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  • Writer's pictureGranny Bonnet

Norwich Canaries

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Many years ago Norwich City Football Team then called 'the Citizens', wore blue and white (don't tell arch-rivals Ipswich though as they now sport those colours), not the green and yellow strip we are familiar with today.

The club formed in 1902, turning professional three years later. In 1908 their new stadium 'miraculously built in 82 days' and 'the eighth wonder of the world' was called The Nest. Dubbed 'The Canaries' since many household of that time housed a canary or two for the beautiful trilling song of the cock birds, the team also inspired what is now the oldest football anthem in the world still sung at matches!

Why Canaries?

Norwich had become a centre for breeding canaries, with birds having been brought over from Europe in the 16th Century by Dutch, Walloon and Flemish immigrants fleeing religious persecution. These people welcomed into the city were known as 'Strangers', and at one time it is estimated, may have made up as much as a third of the population.

The descendants of their birds were carefully cross- bred to encourage their plumage away from their wild-finch green, to encompass all shades of yellow through to orange, helped along the way by the feeding of exotic spices such as red pepper!

I have almost never seen a live caged canary, as the fashion for them had already practically passed in favour of budgerigars, African Finches and Minah birds when I was young. However, there are still local breeders and of course, the name lives on in Norwich City Football Club. High may they fly!

William Drake, landlord of The Spread Eagle pub Norwich 1888 - 1912 pictured with his prize-winning canaries

This is the short version of Norwich City Football Club anthem -

Kick it off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,

Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;

On the ball City, never mind the danger,

Steady on, now's your chance,

Hurrah! We've scored a goal,

City! City! City!

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