Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rat Catchers Day

I got a pleasant surprise yesterday to be rung up by Deb Tribe at ABC local radio in Adelaide and asked if I would do an interview about the Pied Piper of Hamelin for Rat Catchers Day.

How could I possibly resist? The 26th of June should be celebrated. Deb had done a google search and found my version of the story and wanted me to do a three minute version and talk about whether it was true or not.

It was the sort of challenge I couldn't resist. So I googled the Pied Piper of Hamelin and found all sorts of information about it, as you invaribly do with Mr. Google. There is a 'Rattenfangerhaus' in Hamelin and on a wall on it is inscribed the very briefest version of the story I've heard and the date 1284, 26th of June.

Well the live, telephone telling went well - I think. There was just enough room before the news to answer a couple of questions and off I went. Still I wasn't terribly satisfied. I think I wanted to tell one of my rat catchers stories. I suspect we've all got them. Rats are so ubiquitous.

My favourite involves not the famous rat catcher of Hamelin but the humble rat catchers of Brisbane. You see the good councilors of Brisbane in their wisdom employed a squad of rat catchers to go about the town with their faithfull fox terrier doggy companions and dig up and kill rats. They could wander into your back yard sniff around your compost heap or under the pile of firewood and dispose of any rats they found. They don't employ them any more unfortunately but when I was a wee lad they added a little colour and mystery to suburban life. Now one day I got home from Mitchie High to discover that my mother had been thinking of me again.

When the rat catchers had come through the yard that day and found a rat nest, she asked if they could leave one of the cadavers for me to take to my biology class and dissect. Well you can imagine I was pretty pleased about that and sure enough that furry evidence of the rat catchers of Brisbane's trade did contribute to my knowledge of mamalian anatomy.

So a toast to the Rat Catchers of the world. May you take up your silver pipes and your fox terriers and go forth to give us more stories to tell.

p.s. there is supposed to be a Grimms version of it but can't find it in my 'Complete illustrated stories of the Brothers Grimm'. Anyone know what it is called?