Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 11th December 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 11th December 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

What else should "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) be? All apologies.

The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed the following toast to The Season of Forgiveness:

'Twas the night before Christmas, and on Baker Street
Sherlock sat down with a hot toddy treat.
His slipper was hung by the chimney with care,
So he filled up his pipe from his velvet-lined chair.

When out in the road there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Holmes, at my shoulder, looked on displeased
He opened a drawer, he reached in and seized

My service revolver, and checked it was loaded.
Then he leant out and five shots exploded.
Some reindeer escaped, but there still in the snow
Lay four of the reindeer and Santa brought low.

I remarked to my friend that I was confused
Why had poor St. Nick been so cruelly used?
“It’s a fact that such magic is highly illogical”
“It’s my duty to eliminate” said he “the impossible.”


1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed a society Christmas meal. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) objected because he is an atheist. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) told "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) to stop trying to bring religion into Christmas. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) withdrew the motion.
2. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) asked for his money back. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) acting as treasurer pointed out no money had ever been paid to the society. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) seconded everything in sight.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following presentation entitled A Study in A Study in Scarlet

A Study in A Study in Scarlet

I often find A Study in Scarlet to be somewhat maligned in the Holmesian community. It is frequently suggested that Holmes is not such a fully formed character in this tale. Obviously the story is recognised as important because it is the first story of the Canon, but I contend that it’s importance goes deeper. It is not a fault in the writing that either man seems less than whole in this story. They WERE less than whole and the writing reflects this.This is the story in which Holmes and Watson are both knocked off the courses they were on and became great rather than just good.

The effect of Holmes upon Watson is easier to see. Having been invalided out of the army, he was rapidly becoming one of the loungers and idlers of the Empire which are drawn to the cesspool that is London. He was a wastrel spending such money as he had, considerably more freely than he ought.  It could have been expected that the lazy and depressed doctor would follow his elder brother into drunkenness and an early grave. Until, that is, his adventures with Holmes renewed his interest in life. He began to write, to take pride in himself and to move himself back into respectable Victorian life. Such was the change that within seven years he would be settling down into general practice, having made a bride of one of Holmes’s clients.

The difference Watson made to Holmes is perhaps presented less obviously and yet it is a big difference. In those early days together in Baker Street Holmes is a far more sedentary detective. He resembles his elder brother Mycroft when he describes his unique role as a “consulting detective”:

“Here in London we have lots of Government detectives and lots of private ones. When these fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to put them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight...”

“And these other people?”

“... They are all people who are in trouble about something, and want a little enlightening. I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee.”

As yet, he is hardly a character who could be said to have had “adventures” (such as his first collection of short stories were titled). What then, brought about this change?

It will be recalled that early in their shared life, Watson was trying to guess what Holmes did for a living; what were his unique skills for and who were all these people visiting Holmes in their lodgings?
No doubt, the ever observant Holmes knew exactly what Watson was up to. Holmes would have been happy to talk about his occupation but was well aware that Watson would never be so rude as to just outright ask. It is my belief that Holmes’s peculiar behaviour on 4th March 1881 was designed to allow the above conversation to take place. While waiting for his breakfast, Watson read an article in a magazine which Holmes had marked out. The article turned out to be written by Holmes and outlined some of the methods by which he worked. I can see no reason for Holmes to mark out his own article unless he wanted someone else to read it. As he had no friends, the only person he could have meant to read it would be Watson. The reason, must have been to allow the question of Holmes’s profession to arise. Which it did.

However, far from the satisfying conclusion to Watson’s studies that Holmes predicted, Watson was rather incredulous. This annoyed Holmes, as can be seen in the rather tense discussion that followed, and that is when events were steered onto different rails.

There soon arrives a telegram from Tobias Gregson regarding the murder of Enoch Drebber at Lauriston Gardens. Watson assumes that Holmes will rush there at once to assist but Holmes tells him:

“I'm not sure about whether I shall go. I am the most incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather…”
There is a discussion over this reticence and he changes his mind. Why? No reason is given, but I believe he saw the opportunity to prove his skills to Watson. He could easily have solved the affair from his armchair just as with any other case, but he didn’t. He could have solved it without any one assisting him, but he didn’t. He tells Watson to get his hat and join him and the adventure begins.

And the change in Holmes begins too. The details of the adventure will either be known to you already or better discovered in the original text, but suffice it to say that it is far more active and enjoyable that Holmes has become used to. In the conclusion of the story he says:

“I would not have missed the investigation for anything. There has been no better case within my recollection. Simple as it was, there were several most instructive points about it.”

He may not have missed the case for anything, but I feel sure he would would have missed the case were it not for his desire to show Watson he was wrong.

From there they become a team and they both grow together. Watson as described above, but Holmes is a more easily missed way. In these early cases we see Holmes treating each case as a mere puzzle to solve. There is little consideration for the people involved in the cases. It only takes a small step back to look at the crime in A Study in Scarlet to make one question whether the murder was justified. Holmes never takes this step back. In cases such as A Scandal in Bohemia, we wonder whether Holmes was ever justified in taking the side of The King of Bohemia. In The Five Orange Pips he fails to protect his client from murderers and on learning this he comments “I feared as much. How was it done?” He had expected this might happen but did nothing to prevent it! Contrast this with the cases later on; in Abbey Grange he sides with the murderer and offers advise on getting away. In Charles Augustus Milverton, he becomes a criminal, and lets another murderer off. In His Last Bow he spends two difficult years actively preventing the plans of those who threaten his country. Two things seem to matter to him now; justice and adventure.

Holmes develops because of Watson just as much as Watson benefits from befriending Holmes. It is in Study in Scarlet that we see this subtle but dramatic conflict change both men’s lives for the better. It is this story which gives us the greatest element of the Canon; the interdependent friendship between Dr John H Watson and Mr Sherlock Holmes.

Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave us a brief synopsis of an essay he had written called Facial Expressions in Early Holmes. Which was more than enough for all of us.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 22nd November 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 22nd November 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised for the screaming. It stopped after a while.

The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) wrote the following poem in honour of The Great Hiatus

Sherlock Holmes went away
At the falls of Reichenbach.
Then just three years later on
Sherlock Holmes came right on back.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) suggested we get some heating in the Sherloft. No one seconded the idea, so I have to stay cold.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following presentation:

The Game is Some Feet

While re-reading A Case of Identity recently I was drawn up short by the following comment on Holmes’ posture:
“Holmes stuck his feet up on the corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back with his hands in his pockets, began talking…”
Previously I had always imagined this referred to a reclined detective, sat in a chair with his legs raised. But when I visualised this, the idea became preposturous. As the following highly detailed diagram shows, this could not possibly be a relaxing position:

My mind turned to possible alternatives. Could he be standing on the mantelpiece? Unlikely; he is a tall man and would have had his head uncomfortably pressed against the ceiling. Could he be a collector of the feet of different animals which he stowed upon the mantelpiece? Again, unlikely; I feel certain either Watson or Holmes would have mentioned this to the naturalist “Stapleton”. Perhaps he was referring to several measuring rulers each 12 inches in length? I can’t imagine why he would be handling these given that he had just finished conducting chemical experiments.

Eventually my mind turned to the details of another story; that of The Gloria Scott. It will be remembered that Holmes became friends with Victor Trevor after the latter’s bull terrier bit the former’s ankle. Clearly then, to spare Trevor’s blushes, Holmes did not tell the whole story. The dog did not merely freeze to his ankle, it savaged his ankle. With a fury that made it unstoppable, the dog continued in it’s frenzied attack until it had chewed it’s way right through all bone and flesh. How Trevor and Holmes must have sighed in relief that the embarrassing faux pas was over. But what’s this? No! Naughty doggy! Not the other ankle! The dog was not sated until it had chewed off both Holmes’ feet and happily devoured them.

Suddenly Holmes’ bizarre posture makes sense. He had removed his false wooden feet and placed them on the mantelpiece. Perhaps they had begun to chafe, prosthetics then not being what they are now. Clearly, he required comfort to tolerate Mr Windibank and his objectionable personality. A comfort that can only come from balancing on the stumps of one’s chewed up legs and threatening a man with a whip.

Any Other Business:


Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 2nd October 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 2nd October 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) did not apologise.

The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) made the following toast to Rathbone and Bruce:

Here dwell together still two actors of note
Whose fourteen films still survive.
How near they are brought by my remote
From that age before Hollywood went all awry.
But still the game's afoot in modern years
On Amazon Prime, DVDs or rays of blu.
Rathbone is Rathbone yet, for all our fears -
Only those things old Bruce believes are true.

Boobus Brittanicus double-takes once again,
As Basil astounds with a mental feat.
The lonely hansom's replaced by an enemy plane;
Displaced Victorians and World Wars meet.
Here, though HD prevails, these two survive
And it is always that period from 1939 to 1946 which unfortunately does not rhyme or scan.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed that in honour of John Bennet Shaw the society should create it's own list of the fifty Holmesian books it has read so far and believes every Holmesian should have. All opposed but "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) came out with this anyway:

The Shingle's Fifty
Basic Shinglian Library

The Shaw's One Hundred Basic Holmesian Library is good, isn't it. In an act of extreme arrogance, I've decided to make the Shingle's fifty list. Obviously, this is my fifty. I have odd tastes. Your fifty might be different. You should write your fifty.

The Sacred Writings
All you really need in terms of The Canon is whatever version of all sixty unabridged stories you can get your hands on. The text is all that matters, not how it is presented. Sure the Paget and Steele illustrations are wonderful to see, but it's the adventures that we really fall in love with.

Any old hardback version of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
You're going to want your work-a-day copy of The Canon. It's going to get used a lot. You need to not be upset when it gets damaged and it needs to be sturdy enough to stand up to your abuse. Personally, I use a nice red cloth bound hardback by the Wordsworth Library Collection that I got from a charity shop for two quid. Annoyingly, though, I now DO care about it because it is the one I always have to hand. Humans, eh? Go figure.
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Three Volumes) edited by Leslie S Klinger
For a reference on all matters Holmesian there is no better starting point that these three books. Building on the work of Baring-Gould, the heavy annotations provide insights into just about every part of every story. With details of important further reading on each insight, whatever your Holmesian interest, these books quickly prove their immeasurable value.
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Two Volumes) edited by William S Baring-Gould
While much of the content of these two books can be found in Klinger's more modern versions, they still have much to offer. If I could only get one set, I'd chose Klinger's. But I'd hate to have to make that choice.

A lot of the details in the Canon went straight over my head the first time I read them. A Holmesian encylopaedia certainly improved the stories the next time I went through them.

