Today (February 27) in London History – the Eagle Has Flown

A feel-good story for February 27th. A feel-good story starring Goldie, the golden eagle who was on the lam from London Zoo for 12 days and became an international sensation.


The funnest one of all. That’s how I described this one when I trailed it on Instagram right after I found it. Today in London History – 365 Todays in London History, 366 when a leap year rolls round – and this one – February 27th – wins the jolly laurels, is the one people will take the most delight in. Well, that’s my hunch. This project started on December 26th – so we’re only 65 days in, 300 days to go – but I’ll be very surprised if any of the upcoming 300 days afford more pleasure than today’s. That said, you’re going to have to wait a minute or two for it. Because we’ve got some stock-taking to do. 

This will be the 546th London Walks podcast. It’s come a long way since that very first one back on March 20th, 2020. We led with our best –Shaughan doing an adapted-for-podcast version of his Hidden London walk. 

Those early days podcasts we saw as little more than extensions of a walk’s “presence” on Or for that matter, the guides’ “presence” on the website. We billed them as, “you want to hear a bit of this walk, just click here.” Or “Meet Your Guide” – here’s Shaughan or Robert or Fiona telling us a bit about themselves and their walks.

In time we stretched our wings a bit – we’d do the occasional interview with a Londoner. Or with a walker. 

And those early days, the podcasts were just click and go. There was no introduction, no branding as it were. They were just an adjunct to the website.

But like all youngsters, the podcast began to develop its own character and temperament. We got around to sticking that introduction onto the front of it. We did a daily one for about 400 consecutive days. Then I hit a wall. Had to cut back for a bit. So we were doing them just once a week. Every Friday. And then I got the idea for the Today in London History format and once again we were back to a daily podcast. In fact, it wasn’t seven shows a week, it was eight – because we put out two on Fridays. The Friday Special – the weekly podcast – and the daily Today in London History podcast.

And now I think we’ll push the envelope just a little bit further. Put a rider onto the Today in London History podcast. As well as Today in London History we’ll throw in a brief Today in London amuse bouche. Might be a London news item or perhaps giving you a heads-up about something that’s going on in London that you might want to catch while you can – or maybe even giving a special recommendation for a given walk. 

To put it in Newsrooms terms, being a London copy taster for you. 

And I’m going to launch that strand of the London Walks podcast here and now – on February 27th – with a London news item. This will cheer you up no end. Did me. Just what I wanted to hear. Apparently, London now has rats that can hold their breath for three minutes and in consequence, get into London houses by coming up the sewage pipes into the toilet bowl and over the top. It’s such an awful thought you have to laugh. I imagine squadrons of them – sappers in British military parlance – making their way along the main sewer, which runs down the middle of the street, and one of them stops at a lateral, says “hey you guys, this is a bit of all right, I like the smell of this – I’m going to peel off here, head up this way, check this place out – you just carry on and I’ll see you when I see you.” Takes lots of deep breaths, sucks it up, takes the plunge and like an underwater caver he’s on his way, heading your way. Life in London. Sound good, boys and girls?

Anyway, we’ll leave Today in London, leave Nigel Ratburn, lungs bursting, groping his way toward what he hopes will be light at the end of the tunnel, and praying that there’ll be no flash floods coming his way…

leave him and head to a gentler, kinder, funner London – Today in London History.

I’d made a bunch of notes about February 27th. But I wasn’t overjoyed about them. 

I mean, the founding of the Labour Party. Gimme a break. Yeah, it’s important. But come on. Banging on earnestly about the founding of the Labour Party – no thanks. Not on the London Walks podcast.

So I circled back. 

It was like drawing to an inside straight. I hit it. Goldie. February 27th, 1965. Goldie was an Eagle. A London Zoo inmate. And Goldie got over the wall. Wonderful story. Two weeks he was on the lam. Newspapers were full of it. Became an international story. There were international repercussions. At one point Goldie sought diplomatic immunity. 

And London was spellbound. It was one of those fantastic accidental, spontaneous, unscripted, “make buzz” London occasions. And for students of London it wasn’t just a bit of fun – there was also a serious point or two to be taken on board. London’s always loved spectacle, diversion and drama AND it’s got a soft spot for its finny, feathered and furry friends. And the Goldie the Eagle story hit all those hot buttons. To that you can add that Regents Park has always been a London recreation room – so to have the drama unfold there, how perfect was that. Finally, you can also see in this episode what I call London fermentation and effervescence in full flower. You can see it in all the ideas that poured in about how to catch Goldie the Eagle. Great cities are jam-packed with bright people. All those people, all that experience, all that interaction – ideas come off that admixture like sparks off a blacksmith’s grindstone. That’s one of the characteristics of a great city. It’s what makes London so stimulating. 

Anything else? Yes, earlier this week I did two days in succession of London eccentrics.

And then yesterday it was the founding of the London Zoo.

And a day later, today, we’ve got another London Zoo story.

Some mysterious London titular spirit of duality at work there? Somebody trying to tell me something? Weird pairings going to become a defining characteristic of this podcast?

Who knows?

Anyway, Goldie pitched up. And I was overjoyed. As was London 57 years ago. 

First time this has happened, but the fact of the matter is I was thrilled just to read down through the headlines. I was completely hooked. The drama of it.

So for starters, that’s what I’m going to do here. Read those headlines to you. They’re a trumpet blast introducing Goldie. 

And then I’m going to cherry-pick from the contents of each of those newspaper stories. I’m in awe of the journalists who covered the story. They took wing. Their reports are not just informative, they’re imaginative, witty, fun – they turned a Finnish eagle who’d gone AWOL and his Scottish wife and their neighbours into intelligent, gripping, amusing, high-quality soap opera.

Here’s the tale. Headlines first.

The Sunday Times, a weekly of course, did three stories on Goldie.

Their stories were headlined: [headlines read out here]

The Times did six stories.

The Times’ headlines were [headlines read out here]

The best coverage, by far, was the Telegraph’s. It ran 17 stories on the fugitive.

The headlines are a treat.

They take wing. They positively soar.

Here they are, all 17 Telegraph headlines.  [headlines read out here]

Finally a few morsels of content from a couple of the stories.

The early ones are matter of fact but once those reporters get warmed up it’s Katy bar the door.

Here’s the Sunday Times’ terse first report. [story read out]

And here’s the Sunday Times warmed up [story read out here]

[And then to close, the excerpts from several stories are read out here]

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