Swan Upping: It Is Real And It’s Not Rude

By M@ Last edited 148 months ago
Swan Upping: It Is Real And It’s Not Rude

Lewis Pugh better watch out. The swans are coming…and they’re going to be very agitated. A bunch of folk in funny red clothing are scouring the Thames to tag the large birds, as part of the annual swan census.

Swan Upping, as the practice is entertainingly called, is a task shared between a representative of the Crown, and members of the Vintners’ and Dyers’ livery companies. Traditionally, they would divide the Thames’ swan population amongst themselves, for banqueting purposes, marking the birds’ beaks with one notch (Dyers), two notches (Vintners) or no notches (the Crown). Nowadays, tags are used instead of gouging out bits of beak. If you see a swan without a tag, it belongs to the Queen.

So, today marks the start of the week-long swan upping ceremony. To see the ancient pageant, look between Sunbury-on-Thames and Abingdon (and, yes, they’ve heard all the jokes about ‘upping’ swans before).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when swimmer Lewis Pugh reaches the procession, given his fear of swans.

Image from Duke Leto’s Flickr photostream.

Last Updated 18 July 2006