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Sam's Sturgeon

by Ashley Sterne (1935)

Royal fish
Royal fish

Sam catches a sturgeon in the Manchester Ship Canal (an unlikely occurrence) and is told by a polieman to take it to its rightful owner, the king. This is because since the 13th century, the sturgeon has been designated as a 'royal fish' by an act of King Edward II.

(In fact in 2004, a fisherman did catch a sturgeon in Swansea Bay and was investigated by the police for attempting to sell it; not because he failed to take it to the Queen, but because it is a protected species. Ref: BBC news item)

Sam, however, does take his catch to the palace and when he arrives, he learns that neither the king nor queen are very fond of sturgeon and prefer herring. They implore Sam not to tell anyone, and yet here it is, on the internet, and being read by you!

The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, was once asked about the times when she travelled to exotic countries and presented with food that disagreed with her taste. She replied that if a host enquired whether she liked the local delicacies, she didn't want to lie by saying it was delicious, yet she didn't want to offend the host by speaking the truth. She simply says, "What did I think of the meal? It was rather interesting."

A simple bit of diplomacy well worth remembering.

Sam Small were fishing in canal
Twixt Manchester and Sale;
He hadn't had a bite all day
And nought to sup but ale.

Then all at once his fishing line
Went rushing out like mad;
"By gum," cried Sam, "I've got a bite,"
So by gum he 'ad.

He tugged and tugged and better tugged
His line it rose and sank;
Then fish gave one last dying gasp
And flopped stone dead on t'bank.

Then a policeman bustled up
on feet both large and flat.
He looked at Sam, he looked at fish
And said "Ee, who done that?"

"It's just a sort of fish," said Sam
"I'm taking home to tea."
"Tha's not," said policeman. "That tha's not,
It don't belong to thee.

"It's what they call a Sturgeon, Sam,
That fish belongs to King,
So take it up the Palace, lad,
As fast as anything."

Sam stooped and picked the Sturgeon up
Well knowing who was boss;
Then ran to station where he bought
Two tickets for King's Cross. 

When Sam reached London Town
The crowd all raised a cheering cry;
The traffic parted left and right
To let that Sturgeon by.

The Palace sentry, haughty like, said
"What might be your wish?"
But when he saw what Sam had brought
He cried "Pass, Royal fish."

Tree Sturgeon
Tree Sturgeon
Kippers for tree
Kippers for tree
Got away
The ones that got away

Sam knocked at door and servant girl said,
"Step inside the hall,
The King and Queen is out," says she,
"But not for thee, Sam Small."

And so with Sturgeon in his arms
Sam tramped up corridor,
He trailed along some passages
And knocked at parlour door.

"Come in," says King,
So Sam went in with Royal fish and all.
"Why dash me buttons," cries the King
"If it isn't old Sam Small."

"That's me," said Sam, "and 'ere's a fish
Our policeman said were thine;
A Sturgeon caught in Ship Canal
With rod and hook and line."

"Well, well," said King, "come sit thee down,
Tha' must be fair done up.
We just were going to have us teas,
Tha'll stay and have a sup?"

"Thanks, King," said Sam and takes a seat
With fish upon his knee.
"Nay, put that thing on sofa, Sam," says King,
"And have thy tea."

"Now what about this fish?" asks Sam,
But King he whispers low,
"I'm going to tell thee something, Sam,
But don't let policeman know.

"l hate to show ingratitude
And please don't think me mean,
But I never did like Sturgeon, Sam,
Nor, come to that, does Queen.

"To eat the stuff we hate so much
Well, Sam, we find it hard;
So we hand 'em to the Chamberlain
Who stacks them in back yard.

"Just thee look out that window, Sam,
And see where t'Sturgeons go."
Sam looked at yard and saw 'em all
In thousands in a row.

"It's champion seeing thee again,
But Sam twixt me and thee
I can't stand Sturgeons
But I love a kipper to me tea."

"Now fancy that," says Sam, "by gum,
why them's my favourite fish."
And then the Queen came smiling in,
With kippers on the dish.

"Do you know Sam Small, my dear?" says King.
Queen says "Why, yes, yes, yes,
Just touch the bell and tell our James
To bring more watercress."

"Think on," says King when tea were done
And Sam got up to go,
"Kippers is what I like for tea
But don't let the policeman know."

So Sam went home to Lancashire
And said a silent prayer,
With blessings on the kippered fish
"Long live the Royal Pair."

King`s Cross railway station is the London portal for the North of England.


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