The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana by Jack Tracy
A dictionary of every confusing Victorian term, every Character and every story in The Canon. When you are trying to remember who the canary trainer was or are confused by what growler used to mean, this is the book you'll be reaching for.
Sherlock Holmes Esq and John H Watson MD; An Encyclopedia of Their Affairs by Orlando Park
A very similar book to Tracy's Encyclopedia. It offers a few bits of information which Tracy does not and vice versa. Again, I'd prefer not to choose, but if I had to settle for just one of the two it would be Tracy. That said, neither are ever very far from my desk.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson; The Chronology of their Adventures by H W Bell
There are lots of books on Holmesian chronology out there, largely because of the difficulties involved in making sense of Watson's dating of cases. I am fortunate that my city library hold the Lancelyn Green Bequest so I have had the opportunity to browse through several of these books. Bell is easily my favourite. I flick through the library copy whenever I can and it always leaves me grinning like a loon.
The Canonical Compendium by Stephen Clarkson
The Canonical Compendium  has been a kicking off point for several of my own researches. If you want to know where all the birds, books or beards are in The Canon, this is worth its weight in gold. It's the index of indexes every serious Holmesian should have.
The Elementary Sherlock Holmes by Portico Books
An odd little reference book, based upon the information available in The Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia. It is a delightful book of facts presented beautifully. You could live without it, but you shouldn't have to.

Writings on the Writings
There are lots of books of writings on the writings. And they all seem so vital. I've picked out the few that really resonated with me, because to list all the great volumes out there would take way too long and be too big to be of value. I've kept it to my top four, because there were too many contenders for fifth place.

Ladies, Ladies: The Women in the Life of Sherlock Holmes edited by Patricia Guy and Katherine Karlson
A really thought provoking book. Every one of the collected essays gives you something new to think about.
Unpopular Opinions by Dorothy L Sayers
The Holmesian section of this book is so wonderfully written that I tore through it with glee.
Essays in Satire by Ronald Knox
This book includes the wonderful essay by Knox on "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes". While it can be argued whether the flow of Holmesian study was started by this essay, it certainly gave the tap a few heavy turns. For that reason alone, you should be familiar with it.
Sherlock Holmes by Gas Lamp edited by Philip A Shreffler
There's too much going on in this collection of essays to summarise. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed them.

On Conan Doyle
I must confess to not being as interested in Doyle as I am Holmes. My selections for this section will be slight and entirely self-serving. There are much better Doyleans out there to question for book recommendations.

A Study In Southsea by Geoffrey Stavert
My interest in this volume stems from living in the area discussed. Whether others would find it as absorbing, I cannot say. I was rather keen though.
The Doyle Diary by Charles Altamont Doyle
A facsimile print of one of the diaries kept by Charles Doyle (father to Arthur) during his time in a mental institution. I found it utterly fascinating. Some of his watercolours are exquisite and much of his writing is intriguing. It's not really about Arthur, I suppose, but what can I do?
Conan Doyle Detective by Peter Costello
This look at Doyles involvement in solving real life crimes is engaging and exciting.

Other Non-Fiction
There are some non-fiction Holmesian books which aren't quite writings on the writings but are tremendous.

"The Life and Death of Sherlock Holmes" (English title) or 
"From Holmes to Sherlock" (every other sane country) by Mattias Bostrom
A masterpiece. Everything you need to know about Holmesian culture from Doyle to today. Written in a way that leaves you unable to put it down and so full of interest you will wonder how you lived without it. For me, it set so much Holmesiana in context that it bridged a gap to a great deal of work. Easily the best Holmesian book of any category or time ever written.
The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany by Roger Johnson and Jean Upton
A delightful pocket sized overview of Holmesian culture.
About Sixty edited by Chritopher Redmond
The first of a series of books edited by Redmond is a compilation of arguments for each of the canonical stories being the best one. It is cover to cover bliss that makes you reach for your own copy of the Canon over and over again. This was followed up with About Being A Sherlockian which is just as joyful a celebration of Sherlock Holmes and the culture he begat. Furthermore, the third in the series is in the pipeline; Sherlock Holmes is Like. It's bound to be brilliant.
Mastermind; How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
This book delves deep into the psychology of Holmes and by the time you get to the end you realise what a brilliant, deep, complex character he really is. Konnikova brings Holmes to life in a way I have not experienced from any other book.
Radical Rethinks on Horse and Hound from The Sherlock Holmes Society of London
The Sherlock Holmes Society of London produce quite a few books, usually to go along with their Expeditions. They are comprised of writings from several different members in several different tones and centre about Holmes' activities in whichever area the Society is visiting that year. My favourite so far has been this one which is for the most part about The Hound of the Baskervilles. Brilliant insightful stuff.

Pastiche is difficult. To write in the same style as another author successfully is best part impossible. Largely on account of being different people. Still, some come damn close. And others that may fall short still produce great books. You'll forgive me then, if some of my selections in this section treat the term "pastiche" quite poorly.

The Whole Art of Detection; Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmesby Lyndsay Faye
Hands down my favourite collection of Holmesian pastiche. Buy it, read it, nothing more to say on the matter.
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Richard Lancelyn Green
A pretty fine collection of pastiche by various authors, including The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet by Vincent Starrett, which you really should read.
The Final Problem by Michael Chabon
Moving, poignant and enjoyable.
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories edited by Otto Penzler
Not all pastiche but a massive compilation of great Holmesian fiction from across many eras and authors. It contains too much good stuff for you to avoid buying it.
The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby
Birkby takes a look at how Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson would have got on as detectives. And she does it really well. In this, and the second book; The Women of Baker Street, it is very easy to get lost in their world.
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R King
A post-retirement Holmes takes on a young apprentice. This is the first of a long series in which King expands on the known Holmes universe with wonderful skill. It remains my favourite of the series, but they are all worth your time.
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane
The childhood of Sherlock Holmes is a much overdone area in Holmesian pastiche. Lane micturates with panache over the opposition. Death Cloud is the first in the series and I tore through each and every book as soon as I could get my hands on them. They are fantastic mystery and adventure books for any age.

Graphic Novels and Comics
Comics offer a chance to do something different with all things Holmesian. And a lot of people have tried their hand at Sherlock in graphic novels. Here's a few of my favourites.

Canon Fodder featuring in issues 861 through 867 of 2000AD
Holmes and Moriarty join forces, have a mammoth sex session and commit suicide so they can kill god. A psychopathic leather-clad gun-toting bishop has to stop them. What more can I say?
Aetheric Mechanics by Warren Ellis, Avatar Press
I can't say anything without spoiling it. It's an unusual premise explored well.
The Baker Street Four from Insight Comics
There are LOADS of comics about the Baker Street Irregulars floating about. This series does it in style.
Victorian Undead from Wildstorm
So far this series has produced Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies and Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula. Bonkers but done brilliantly.
Muppet Sherlock Holmes from Boom Kids
With Gonzo as Holmes and Fozzie as Watson, this one isn't so much good as it is enjoyable. It could be better, but I still like it.

Non-Pastiche Fiction
This whole thing is all about my personal preferences. But this section more so. My favourite non-Canonical fiction is the odd stuff. I like weird. That's going to be heavily reflected here.

The Incredible Umbrella by Martin Kaye
I think most Holmesians can guess that the umbrella in the title belongs to a certain James Phillamore. Beyond that I will say nothing of the plot for fear of ruining it. It is unusual, inventive and, so far, my favourite non-canonical Holmesian fiction. It blew my mind.
Warlock Holmes; A Study in Brimstone by C S Denning
Mental but at the same time a believable coherent world. Funny and fascinating. And really very engaging. I love this series of books. You should definitely try the first (A Study in Brimstone) and if it is your bag, you'll be pleased to know there are already another two books in the series and one more on the way.
The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Ellery Queen
Lots of great short stories that are made all the more appealing because Adrian Conan Doyle hated them.
The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin
I've read a whole bunch of Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper books. This one is special.
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars by Anthony Boucher
Strictly speaking, this isn't a Holmes story, it is a story about Holmesians getting caught up in their own murder mystery. And a damn fine job it makes of it too.
Mrs Hudson's Diaries by Barry Cryer and Bob Cryer
Intended to be a comedy book about the indominatable Mrs Hudson, the book succeeds and then some. The Cryers make a very believable (if exagerated) Mrs Hudson and offers an almost touching glimpse into her life.
Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space edited by Isaac Asimov
Speaks for itself, doesn't it?
Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R King and Leslie S Klinger
If I'm honest, this is on here mostly for the first story alone; Holmes on the Range by John Connolly. It is inspired. That's not to say the rest aren't great too. Like the stories in all of the King-Klinger edited anthologies, they all bring something wonderful to the table. But, by golly, Connolly's imaginative story really appealled to me.
W G Grace's Last Case by William Rushton
Silly, funny and yet, kind of exciting. I enjoyed it a whole plenty much.

Other Oddities
And here's a few volumes I found difficult to categorise.

The Silly Side of Sherlock Holmesby Philip Ardagh
This is not a clever book. It is not a long book. It is not insightful, knowledgable or rich in Holmesiana. It did make me laugh like a blocked drain though.
The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook by Mrs Hudson, compiled by Fanny Cradock
It is more the fact that this book exists that makes me love it, than any Holmesian value. Fanny Cradock presenting her ideas on Victorian cooking via the pen of Mrs Hudson is a bit odd. But, somehow, compelling.
Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H Sonnenchmidt
If you actually want a Holmesian cookbook, this is the one to go for, rather that the Cradock volume. The meals are well researched, deftly tied to the Canon and you might actually want to try cooking them.
The Crimes of Dr Watson by Duane Swierczynski
This is a lovely solve-it-yourself mystery. Watson tells us his tale and provides us with facsimiles of all the necessary clues and we must work out the solution. It's great fun.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following story he had written. While he read it out "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) fell asleep.

