gives the average price of something costing £1 in 1968 as £17 now.
That brings your one-andthreepence up to just over £1 now. Most official projections for future inflation are based on a rate of two or three per cent, so taking a middle value of 2.5 per cent, that equates (at compound interest rates) to 243 per cent over 50 years, which would predict £6.45 rising to £22.12.
Q – I saw a label on the bottom of a teapot which began: “Yan, tan, tethera, methera, pym, sethera, lethera, dovera, dick.” What does this mean? Is it a way of counting from one to 10? The word corresponding to 15 is “bumfit”.
Kath Finch, Market Harborough, Leicestershire
A – Amazingly it’s an ancient method of sheep-counting traditionally used by shepherds in the north of England that was derived from Celtic languages and possibly dates back to the days of Old English. Some of the words have something in common with Welsh or Cornish.
In 1986 English composer Harrison Birtwistle premiered an opera called Yan Tan Tethera about two shepherds, their sheep and the Devil.