Saturday, January 24, 2004
Sir Winston's Daughter Knocks Parrot Claims off Perch
Scotsman.com News: "Claims that a foul-mouthed parrot really was Sir Winston Churchill’s wartime companion were finally knocked off their perch today as his daughter entered the debate.
Charlie, a 104-year-old Macaw now living in retirement in a Surrey garden centre, has been basking in media attention from as far afield as Russia and the United States in recent days, since owner Peter Oram claimed the bird belonged to the great war leader.
Mr Oram believes that his father-in-law Percy Dabner, a famous 1930s bird fancier, sold Charlie to the politician at his Croydon pet shop in 1937, and later took the creature back after Sir Winston’s death in 1965.
Reports have suggested Charlie may have picked up a string of swear words from Sir Winston.
But his daughter, Lady Soames, believes Charlie may have been confused with Polly, an African Grey, which lived with the family at their Kent home, Chartwell.
She said: “My father never owned a Macaw or anything remotely resembling it.
“Before the war he did have an African Grey for about three years, but that’s quite, quite different from a Macaw – it’s smaller, or more compact, with a sort of red face.
“It may well have been acquired from the source that the man says it was, I simply wouldn’t know.”
Lady Soames said the parrot was finally sold when the family left Chartwell at the beginning of the war to move to London, before her father became Prime Minister.
She said: “It never came to London. It may well have gone back, for all I know, to the person that my father got it from, but it was the end of the parrot’s relationship with my father.”
Lady Soames also moved to scotch suggestions that the war leader, recently voted Greatest Briton in a BBC poll, may have taught the parrot to swear.
She said: “The idea that he spent time in the war teaching it swear words is too tiresome for words.”
But Sylvia Martin, nursery manager of the Reigate garden centre where Charlie now lives, remains adamant that the tale is true.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Oram, who is on holiday, she said: “He was the one who went with his father-in-law to collect it. I know there’s a lot of controversy about it.
“I don’t understand why she didn’t see it, but he definitely went there to collect it.”"
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