The Adventures of Sherlock Clowns

Sherlock and I had been caravan mates for a little under a year. An unusual pairing; him the premiere clown-detective of his era, and I, an ex-military doctor who had accidentally married the bearded lady. The ringmaster agreed to annul the marriage only if I served a year as the circus physician. Needless to say, I refused to share a berth with my wife when it transpired she was little more than a crudely shaven alpaca. So Clowns and I were placed together; a choice neither of us would have made, but which, eventually, we both found agreeable.
It was upon the 14th June, as I have good reason to remember, that Sherlock Clowns returned from the centre ring of the circus brimming over with fury. Once again, Pietrov of the High Wire had called in the RAC to repair Sherlock’s car, thereby ruining his second half performance. His ire was matched only by the skill with which he honked his own bulbous red nose to mask each of his many and varied invectives. 
With his bright green afro knocking the light fitting and his size 30 feet flailing around the floor, it was only a matter of time before something got broken. I tried to calm him. While his oversized trousers repeatedly fell down to reveal his spotted bloomers, I made my way to the drinks cabinet. As I offered him a glass of brandy, we were both brought to a silent standstill by a handsome young lady who stood in the doorway knocking delicately on the open door.
“Which one of you is Sherlock Clowns?” she asked.
“Which one do you *honk*ing think?” replied Clowns; his painted smile warped as far as possible into a scowl.
She threw her arms around him and began to weep.
“Please help me, Mr Clowns! You are the only man alive who can!”
The flattery began to work on his tempestuous soul and I could see him beginning to relax.
“There, there, my dear,” he said. “Take a seat and tell us all about it.”
We all took our seats, each of us producing the usual rasp from the many Whoopee Cushions Clowns had hidden about the caravan.
“My name is Angela Spratt and I come to you with a most perplexing problem. I come from the village of Hamchestertonham. My father was the local clergyman; a vicar of the old school, all tall and skinny, with buck teeth and spectacles who was shocked at the most trivial of things. When he died last October, my mother, brother and I were left well provisioned and so were not very grief stricken. Indeed, mother saw it as an opportunity to try new things and she began with trapeze acts.”
At this point, Holmes interrupted. “Ah! Surely she must be Flo Spratt, The Darling of the Air who cause such a sensation over the Christmas period with Boffalot's Circus over in Surreyshire?”
“The very same, Mr Clowns! She took to the trapeze like the born swinger she was. She was instantly signed by Jack Boffalot and within a month had become world famous for her tosses and tricks. Clearly, you have not heard the sad news; last weekend she fell to her death during one of her performances...”
“Which performance?”
“Her last one.”
“And you suspect foul play?”
“I do, sir.”
“On what grounds?”
“Call it a female whim, Mr Clowns. An intuition. A notion provoked by the merest trifle. On the day in question, while the act was taking place, I saw my brother, Methaniel at the top of the marquee, cutting through the ropes yelling “I'LL KILL YOU LIKE I DID FATHER IN ORDER TO GET ALL THE INHERITANCE. THEN I'LL KILL MY SISTER SO I DON'T HAVE TO SHARE IT.” It is probably nothing, but I would feel so much better if you could investigate and reassure me.”
“Have no fear, Miss Spratt.” said Clowns, rising, “we will come to Hamchestertonham on the next train and clear up the whole sorry business.”
He showed Miss Spratt out, spouting her gratitude all the way.
“Well, I can make nothing of it.” I confessed to Sherlock.
“I have dire concerns about the whole affair.” he said, tripping over thin air and landing face first in a custard pie I had no prior knowledge of. Then he settled with his pipe, set fire to it, his hair and the caravan, failed to put them out with a bucket of confetti and said nothing more until we were on the express to Surreyshire.

“"The entire affair hangs, like Flo Spratt, from a dangerous thread.” he explained as he opened the train compartment’s window.
“I see no affair, Clowns, just a common tragedy among those in the church and/or circus.” I replied as the door gave way and he dangled over the oncoming track from it.
“You see, but you do not observe” he grunted, while running awkwardly along the track beneath him.
“And you talk a lot of...”
“Honk!” went his nose as he fell face first back into the carriage just in time to miss the oncoming train.

Angela Spratt met us at Hamchestertonham station and drove us to Boffalot Circus in her own car. It arrived largely intact, save for the missing passenger door, the hole in the roof and the engine which had fallen out, somehow making the noise of a trombone.
It took Sherlock Clowns no time to find a trail to follow.
“Look at these peculiar footprints!” he exclaimed. While I did so, he set off to follow them. They were extraordinarily large and went off along the edge of the circus marquee. A mere ten minutes later, he deduced that they were his own and that he had been wasting a substantial amount of time following himself.
“Are you sure you know what you are doing Mr Clowns?” asked the poor, distraught Angela.
“No.” he replied and sprayed her in the face with a soda siphon.
“What are you doing, Clowns?” I asked, as he set fire to the circus tent.
“Eliminating the competition!” he screamed and we ran all the way back to our own lodgings.

The mystery remained as such. Angela Spratt was burned alive. Her brother chose not to press charges. In fact, he seemed rather pleased with the outcome. The police were satisfied that no believable characters had been either created or harmed so the whole matter was left there. Suffice it to say, I returned to my wife that night and we have been happy ever since.

Any Other Business:

There was no other business, any or otherwise.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 12th September 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 12th September 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)


The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following toast to the Indian Swamp Adder who featured in the Speckled Band:

I'm the snake that cannot exist
For there're things which Sherlock Holmes missed;
Us snakes don't drink milk
Or climb ropes made of silk
And we're deaf so the whistle's amiss.


1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) suggested that any member who has attended all meetings to date should be excused from paying their membership fees. No one seconded but "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) pointed out that there are no membership fees.
2. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) suggested that we should introduce membership fees so we could excuse "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) from paying them. No one seconded but "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) agreed to mull it over for further discussion at the next meeting.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following essay on chemical elements to the meeting:

The Periodic Table of Elementary

The most natural question for any Holmesian to ask themselves is "If all the elements of the periodic table were characters from The Canon, which characters would they be?" And yet, so far, no one seems to have tried to answer this question. I felt it incumbent upon me to finally provide an answer. Below is my attempt at matching each element with a Canonical character.

Hydrogen = Kitty Winter (ILLU). Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Kitty Winter is the most common person in The Canon.

Helium = Mycroft Holmes (GREE and others). Mycroft is just as inert as helium.

Lithium = Mary Morstan (SIGN and others). Like the mood stabiliser, lithium, Mary Morstan's arrival in The Sign of Four dealt with Holmes's low mood and had quite the cheering effect on Watson too.

Beryllium = Mary Holder (BERY). Sir George Burnwell used Mary Holder to get his beryls. He could just as easily have used beryllium.

Boron = Young Master Rucastle (COPP). Given a slipper, Jephro Rucastle's son is just as effective an insecticide as boric acid.

Carbon = Charles Augustus Milverton (CHAS). Crude oil is principally carbon and there is no one with principals more crude and oily than the master blackmailer.

Nitrogen = The Baker Street Irregulars (STUD and others). Making up 78% of the air and having no smell or colour, nitrogen resembles the Irregulars' ability to go everywhere without being noticed.

Oxygen = Professor James Moriarty (FINA and others). Moriarty, like oxygen, can be found in water.

Fluorine = Mathews (EMPT). Nowadays, fluorine is as essential in dental care as this dentist (presumably) who obligingly knocked out Holmes's left canine in the waiting-room at Charing Cross.

Neon = Johnathan Small (SIGN). Small adds Signs of Four to corpses. Neon lights up signs for ads.

Sodium = Jim Browner (CARD). Sodium and Browner are both old salts.

Magnesium = Dr John H Watson. Watson and magnesium are both good at settling people. Although the good doctor tends to use brandy rather than any antacid qualities he may have.

Aluminium = Killer Evans (3GAR). Like Evans's plough, Americans also cannot spell aluminium. And like Evan's pronouncement of a hunt for other Garridebs, the American pronunciation of aluminium is also wrong. Not different. Not correct because it is the way it was first named. It is just wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. There is nothing more to say on the matter. 

Silicon = Sherlock Holmes. Computers are based on their silicon microchips. As Watson pointed out, Holmes really is a calculating machine (SIGN). Therefore, Holmes' really is, principally, silicon.

Phosphorus = Jonas Oldacre (NORW). Phosphorus match heads are almost as good at starting fires as scheming Oldacre when he is creating his own murder scene.

Sulphur = Baron Adelburt Gruner (ILLU). With its distinctive odour, sulphur has to be Gruner as they are both stinkers.

Chlorine = Mrs Hudson. Chlorine and Mrs Hudson are both good at cleaning. And, being the 19th Century, that's pretty much all she was allowed to do.

Argon = John Openshaw (FIVE). John is the son of Joseph Openshaw. And "J's son and the argon ought" to go together.

Potassium = Hugh Boone (TWIS). At the denouement of the story, Hugh Boone reacts as violently to water as potassium ever did.

Calcium = Sir Robert Norberton's brother-in-law's ancestor (SHOS). When he made room in a coffin for his sister, the ancestor Sir Robert disturbed was all skellington. And all skellington is, mostly, calcium. It's a shame we don't know the more about the skellington as it would be nice to know how much being called a skellington would annoy the skeleton.

Scandium = Tarleton (MUSG). Like the briefly mentioned Tarleton, who might be a person or a place or anything, no one remembers Scandium or what it is.

Titanium = Leonardo(VEIL). Titanium is strong and lightweight. Leonardo was a strong man who turned out to be a lightweight when it came to bravery.

Vanadium = Peterson (BLUE). Vanadium can be used to produce purple sapphires. Similarly Peterson, the commisionaire, produced an incorrectly coloured gem in The Blue Carbuncle.

Chromium = Jefferson Hope (STUD). Like Hope's effect on the blushing cheeks of Lucy Ferrier, chromium is what turns rubies red. Which is weak. But it's the best I could come up with.

Manganese = Athelney Jones (SIGN). Mr Jones, like manganese, can be relied on to produce a lot of fertilizer, as demonstrated by his theories in The Sign of Four.

Iron = Jabez Wilson (REDH). Nothing compares to the russet of oxidised iron better than the fine crop of russet hair possessed by London's stupidest pawnbroker.

Cobalt = Von Bork (LAST). Cobalt has a remarkable ability to turn ceramics blue which can only be matched by Von Bork’s ability to turn the air blue when Holmes apprehended him.

Nickel = Birdy Edwards (VALL). Nickel and Birdy Edwards (in the guise of McMurdo) are both incorrectly believed to make American money. A five cent "nickel" coin is actually only 25% nickel and should really be called a "copper". And "McMurdo" never forged a coin in his life.

Copper = Mr James Smith (SOLI). Working with the orchestra at the old Imperial Theatre, Violet Smith's father is a good conductor. Just like copper.

Zinc = Nathan Garrideb (3GAR). Mr Garrideb's home contained everything but the kitchen zinc.

Gallium = H. Lowenstein (CREE). Like H. Lowenstein's gland serum, Gallium has no known role in natural biology.

Germanium = Isadora Klein (3GAB). Germanium is so named because it was first isolated by a patriotic German scientist. Isadora Klein was also first isolated by a German. However, he wasn't a scientist, he was a sugar king and instead of using chemistry, he used marriage.

Arsenic = The Indian Swamp Adder (SPEC). Both the adder and arsenic are great at poisoning people.

Strontium = Cadogen West (BRUC). He might not do it in a nuclear way, but after he was done in, West did "fallout" a window. Sort of.

At this point I was getting to the stupid elements like Niobium, Molybdenum and Technetium so I sort of lost interest.

Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) drew attention to the fact that he had a second essay accepted for publication in The Watsonian. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) pointed out that this was all well and good but he had had his essay published in the Baker Street Journal, which trumps The Watsonian. Further discussion of the merits of either journal were interupted by "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) boasting that he had had a story accepted for publication in The Sherlock Holmes Journal. When "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) asked him when it was due to be published "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) replied sheepishly that it would not see print until 2022. At this point "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) got fed up with the argument and left to write an article for Canadian Holmes. The meeting had to be closed because "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) refused to converse any further with himself.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 27th August 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: Monday, 27th August 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)


The Toasts:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed the following toast to the pig from Black Peter:

Piggy piggy,
Face thy doom;
Here comes Holmes
With a harpoon.

There was no time for motioning.

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented two videos for the society to enjoy.

The first was a masterclass on painting portraits of Arthur Conan Doyle:

The second was a masterclass on making hats:

Any Other Business:
No thank you.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 10th July 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 10th June 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised but "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) pointed out he was present so he didn't need to apologise. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised for the misunderstanding.

The Toasts:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following somewhat unfocussed toast:

The Consulting Detective
by "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

Quickly Watson, get your service revolver,
You be the muscle and I'll be the solver.
We'll make our way down to Stoke Moran
To stop a step-father who's a nasty old man.
Then we'll hop on over to Baskerville
Stop a monstrous hound, smoke pipes until
We'll go to Reichenbach, see the falls,
Kill a psychopath in a cliff top brawl.
Then back to London by the early train
To rest at Baker Street again.
But a Boho King stops our repose
Wanting our help to reclaim photos.
And though I'll save the King from ruin
Irene'll beat me; 'cos she's THE woman.
We'll interpret Greeks and dancing men,
Box some ears and now and then
I'll sulk on the sofa while you read trash,
Or I'll identify kinds of ash,
Or find lost gems while you exclaim
How great I am time and again.
And we'll both have fun for ever more
(Or at least until the First World War).

1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) once again suggested that we should get more members. No one seconded.
2. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) made a motion. It looked really suave. You wish you could make motions like "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller).

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following pastiche which he had written.

Sherloccoli "The Broccoli" Holmes
The Baker Street Genius of the Brassica Genus
Being A Reprint From Patient Records of John “Doctor” Watson

"I am inclined to think-" said I.
Sherloccoli Holmes did not answer, because he is a head of broccoli.
I tried again; "I AM INCLINED TO THINK-"
I believe that I am one of the most long-suffering of mortals; but I'll admit that I was annoyed at the lack of clever interruption. Indeed, nothing came from the consulting legume other than an eyeless glare and a green silence.

Before I could question Sherloccoli on the reason for his taciturnity, the door of our apartment swung open. No sooner had Billy the pageboy announced Inspector Old MacDonald than the man himself marched into the room. As he loomed over us, I found his six foot of height so imposing I had to ask him to step down from the table and use the floor like the rest of us.
"I apologise for the intrusion gentlemen," he began "but I have encountered a case so baffling I don't know where to start. The ticket inspector of the Clapham omnibus has vanished from the top floor of his bus, leaving only his socks standing in his place."
We both looked expectantly at Holmes, but as he barely flinched it was left to me to ask Old MacDonald to continue his narrative.
“Continue your narrative.” I said.
“Edward Futon is a ticket inspector upon the London omnibuses. This morning, at half past ten, he boarded the Clapham omnibus. It seems he went to make his way to the top deck of the bus. The driver stopped him and told him that there was no one on the upper deck. “I shall be the judge of that” he told the driver, in an unusually brusque manner.”
“The driver; Charles O'Cheddary, says that such rudeness was quite uncharacteristic of the ticket inspector. When Futon had not come down from the top deck twenty minutes later, O'Cheddary stopped the bus at Clapham Common and went to investigate. The scene on the top deck was quite beyond his comprehension. Edward Futon had completely vanished. In his place a pair of woollen socks stood upright on the floor in a small pool of blood. O'Cheddary can testify that the socks are those of Futon, being of a particular shade of grey. The blood, however, he claims not to have seen before.”
Sherloccoli remained silent. So as not to embarrass the inspector I elected to pretend Sherloccoli was talking. I surreptitiously wobbled him, concealed my mouth and did my best impression of talking broccoli. “What size shoe does O'Cheddary take?” he appeared to ask in a falsetto Welsh accent.
“I have no idea Mr Holmes.”
“Then perhaps Watson and I should investigate the scene. We will meet you at the omnibus at six this evening.”
I was walking the inspector to the door, when he peered over my shoulder and called to Sherloccoli, “Do you have any advice to give me in the meantime, Mr Holmes?”
Naturally, Holmes did not reply, because he is some broccoli. Nevertheless I imagined him giving an answer of some description and then I slammed the door in the inspector’s face.

When I had finished crying, I asked Sherloccoli what he intended to do next.
"It is quite the three pipe problem" I imagined Sherloccoli saying. So I jabbed three pipes in his stem, lit them and retired to a safe distance.

When we met Old MacDonald at the omnibus that evening, Holmes was feeling weary, so I carried him up to the top deck to examine the scene. Placing him on the floor, I addressed the inspector. “Holmes is quite tired,” I explained, “He has been working on the solution to this problem all day”.
“And what did you discover Holmes?” the inspector asked him.
Unfortunately I was having another episode, so Holmes was unable to reply. Because he is just some broccoli. Even if he had been able to speak, it is unlikely that anyone would have heard him over the sound of my sobbing. As Holmes rolled under one of the omnibus seats and back out into the small puddle of blood, I felt the world slipping away and fell into unconsciousness.

Sometime the following morning, I woke to find Sherloccoli Holmes singing me The Happy Song while dancing across my bed. In any other head of broccoli, I would have been surprised but I had learnt his ways long ago and simply smiled. And while Mrs Hudson, the police and my unhappy wife all insist there is no such person as Inspector Old MacDonald and that Sherloccoli Holmes is nothing but a vegetable, I am proud to add the Adventure of the Clapham Omnibusman to the many hundreds of cases which Sherloccoli and I failed to solve.

Any Other Business:
No, thank you.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 1st June 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 1st June 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) refused to apologise

The Toasts:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following toast to Huret, the Boulevard assassin:

Hip hip Huret!
For the Boulevard assassin.
Hip hip Huret!
For the kills that he's a-massin'.

Soon there won't be a Boulevard left
In the entire European mid-West.

Hip hip Huret!
For the Boulevard assassin
Killing all the Boulevards!
I think he's jolly smashin'!


1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) once again suggested that we should get more members. No one seconded.
2. A motion was passed during a brief comfort break.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following excessively long presentation on Birds in The Canon:

The I-Spy Book of Birds and the Canon

"Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few hours to the birds..." - BLAC

Before I begin I should say a few words about the I-Spy books for those unfamiliar with the concept. The I-Spy series of books is practically an institution in the UK. They were first published in the 1950s and are essentially a treasure hunt game aimed at children. The pocket-sized books are themed (e.g. birds, on the farm, aircraft, dogs and so forth) and list around 150 to 200 things that fall within this theme which the child aims to spot. Different spots are worth different points, depending on how rare they are. If the child manages to collect 1000 points they get a parent to sign the form in the back and they can send off for a badge. I have a great fondness for these books as the I-Spy book of birds introduced me to bird-watching. And, yes, I did get my badge. At the age of 30. Don’t judge me.

While reading The Canon, I couldn’t help but notice the number of birds mentioned. Admittedly, many are dead or metaphorical, but nevertheless it set me to wondering; would it be possible to spot enough birds in The Canon to earn an I-Spy badge? With that in mind (and the 2016 I-Spy Birds book in hand) there follows a list of avian quotes from the Sacred Writings and my attempts to deduce specific species.


"That is our bird, Watson—a sporting bird, as you must admit." - 3GAR
"This should put another bird in the cage.” - LAST
""Your three birds are all in their nests," said Holmes" - 3STU
"This was not the bird that I was looking for." - BRUC
"He might have thrown a dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone." - ABBE
"Hugo left his guests to carry food and drink—with other worse things, perchance—to his captive, and so found the cage empty and the bird escaped." - HOUN
Non-specific birds are often used figuratively in The Canon:
In 3GAR, Having identified the villain as Killer Evans, Holmes talks of him as a  game bird which he intends to catch. By "a sporting bird" he is using hunting talk; the bird is a good one to hunt.
In LAST Holmes finds evidence which should put another German agent (bird) behind bars (in the cage).
In 3STU, Holmes's metaphor compares the students to fledgling birds who, having been out of their rooms for the day, are now returned to the care of their wards.
The bird quote from BRUC turns out not to be a reference to Alec Guinness in Star-ling Wars talking to the Stork Troopers ("These are not the birds you are looking for."). Unfortunately, the non-existent film came out a full 69 years after the story was first published. Holmes is, in fact, using bird in the sense of prey he has set a trap for.
In ABBE, Theresa Wright, the Australian nurse and maid, uses bird as pet name for her mistress, Lady Brackenstall. Presumably the inference is that Lady Brackenstall is a precious, pretty, sweet creature. Although she could mean that she is loud, has a big beak and poops on the windows.
In HOUN we again find a woman referred to as a bird. This was often used as a poetic metaphor from the 1300s onwards. It didn't attain its somewhat demeaning British connotations until the 1960s. From this side of the sixties Charlotte Bronte's words never seemed more apt: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will."
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Send him to jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life." - BLUE
"She was a five-hundred ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight jail-birds, she carried..." - GLOR
The term "jail-bird", meaning a habitual criminal who spends much of his time in prison, dates back to at least 1603 and appears to originate from the image of a caged song bird. As it does not specify a species of bird it is not possible to provide an identification.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"You are an early bird, Mr. Mac,” said he. “I wish you luck with your worm." - VALL
The saying referenced here is "the early bird gets the worm." It is a saying that at least goes back to the 17th century when it was listed in John Ray's book "A compleat collection of English Proverbs". Of course, anyone who knows birds knows that the truth is "the tap-dancing bird gets the worm". I've spent many happy hours watching herring gulls rapidly hopping between feet to pat-pat-pat on the ground and thus trick worms into coming to the surface to avoid the rain they think they can hear.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

""Our birds are flown and the nest empty," said Holmes." - GREE
"Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me, he will find the bird flown." - NAVA
"If he is quick enough to catch his bird, well and good. But if, as I shrewdly suspect, he finds the nest empty before he gets there..." - NAVA
"I visited the front and satisfied myself that the bird was indeed flown." - BRUC
""Here is Lestrade with his warrant," said he. "He will find that his birds have flown."" - LADY
Variants of "The bird has flown", meaning the thing sought has already gone, have been used at least since 1655 when it was used by William Gurnall in The Christian in Complete Armour. Searches for an etymology have proved fruitless, perhaps because the meaning is so obvious. There is no telling what bird has flown as it is not there.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“From outside came the occasional cry of a night-bird, and once at our very window a long drawn catlike whine, which told us that the cheetah was indeed at liberty.” - SPEC
There are several candidates for this Surrey night-bird; tawny owl, nightjar and barn owl are the most probable. The tawny owl’s call is not a cry, it is the archetypal owl call of “twit-twoo”. If Watson had heard this he would have described it “the occasional call of an owl”. Similarly a nightjar emits more of a warble than a cry. I think the night-bird in question is a barn owl; they definitely cry. Their nocturnal screech sounds something like a scream of terror and would have been quite in keeping with the tone of the night at Stoke Moran.
Species: Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)   I-Spy Points: 40

“Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War—a bargain every one of them.” - EMPT
I have argued elsewhere (The Bookshelves of 221b) that the book British Birds would be British Birds in Their Haunts by Rev C. A. Johns published in 1893. Tempting though it is to count this as a sighting of every bird listed in the book, I feel it may count as cheating, so I won't.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“Pinkerton has taken hold under their orders, and his best man, Birdy Edwards, is operating.” - VALL
I have been unable to find any reason for Birdy Edwards having such a peculiar Christian name. The only precedents I could find were people so nicknamed for their singing ability, so I am forced to conclude that Mr Edwards was also nicknamed for his exquisite tenor voice and command of vibrato. Perhaps if the Scowrers had taken the time to put on a comic opera between killings they would have uncovered McMurdo's secret identity. We can only thank providence that this never occurred.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“When I saw that little empty quiver beside the small bird-bow, it was just what I expected to see.” - SUSS
The bird-bow can be presumed to be some traditional hunting weapon from Peru. With so many ethnic groups in the region, it would be difficult to pin down exactly which it came from. However, we do know that blow pipes and bows were important tools to most indigenous Peruvians. In his book "Hunting Practices of the Wachiperi" Rodolfo Tello tells us that the Wachiperi people of the Cusco region had six major types of bow, each designed for hunting different animals. A smaller bow would be easier to manoeuvre when dealing with small fast prey and the loss of power would not be important as not so much would be needed to fell a smaller animal.
With so many species of duck, quail and other birds in the region, it would be impossible to single one out as the intended target of this intriguing weapon.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“At this point there are several trails which lead to various mines. The strangers took that which led to the Crow Hill” - VALL
This is one of the mines in VALL (Run by Josiah H. Dunn) which was assaulted by the Scowrers. The general consensus seems to be that the Vermissa Valley is actually Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The crow referenced, then, is most likely the American crow. Being a carrion feeder, I dare venture that the crows were grateful for the dead engineer and manager that the Scowrers left behind.
Species: American Crow (Corvus Brachyrhynchos)   I-Spy Points: None

“I have a mule and two horses waiting in the Eagle Ravine.” - STUD
“Between them was the Eagle Canyon in which the horses were awaiting them.” - STUD
The local eagle that these places are most likely named after is the bald eagle. I like to imagine the canyon and ravine as home to Sam, the bald eagle from the Muppets. It helps diffuse the tension.
Species: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus)   I-Spy Points: None

“Please be at the Black Swan Hotel at Winchester at midday to-morrow [it said]. Do come! I am at my wit’s end.” - COPP
Before it was renamed The Black Swan in the early 1800s, the inn was called the Old Swan. The pub closed in the 1930s and the building was demolished and a retail unit has now been built on the site. However the carved black swan which was originally on the front of the building has been restored and is now on the front of this retail unit. Black swans, as discussed next, are an imported species from Australia.
Species: Black Swan (Cygnus Atratus)   I-Spy Points: None

"It was frozen over, but a single hole was left for the convenience of a solitary swan." - ABBE
There are three native swans in Britain; mute swan, Bewick’s swan and whooper swan. The latter two are both flocking creatures and unlikely to be seen in the singular. This would appear to leave just the mute swan, but we should also consider the black swan which began being imported for ornamental purposes in the 1800s. This species originates in Australia. With this being a pond in the grounds of Abbey Grange there seem to be arguments in favour of either species. Lady Brackenstall comes from Australia herself, so she might well have imported the black swan as a reminder of happier times at home. However, Sir Eustace Brackenstall is an unpleasant man who cares so little for animals that he once torched his wife's pet dog. He does not strike me as the sort to go to the expense of importing an expensive pet for someone else's pleasure. As it is Sir Eustace who would have controlled the finances of the household, I suggest that this swan would be of the free, wild, mute swan variety.
Species: Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)   I-Spy Points: 5

"...you won’t know it again, with a thousand candlepower Swan and Edison right here in front of the hall door." - HOUN
The Swan here is the surname of Joseph Swan; a human who made early electric lightbulbs and merged with Thomas Edison's company. He was not an actual swan. Swans lack the digital dexterity required to make light bulbs. Because they lack digits.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“His name is Armitage—Percy Armitage—the second son of Mr. Armitage, of Crane Water, near Reading.” - SPEC
I that Crane Water is named after some patch of water which is frequented by cranes. Excluding rare vagrants such as the American sandhill crane, the likely candidate is the Common Crane. This is indeed a water bird; favouring bogs, and the edges of lakes and rivers. As the Thames passes through Reading and the area has plenty of lakes, it is a possibility. The species became extinct as a breeding species in Britain in the 17th century, but Crane Water could have been a settlement long before this. These days the UK only has a tiny breeding population of cranes. It is in the East of England but the precise location is kept secret for their own protection. Which must make it very difficult for them to find their way there.
Species: Common Crane (Grus Grus)   I-Spy Points: None

“The place was deserted and there was no sign of life save for two sea-birds circling and screaming overhead.” - LION
The two sea-birds will definitely be some sort of gulls. In East Sussex this is most likely to be either herring or black-headed. Of these the call of the black-headed gull is the most appropriately described as screaming. I'm not sure I'd describe their flight as circling, but they do cut some beautiful arcs in the sky.
Species: Black-Headed Gull (Chroicocephalus Ridibundus)   I-Spy Points: 5

"On its jagged face was spread eagled some dark, irregular object." - HOUN
Originally a spread eagle referred exclusively to the heraldic device of a non-specified species of eagle depicted with its wings outstretched. Over time it came to refer to any creature or person with its limbs spread out in this manner. From there it came to describe anything which was fully splayed out.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we came to Broderick and Nelson’s large timber-yard, just past the White Eagle tavern." - SIGN
There is no bird which fits the description of "white eagle" save perhaps the white-bellied sea eagle or some peculiar albino specimens. The pub appears to be fictitious and my attempts at locating it have been no more fruitful than those of Charles O. Merriman. Traditionally, English pubs had simple names which referred to the pictures on their signs for the benefit of their illiterate customers. The white eagle which would have been on the sign was probably the Germanic heraldry of an eagle with its wings stretched out to indicate that it stocked German wines.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"It was identified at once by the manager of the Eagle Commercial as belonging to a man named Hargrave, who had taken a room there two days before." - VALL
While I can find no evidence of the Eagle Commercial in the right area, there is a Spread Eagle Inn in Hawkenbury which dates back to the 16th century. It is six miles from Groombridge Place (the real name of Birlstone Manor; see page 661, volume three of Leslie S. Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmes). Like the White Eagle Tavern in Nine Elms it would be named after the sign proclaiming it to serve German wines.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"...they looked down upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the great chalk cliff in which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, had perched himself four years before." - LAST
If we are looking for an eagle that travels a lot but also perches in cliffy areas there is only one candidate in the British Isles. This is the white-tailed eagle which nests exclusively on the cliffs of north-west Scotland. While it is generally considered "partially migratory" (and so hardly a great wanderer) the sight of it coming in from the sea with it's catches could easily create a more romantic image of it as a solitary traveller.
Species: White-Tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus Albicilla)   I-Spy Points: None

“But you do occasionally find a carrion crow among the eagles.” - SHOS
There are only two regular species of eagle in the UK; the white-tailed eagle and the golden eagle. The White-Tailed is such a rare species inland that you are unlikely to ever see crow among them. Whereas the golden eagle can be found across most of the Scottish Highlands, so is certainly the eagle Holmes has in mind.
I have been unable to find any references to this as a phrase elsewhere so I suspect it is a metaphor Holmes invented for the occasion. The suggestion is that you do get occasional bad people (crows) among the regal upper classes (eagles). This does a great disservice to the carrion crow which is one of the planet's most intelligent animals. Crows are known to be able to make and use tools, solve problems and have a brain to body weight ratio equivalent to most great apes. Golden eagles tend to lay a clutch of two eggs and once they have hatched the strongest of the pair will habitually murder it's sibling. Hardly indicative of a noble bearing.
The metaphor further breaks down when we consider that golden eagles are principally a solitary bird, although they may sometimes be seen in pairs. Conversely crows are great flockers, often seen in large groups. You are much more likely to find an eagle among the crows than the other way around. That said, despite the difference in size, you can quite often observe crows chasing eagles off of their territory. Because crows are much better than eagles.
Species: Carrion Crow (Corvus Corone)   I-Spy Points: 15
Species: Golden Eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos)   I-Spy Points: 35

"As he hunted about, he kept muttering to himself, and finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight." - SIGN
Crow in this sense refers a cry similar to the call of a crow or cockerel. It does not refer to a specific bird.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“There were a couple of brace of cold woodcock, a pheasant, a pate de foie gras pie with a group of ancient and cobwebby bottles.” - NOBL
This is part of the feast which was laid out before Watson as he awaited the meeting of all the main players in NOBL. The pate de foie gras would have been made by force-feeding a domestic goose with corn to produce an especially fatty and flavoursome liver. These days, this is considered controversial, to put it mildly. But the Victorians would have had no such concerns. All three of the species in this meal are further discussed as the next entries in this essay.
Species: Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax Rusticola)   I-Spy Points: Given elsewhere
Species: Common Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus)   I-Spy Points: Given elsewhere
Species: Domestic Goose (Anser Anser Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: Given elsewhere

“Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I believe.” - BLUE
Woodcock represent an English rarity; it is a native game, rather than a game bird specially imported, reared and bred just to be shot at for fun. In “A Few Hours to the Birds”, Donald Girrard Jewell shines a light on the use of the “I believe” at the end of Holmes’ statement.He says that it was common for unscrupulous Victorian vendors to pass off various less valuable birds as woodcock.
Species: Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax Rusticola)   I-Spy Points: None

“A path led us through the pheasant preserves” - THOR
"I preserve, too, and in the pheasant months I usually have a house-party, so that it would not do to be shorthanded." - MUSG
“Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant’s life.” - GLOR
"They are my favourite covert for putting up a bird, and I would never have overlooked such a cock pheasant as that." - 3GAR
While there are some rarer fancier pheasant breeds in Britain, the species we would expect to find is the common pheasant. It is not a native species of Britain. There is debate on when the pheasant was introduced. Some suggest that they were introduced by Romans and they were certainly established no later than the 15th century.
In the 1700s humans started having a considerable impact on the environment. Due to woodland clearances pheasant numbers dramatically declined. A fashion for “preserving” became apparent in England from about 1800. This refers to managing woodland specifically to encourage the right conditions for pheasants to thrive. Musgrave maintains a such a game reserve on his estate grounds. This is essentially a forerunner to modern conservation. We see a lot of this proto-environmentalism taking it's first steps in Victorian England. The birth of the industrial age meant that for the first time, humans had to consider the finite nature of nature and the implications of their interactions with the environment. While hunting and conservation may appear to be at cross purposes, there is often considerable overlap like this. (Although, early on, the running of these “preserves” tended to include the extermination of any competing species or predators. These days such activity is illegal but it still goes on in many places as the law is not properly enforced. But you can’t have everything. Like pine-martens. You pretty much can’t have pine-martens anymore. Or hen harriers. Or red kites. And so on and on and on. Thanks malevolent game-keepers!)
A covert, in the sense used in 3GAR, is a thicket or copse where game can hide. Holmes is saying that the agony columns provide a great place for finding information relevant to his cases (the same as a covert provides a great place to find game birds). If they had recently featured anything to corroborate "John Garrideb"'s story it would have stood out in among the other adverts like a brightly covered male pheasant among the dull female ones.
Species: Common Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus)   I-Spy Points: 10

“It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson’s fire.” - BLUE
“‘That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of the flock.’” - BLUE
Generally speaking, the type of goose eaten in England is the domestic goose, which is (mostly) a sub-breed of the greylag goose. They are principally white with all kinds of markings coming through from their ancestry.
Species: Domestic Goose (Anser Anser Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None
(Which is a subspecies of: Greylag Goose (Anser Anser)   I-Spy Points: 10)

"Here, as you perceive, is the inner pocket prolonged into the lining in such fashion as to give ample space for the truncated fowling piece." - VALL
A fowling piece is another name for a shotgun. It is so called because it is used primarily for shooting any wild-fowl.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Nothing stirred over the vast expanse save a pair of ravens, which croaked loudly from a tor behind us." - HOUN
"The question now is, what shall we do with this poor wretch’s body? We cannot leave it here to the foxes and the ravens" - HOUN
"He was a black-maned giant, bearded to the cheek-bones, and with a shock of raven hair which fell to his collar." - VALL
“His hair and moustache were raven black, the latter short, pointed, and carefully waxed.” - ILLU
With regards to HOUN; the raven, like most corvids, is a carrion bird and would happily tuck into a corpse. But it prefers it's meat to already be rotting. This makes it easier to tear off manageable chunks. Frankly, the Nottinghill Murderer's remains would have been more of an immediate attraction to the blowflies and other insects than to the foxes and ravens.
With regards to VALL and ILLU; people often say raven hair when they mean black hair. Because ravens are black. But so are many things; ants, crows, panda bottoms, the underside of my fingernails. I don't know why ravens get singled out.
Species: Common Raven (Corvus Corax)   I-Spy Points: 30

"He had spent the whole afternoon at the Manor House in consultation with his two colleagues, and returned about five with a ravenous appetite" - VALL
"Holmes ravenous, I curious" - NAVA
The word “ravenous”, despite what I thought ten minutes ago, has nothing to do ravens. Originally meaning extremely greedy, ravenous comes from the French "raviner" meaning "to seize", whereas “raven” is apparently derived from the sound it makes distilled through several different languages. I know; it makes no sense to me either.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“The blackish soil is kept forever soft by the incessant drift of spray, and a bird would leave its tread upon it.” - FINA
Watson doesn't tell us which bird he imagines leaving its tread on the banks of the Reichenbach Falls, but there are a few likely candidates in the local fauna; black redstart, golden eagle, nutcracker, citril finch, crossbill, Alpine accentor, crested tit and willow tit. Being a cliff bird that is found practically everywhere in the region, I'd plump for the black redstart, although I am uncertain how any bird would react to the noise of the falls.
Species: Black Redstart (Phoenicurus Ochruros)   I-Spy Points: None

“There is no bird in the steel-blue heaven, no movement upon the dull, grey earth—above all, there is absolute silence.” - STUD
There is no bird here to discuss. “No bird” is not the same as “bird”. Move along.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“Giving pain to any creature weaker than himself seems to be his one idea of amusement, and he shows quite remarkable talent in planning the capture of mice, little birds, and insects.” - COPP
This is Violet Hunter's description of young Edward Rucastle's persecution of Winchester's wildlife. We can exclude several birds as being too flighty for capture; it is unlikely he managed to catch blackbird, blue tit, great tit, wren or robin. Most likely he caught starlings. They travel in large groups, will happily feed on the ground and are fairly confiding. Moreover, the scientific name, sturnus vulgaris, seems to accurately describe the stern and vulgar Rucastle family.
Species: Common Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris)   I-Spy Points: 10

“Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only inhabitants until you come to the Chesterfield high road.” - PRIO
Assuming Holmes did not mistake a whimbrel for a Eurasian curlew (which is unlikely for the master of observation) this bird is easy enough to identify.
The plover is more difficult. There are five species of plover likely to be found in the North of England setting of this story. Golden plover and little ringed plover are only found in the area in Summer. As this story is set in May, it is probably too early for them to be around. Also, the Peak country (where we are told the Priory School is located) is too far from the coast for grey plover to be a common sight. Lapwing (or green plover or peewit depending on who you speak to) and ringed plover, however, are found in the area all year round. I believe these would be the plovers Holmes is talking about.
Species: Eurasian Curlew (Numenius Arquata)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Ringed Plover (Charadrius Hiaticula)   I-Spy Points: 15
Species: Lapwing (Vanellus Vanellus)   I-Spy Points: 30

"She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face, freckled like a plover’s egg" - COPP
Like "Lestrade", there is no agreed pronunciation of "plover". It seems equally split between rhyming with "over" and rhyming with "lover". Personally I go for rhyming with "over" and only use rhyming with "lover" when I want to sound cleverer. (See also Lestrade - rhymes with "aid" in normal use, rhymes with "hard" when I'm being pretentious).
The plovers are, broadly speaking, coastal birds who nest on beaches. They all have speckled eggs which lends them a remarkable camouflage on sandy and shingled shorelines. As to which plover's egg Watson is comparing Violet Hunter to, it could be one of six. For my money though, the markings of a little ringed plover egg provide the kind of speckles that Watson could reasonably compare to Violet's freckles. Splodging such as that of a lapwing or golden plover egg would not be likely to elicit praise from the somewhat looks-obsessed Watson.
Little-ringed plover are one of the most wide-spread plovers of England (second only to the lapwing), so it is the most likely plover egg for Watson to come across in some friend's or museum's egg collection. Egg collecting was a popular hobby in the 19th century. It wasn't until 1880 that the first laws protecting wild bird eggs were introduced. By the time of the Protection of Birds Act 1954 it had become viewed, quite rightly, as a horrible crime. It is an unusual quirk of human progress that we owe a lot of environmental knowledge to the earlier walking eco-disasters. A prime example is Gilbert White (1720-1793) of Selbourne, Hampshire, whose contributions to the understanding of nature are as great as the number of creatures he killed and stuffed.
Species: Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius Dubius)   I-Spy Points: None

“Because it ran up the curtain. A canary’s cage was hanging in the window, and its aim seems to have been to get at the bird.” - CROO
"...down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East-End of London." - BLAC
The domestic canary (often simply "canary") is a small type of finch that originated in the Canary Islands and were first bred in captivity in the 1600s. The bird is named after the islands it came from, rather than the other way around. In fact, the island were all named after one island; Gran Canaria, meaning Island of Dogs due to the many large dogs which were found on the island.
There are two ways of training canaries that Wilson may have employed which both originate in the 1700s when birds were "trained" to sing louder and more musically. One method was with serinettes; a mechanical pipe playing music box which played tunes for the canaries to mimic. The other method, founded in the belief that birds sing better in the dark, was to blind the birds. While this latter method in unpleasant, it is hard to see how Holmes shutting down the operation would remove a plague-spot from London. It is far more likely that the canaries in question were of the slang variety. For a Victorian East-Ender, canary could mean, among other things, a prostitute or a thief's female accomplice. That said, the implied canary of CROO is a real enough bird.
Species: Domestic Canary (Serinus Canaria Forma Domestica)   I-Spy Points: None

"She is a stray chicken in a world of foxes." - LADY
"She entered with ungainly struggle like some huge awkward chicken, torn, squawking, out of its coop." - 3GAB
"The neck was drawn out like a plucked chicken’s, making the rest of him seem the more obese and unnatural by the contrast." - RESI
"“This case will make a stir, sir,” he remarked. “It beats anything I have seen, and I am no chicken.”" - STUD
Chickens are used a few times in The Canon for metaphors and similes to great effect. In LADY Holmes uses them to illustrate the plight of the solitary travelling woman. In 3GAB Watson's simile conjures up the eavesdropping maid, Susan's undignified entrance quite wonderfully. And in RESI when Watson described the hanged corpse of Mr Blessington, the image is quite unsettling.
In STUD, Lestrade uses a well-known chicken-based saying. The phrase "no chicken" is a variant of the phrase "no spring chicken" meaning "no longer a young person" and, in Lestrade's usage "no longer inexperienced".  Although versions of the phrase can be found as far back as 1711, modern usage seems to have originated in the US around 1835-45. Of course, this being Lestrade, it is possible that he was being literal. His own lack of avian traits being the only thing he had discovered at the crime scene, he thought he'd better mention this to Holmes in case it had a bearing on the case.
For those of you wondering, the domestic chicken is descended from red junglefowl (gallus gallus), a bird from Asia whose male is very similar in appearance to the typical farm yard rooster.
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

“The limbs and body of some large, white bird, torn savagely to pieces with the feathers still on, were littered all over it. Holmes pointed to the wattles on the severed head.
“A white cock,” said he. “Most interesting! It is really a very curious case.”” - WIST
I believe this breed of domestic chicken must be the “light sussex” which was first displayed at London zoo in 1845. Wisteria Lodge is near Esher in Surrey, not far from the border with West Sussex. It is not unreasonable to suppose the breed had spread this far and the physical description certainly matches.
Species: A specific breed of Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

"Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting Cock." - PRIO
"...we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign of a game-cock above the door..." - PRIO
The pub here is disappointingly not named after traditional Greek wrestling in the traditional Greek nudey-bums. It is named for the blood-sport of cock-fighting which presumably went on at the site at some point.
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

""Now then, Mr. Cocksure," said the salesman" - BLUE
""Yes, some of us are a little too much inclined to be cocksure, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade." - NORW
"...and that in such a very cocksure manner, as if it were merely a case of a proposal and all else would follow?" - BOSC
Cocksure means "as self-assured as a cock" and derives from the puffed up appearance of a strutting rooster parading around its coop.
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus) again   I-Spy Points: None

“It is Lestrade’s little cock-a-doodle of victory” - NORW
Holmes seems to be suggesting that Lestrade's bragging is like the rooster crowing with pride. My first reaction was to say that he is mistaken; roosters crow because of the dawn, not out of pride. Many avian species call and sing early in the morning. This is because it is the most sensible time of day to do it; it’s quiet enough to be heard and their prey aren't up and about yet so they have nothing better to do. It is generally a marking of territory combined with attracting the attentions of a mate. "Cock-a-doodle-doo" is pretty much chickenese for "This is my patch keep out. Unless you are a hen, in which case check out how gorgeous I am." Is not “Important fresh evidence to hand. McFarlane’s guilt definitely established. Advise you to abandon case." Lestradese for "I'm the professional, this is my patch, keep out. And check out my awesome evidence while you're at it."?
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus) yet again   I-Spy Points: Still none

"Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion,” said Holmes, uncovering a dish of curried chicken." - NAVA
"What are you going to take, Mr. Phelps—curried fowl or eggs" - NAVA
I have to say that the thought of curried anything for breakfast quite unsettles my stomach. Rosenblatt and Sonnenschmidt (Dining with Sherlock Holmes) tell us that the dish in question was most likely chicken korma which is, at least, a mild Indian dish. Curry was popular in England from the 1700s onwards, as soon as the exciting flavours of the empire started to arrive on home shores from the colonies. Once Queen Victoria expressed her passion for Indian culture the cuisine was soon well known to all her subjects.
Species: Domestic Bloody Chicken (Gallus Gallus Bloodius Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

“Tonga thought he had done something very clever in killing him, for when I came up by the rope I found him strutting about as proud as a peacock.” -SIGN
The phrase "proud as a peacock" refers to the strutting of a male Indian peafowl while performing its courtship display. Originally it was a bird of the Indian Subcontinent but it has often been introduced to lots of other countries by travelers who were taken with its beauty. It is natural that in the reign of Queen Victoria, Empress of India, no English estate was complete without this representative of the empire strolling the grounds.
Species: Indian Peafowl (Pavo Cristatus)   I-Spy Points: None

“‘Oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s. 6d., cocktail 1s., lunch 2s. 6d., glass sherry, 8d.’” - NOBL
There is much debate about the origin of the word cocktail in the sense of an alcoholic drink and not all of the suggestions involve birds. Indeed the most popular etymology is one involving a specific way of docking horses’ tails. I am afraid that I do not follow the logic and so prefer the certainly incorrect suggestion that early cocktails were garnished with feathers from peacock tails. A good lie, after all, is worth more than a dull fact.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“To-morrow at midnight,” said the first who appeared to be in authority. “When the Whip-poor-Will calls three times.” - STUD
During their flight from the Mormons, Jefferson Hope overhears their guards discussing their secret signals. The whip-poor-Will is a North American nightjar which is named after the sound of its call. It is a call that an able whistler could easily mimic.
Species: Eastern Whip-Poor-Will (Antrostomus Vociferus)   I-Spy Points: None

“It’s a very rare bird—practically extinct—in England now, but all things are possible upon the moor. Yes, I should not be surprised to learn that what we have heard is the cry of the last of the bitterns.” - HOUN
A booming bittern sounds nothing like the noise a howling hound might make. (You can get an idea of its call by searching online. This won’t do the call justice; much of the booming is subsonic and your computer speakers just won’t cut it.) Further, according to Watson's diary extracts, the action takes place in October. Bitterns only boom in Spring. For a naturalist, Stapleton seemed to have little grasp of nature.
Species: Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus Stellaris)   I-Spy Points: 50

"You are the stormy petrel of crime, Watson." - NAVA
"I am afraid, my dear Colonel, that you must regret the hour that you took in such a stormy petrel as I am." - REIG
By stormy petrel, Holmes means an ill-omen. The bird which inspired this phrase is the storm petrel. The bird earned its ill-omen reputation and stormy name by its habit of surviving ocean storms by coming towards coast and sitting on the water until the storm passes. Thus, when you saw petrels on the water, you knew a storm was coming.
The petrel part of the name comes from the way that, when feeding, they use the sea-breeze to hover just above the water with their feet touching the surface. At a glance they appear to be walking on water, like Saint Peter did with Jesus in Christian folklore.
There are many species of storm petrel, but the English one Holmes would have in mind is the European storm petrel.
Species: European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates Pelagicus)   I-Spy Points: None

"I have oysters and a brace of grouse, with something a little choice in white wines" - SIGN
There are two species of grouse likely to be found at the meal table of a Victorian gentleman; red grouse or black grouse. With red grouse being considerably more abundant and easier to rear, it is likely that these are the bird to be found at 221b.
This particular meal has been discussed in much more detail (with recipes) in Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H Sonnenschmidt (page 103).
Species: Red Grouse (Lagopus Lagopus)   I-Spy Points: 15

"You wore a costume of dove-colored silk with ostrich feather trimming" - SILV
"...a gigantic column of smoke which streamed up from behind a small clump of trees in the neighbourhood and hung like an immense ostrich feather over the landscape." - ENGR
Given the plethora of dove species and the great variety in their markings, the colour of this dress in SILV will go down as as great a mystery as the colour of Holmes's dressing gown.
The ostrich feathers present more interest. The use of plumage for fashion indirectly led to the formation of one of the major conservation groups in the UK; The Plumage League was a protest group founded in 1889. It was opposed to the widespread use of feathers for decorating hats. This was for two reasons. First, the belief that killing animals just for decoration was wrong. Second, women were not just objects for men to decorate with expensive plumes so they could be shown off. The group went on to support the women's suffrage movement and to become the Society for the Protection of Birds. In 1904 it got its royal charter and became the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Species: Ostrich (Struthio Camelus)   I-Spy Points: None

"A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre of the room." - SIGN
It's a lamp. It's not a real bird. What do you want me to say? I suppose it sounds pretty but I can say nothing else. Let's move on.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant" - BRUC
"He’s a precise, tidy cat of a man in many of his ways, so maybe it is still in the pigeon-hole of the old bureau in the inner study." - ILLU
"...the secretary of the embassy gazed with an absorbed interest at the rows of stuffed pigeonholes with which it was furnished" - LAST
"Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M." - FINA
Originally a pigeonhole referred, very literally, to a recess for a pigeon to nest in. These were not only used for the rearing of domestic pigeons, but were also a handy way for poorer folk to encourage wild pigeons to nest so that they could acquire an easy meal of young pigeon. It is not difficult when looking at a modern dove cote to see why the term would be applied to the sort of open fronted compartments for the separation of documents found in offices and the such like.
It is interesting to note that this use of the word was only beginning to gain common usage in the late 1800s. Watson and Holmes were quite the trend setters. The most common pigeon at this time would have been the feral pigeon, a distorted descendant of the rock dove which interbred with the many other species of dove and pigeon brought to the country by pigeon fanciers.
Species: Feral Pigeon (Columba Livia)   I-Spy Points: None

"I don’t stand for that, mister, but there’s a stool pigeon or a cross somewhere, and it’s up to you to find out where it is." - LAST
Holmes, in the guise of an Irish-American uses this US slang term for an informer. The meaning derives from a hunting practice of fixing a dead or replica pigeon to a stool as a decoy. Note that the stool in question may refer to a small piece of furniture or simply a tree stump. The analogy with a "decoy" criminal working for the police (hunters of criminals) is clear. If it was for hunting purposes, the actual pigeon in England would certainly have been a woodpigeon; a delicious plump bird.
Species: Woodpigeon (Columba Palumbus)   I-Spy Points: 5

"Even the rafters above our heads were lined by solemn fowls, who lazily shifted their weight from one leg to the other as our voices disturbed their slumbers." - SIGN
"The third house on the right-hand side is a bird-stuffer’s: Sherman is the name." - SIGN
It's hard to imagine why a taxidermist has live birds and dogs. Given that we have nothing to go on to identify these birds and that they probably came to a sticky stuffy end, I choose to pass on without further thought.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"He had always laughed at what he called my cock-and-bull story about the colonel" - FIVE
The origin of the phrase "cock-and-bull story" has been contested for almost as long as it has been in use. It refers to an implausible tale, a massive exaggeration or a blatant lie. The first use of the phrase I have been able to discover was in a 1621 book by Robert Burton; "The Anatomy of Melancholy". The two main origins I have uncovered are that it is a reference to fantastical stories of magical animals, or it is a reference to the exchange of ever more implausible stories between the patrons of two pubs in Stony Stratford both of which were named The Cock and Bull. While the former is the most likely, I confess a preference for the romance of the latter.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound carolled away like a lark while I meditated upon the many-sidedness of the human mind." - STUD
Watson is describing Holmes who, having just interviewed Constable John Rance is tra-la-la-ing Chopin. Watson must be comparing him to one of the three species of English lark; shore lark, skylark or woodlark. Shore larks and woodlarks are not very widely distributed birds, whereas the skylark has a massive UK population and its trilling song is well known. When an Englishman speaks of the lark, it is the skylark, spiraling down to earth and filling the air with its Springtime display song that he is picturing.
(While it would be delightful to spend some time punning about Shorelark Holmes, it would be beneath me, so such things will never see print.)
Species: Skylark (Alauda Arvensis)   I-Spy Points: 20

"Holmes and I walked along... rejoicing in the music of the birds and the fresh breath of the spring." - SOLI
Being near Farnham, I was excited by the prospect that they could have heard the birds at Birdworld ("A great day out!" it says on their map. When I went there my kids and I watched a heron eat all the baby ducks. Live.) Unfortunately, it turns out this exciting modern theme park only opened in 1968, which is seventy-three years too late for this story. Much more plausible is that they heard, among others, a woodlark. There is much to rejoice in in the beautiful flutey song of a woodlark. It certainly would be the right place and season to hear them at their best.
Species: Woodlark (Lullula Arborea)   I-Spy Points: None

"Wordsworth Road," said my companion. "Priory Road. Lark Hall Lane. Stockwell Place. Robert Street. Cold Harbor Lane. Our quest does not appear to take us to very fashionable regions." - SIGN
Lark Hall was a large country house which later became the Lark Hall Tavern and which subsequently gave its name to lane on which it is situated. While it was converted to flats early this century, the building still appears to be there at 96 Larkhall Lane. It is difficult to envisage any larks frequenting the area now, but the scene would have been very different in the 18th century and beyond when the house was first built. If it was named after the local fauna, it is likely that the larks in question would have been skylarks, but it is just possible that it could have been shore larks coming too far along the Thames from the East coast in winter. Certainly, this would have been marshy, heathland so it would never have attracted woodlarks on the edge of their south-western England distribution.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"That’s true enough, and we’ll talk till the cows come home of the killing of Charlie Williams or of Simon Bird, or any other job in the past." - VALL
Unfortunately Simon Bird is almost definitely not a real bird, but simply a deceptively named past victim of the Scowrers.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"I assure you that our most pan-Germanic Junker is a sucking dove in his feelings towards England as compared with a real bitter Irish-American." - LAST
A sucking dove is a dove which has not yet fledged. Tempting though it is to attribute this to the collared dove, the bird had not spread to the UK or Germany until the 1930s. The Stock Dove is the most likely candidate, being common in much of Europe. Incidentally the "stock" of its name refers not to it's being common or often traded, but derives for an old English word meaning stump and refers to it nesting in the hollows of dead trees.
Species: Stock Dove (Columba oenas)   I-Spy Points: 15

"Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house." - TWIS
This seems a very unusual description for Watson to give of his wife. While it is true that migrating birds are often attracted to the light emitted by lighthouses, it is not safety or comfort that they find there; a good many die as they are confused and batter themselves to death upon the towers. A 2003 article in the Journal of Avian Biology by Jason Jones and Charles M Francis reported on a study of the lighthouse at Long Point, Lake Erie from 1960 to 1989. On one particularly bad night two-thousand birds died there. Are we to imagine then, that Mary Watson (nee Morstan) was running some sort of back-street euthanasia clinic for troubled souls?
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

""I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the end of our chase," observed Mr. Merryweather gloomily." - REDH
"I might have told him that he was clearly going on a wild-goose chase, but, on second thoughts, it seemed better to clear the stage by letting him go." - 3GAR
Originally a wild goose chase referred to a type of horse race in which all the horses chased a lead horse and would end up resembling the familiar v-shaped arrangement in flight favoured by flocks of geese. However, over time, the meaning of the phrase evolved. By the time it was defined in Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811, it had very much the modern meaning; a doomed enterprise, such as trying to capture a goose by simply chasing after it. What species are these wild geese? We will never know; no one ever caught one to have a good look.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"I had just got past the goose-step, and learned to handle my musket, when I was fool enough to go swimming in the Ganges." - SIGN
To the modern reader the goose-step immediately conjures up images of Nazi soldiers, but it was once a much more common march. Due to it involving a leg bent only at the hip and not the knees, it is physically demanding and this is much of its military appeal. It is a demonstration of how fit and dedicated the ranks are.
The term ""goose-step"" is of British origin as the troops seem to have found their own one-legged stance similar to that of a goose at rest. Personally, I have never seen a goose step in any way other than a waddle.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"They were buzzards, the vultures of the west, whose coming is the forerunner of death." - STUD
""Cocks and hens," cried the little girl gleefully, pointing at their ill-omened forms" - STUD
"On the ledge of rock above this strange couple there stood three solemn buzzards" - STUD
These are birds seen by John and Lucy Ferrier in Sierra Blanco. Misidentified by Lucy as "cocks and hens", they are actually turkey vultures (cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the buzzard or turkey buzzard.
Species: Turkey Vulture (Cathartes Aura)   I-Spy Points: None

"...my creditors would be on to my estate like a flock of vultures." - SHOS
At the first sniff of trouble Sir Robert Norberton imagines his creditors falling upon him to grab whatever they can. It's not an entirely unfair simile; vultures, while usually scavangers, will occassionally finish off sick or injured animals to get a meal. There are twenty-three species of vulture and I doubt Sir Robert had any particular one in mind.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"I heard no more about it until that lad came riding up with a note which made me walk in here, like a jay, and give myself into your hands." - DANC
This expression has often puzzled me. The inference appears to be that he walked in stupidly and boldly. Jays, though, are intelligent (like all the corvids) and extremely shy and retiring.
The use of the word jay came to mean a person who is either rudely or foolishly talkative. This  originated with the unpleasant and incessant call of the bird. Indeed, the genus name for jays is garrulus; Latin for garrulous. Over time this came to simply mean a foolish person. It is an American slang term and lends itself, also, to the word “jaywalking” (that is, walking in the road, like only a stupid person would).
In this instance, Abe Slaney is describing himself. Coming from Chicago he no doubt had the delightful blue jay in mind, but as he was in Norfolk, he will have to make do with the Eurasian jay.
Species: Eurasian Jay (Garrulus Glandarius)   I-Spy Points: 15

"...the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be given to the public." - VEIL
Presumably the bird in question has been trained for cormorant fishing. This is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Using a ring placed around the birds neck to prevent it swallowing, the cormorant catches fish and drops them into the fisherman's boat. Once it has caught a few, the ring is briefly removed to allow the bird to eat one of the fish, then the process is repeated. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan, China and Korea since about 960 AD. In the 16th century it began to be practiced in Western Europe, primarily in England and France but it died out again in the 17th Century. It was resurrected by Captain Francis Henry Salvin in 1846 and he published a textbook including a chapter on cormorant fishing in 1859 (Falconry: its Claims, History and Practice). It was a short lived fad and had died out again by the 20th Century.
It is unclear whether Salvin used imported species of cormorant, but by far the easiest species for an English cormorant fisherman to acquire would have been the native one; the great cormorant (known in England simply as "cormorant").
Species: Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Carbo)   I-Spy Points: 15

"See how that one little cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo." - SIGN
Holmes is being unusually poetic. He is probably visualising either the greater flamingo (which is the most widespread species) or the lesser flamingo (which is the most numerous species). But all six species are pink, so he could be referring to any or all of them. I have plumped for greater flamingo purely because I happened across an 1852 photograph of a greater flamingo at London Zoo (Royal Collection Trust, ID number RCIN 2905528), so this is a species which he would be more likely to be familiar with.
Species: Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus Roseus)   I-Spy Points: None

"One great gray bird, a gull or curlew, soared aloft in the blue heaven." - HOUN
It is unlikely to be a curlew; you generally only get curlews in the coastal areas of Dartmoor. They are also unlikely to be seen soaring across the moor as they are very wary birds. For Watson to believe this bird may have been a curlew, it must have been a similarly sized gull. I've dismissed Lesser and Great Black-backed gulls as too big and black-headed gulls as too small. The closest in size are herring gulls and they can look grey from beneath although they are actually white bellied. In fact, juvenile's are slightly browny grey all over. They are present in Dartmoor all year round and when the mood is upon them, their flight can certainly be described as soaring.
Species: Herring Gull (Larus Argentatus)   I-Spy Points: 10

"There was excellent wild duck shooting in the fens" - GLOR
There are eight main types of duck which would be common quarry in the fens. They probably also took shots at other game such as pheasant and goose, but as only ducks are mentioned I can only include them in my list. Mallard are the most commonly eaten duck, but, heck, I'm going to opt for all eight species.
Species: Mallard (Anas Platyrhynchos)   I-Spy Points: 5
Species: Gadwall (Anas Strepera)   I-Spy Points: None
Species: Shoveler (Anas Clypeata)   I-Spy Points: 30
Species: Teal (Anas Crecca)   I-Spy Points: 20
Species: Widgeon (Anas Penelope)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Goldeneye (Bucephala Clangula)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Pochard (Aythya Ferina)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Tufted Duck (Aythya Fullgula)   I-Spy Points: 10

"I wish you to understand once for all that I love him and that he loves me, and that the opinion of all the world is no more to me than the twitter of those birds outside the window." - ILLU
The birds twittering in Berkeley Square in Autumn 1902 would have to be one of the species that has adapted well to the way humans have developed the city. There are not many species that fit this and can be described as producing a twitter. The autumn call of the robin is more of a scratch and the starling is more of a cacophony. The only sensible option seems to be the house sparrow whose twittering I can hear right now in my own city garden.
Species: House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: 15

There is a cold partridge on the sideboard, Watson, and a bottle of Montrachet.” - VEIL
The partridge in question could quite easily be either red-legged or grey partridge. With the suggestion being that this was a bird to picked at by both Watson and Holmes, I am inclined to opt for the larger red-legged partridge, which was introduced as a game bird to the UK in 1673 and has flourished ever since. This selection is made all the more likely by Holmes's previous involvement with the red-legged league.
Species: Red-Legged Partridge (Alectoris Rufa)   I-Spy Points: 15

“...there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird's-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.”
Bird’s eye is a type of shag tobacco traditionally favoured by fishermen. It is comprised of whole leaves. It is rolled and sliced which gives it the appearance of a bird’s eye. No one seems to know which bird. It certainly does not look like the eye of any bird I have ever seen.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“…I heard a shocking story of how he had turned a cat loose in an aviary…” - NORW
Let’s face it, after Jonas Oldacre’s stunt, there were no birds in this aviary. Just some feathers and assorted gore.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None


It seems that I should also mention the frequency with which characters in The Canon are described as being bird like in appearance. They are especially frequently described as being akin to a bird of prey. This is not just limited to Watson’s descriptions of Holmes. It is just as often remarked about clients, victims and villains. One could almost suspect that Watson and Holmes were, in fact, living among Brian Blessed’s Hawkmen from Flash Gordon. None of these hawks, eagles or others can be identified by species, so they add nothing to my I-Spy book points. There follows a simple list of these descriptions.

"A red-veined nose jutted out like a vulture’s beak, and two fierce gray eyes glared at me from under tufted brows" - BLAN
Mr. James M. Dodd's description of Godfrey's father, Colonel Emsworth.

"He was a remarkably handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustached" - SCAN
Holmes on Godfrey Norton

"...the cruel, unfriendly features of Baldwin, the vulture face of Harraway, the secretary, and a dozen more who were among the leaders of the lodge" - VALL
Unknown third party on Harraway

"...a handsome face with fierce, domineering eyes and a curved hawk-bill of a nose looked savagely at the pair who sat by the stove." - VALL
Unknown third party on Ted Baldwin

"Only when all these precautions had been taken and tested did he turn his sunburned aquiline face to his guest." - LAST
Unknown third party on Von Bork

"The huge body, the craggy and deeply seamed face with the fierce eyes and hawk-like nose..." - DEVI
Watson on Dr. Leon Sterndale

"She bore upon her aquiline and emaciated face the traces of some recent tragedy." - WIST
Watson on Miss Burnet (AKA Signora Victor Durando)

"It was a gaunt, aquiline face which was turned towards us..." - GOLD
Watson on Proffessor Coram

"His dark, handsome, aquiline features were convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred..." - ABBE
Watson on Sir Eustace Brackenstall

"...his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high, thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey." - SPEC
Watson on Dr. Grimesby Roylott

"His mouth was open, and for the instant he looked like some horrible bird of prey." - RETI
Watson on Josiah Amberley

"The one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious Lord Bellinger..." - SECO
Watson on Lord Bellinger

"...a formidable dark moustache shading a cruel, thin-lipped mouth, and surmounted by a long, curved nose like the beak of an eagle." - MAZA
Unknown third party on Count Sylvius

"He curled himself up in his chair, with his thin knees drawn up to his hawk-like nose, and there he sat with his eyes closed and his black clay pipe thrusting out like the bill of some strange bird." - REDH
That's two beaks! This is Watson on Holmes

"...his beady eyes gleaming and deep-set like those of a bird." - SIGN
Watson on Holmes

"...from my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a black top-knot." - DANC
Watson on Holmes

"He leaned forward in his chair with an expression of extraordinary concentration upon his clear-cut, hawklike features." - SIGN
Watson on Holmes

"...his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision" - STUD
Watson on Holmes

"...while the fierce glow from below beat upon his eager, aquiline face." - SIGN
Watson on Holmes

"...the blue smoke curling up from him, silent, motionless, with the light shining upon his strongset aquiline features." - TWIS
Watson on Holmes

"...there was a dead-white tinge in his aquiline face which told me that his life recently had not been a healthy one." - EMPT
Watson on Holmes

"Holmes hunted about among the grass and leaves like a retriever after a wounded bird." - DANC
Watson here is describing Holmes not as a bird, but as a retriever dog sent to fetch shot game. Which makes a change.


All that remains then, it to tot up my score. The total I-Spy Birds book points I could score by spotting birds in The Canon was 545. This is 455 points short of being to send off for my badge and certificate. It is tempting to reread and try to find more birds or possibly to cheat and re-identify some of my non-scoring spots, but this is hardly in the spirit of either Game. Perhaps I should, instead, invest in the I-Spy Dogs book…


Further Reading

There are three books which assisted me in writing this. I would recommend all three:

A Few Hours to the Birds by Donald Girard Jewell, Pinchin Lane Press, 1991
A much more informed monograph on birds and birding in the time of Sherlock Holmes.

Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H Sonnenschmidt, Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1978
A wonderful foray into the epicurean world of 221b with plenty of information on how many of the edible birds in this essay would have been prepared.

Falconry: its Claims, History and Practice by Captain Francis Henry Salvin and Gage Earle Freeman, Green, Longman and Roberts 1859
For anyone interested in further research into the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant, the chapter on cormorant fishing would be invaluable.

For anyone interested in ornithology in the UK, the British Trust for Ornithology are the people to go to for the studies, facts and figures. They wouldn’t say no to your financial support either.

And for anyone interested in conservation in the UK, I can’t recommend the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds highly enough. Check out their website. Join. Make the planet better. Go to a reserve. Be happier.

Any Other Business:

There was no time for any other business.