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Stone the Crows

Posted by James Briggs on March 04, 2003

We had a discussion back in 1999 about the origin of the, apparently, very British saying 'Stone the Crows'. No real answer was forthcoming - link below. In today's Q&A in the Times, the following was offered.

For many centuries, young children (and others) were employed as bird scarers, especially of crows. They used whatever means were available to frighten away the birds, hence the expression "stone the crows".
The Norfolk Labour MP, Sir George Edwards, who founded the National Union of Land Workers, even called his autobiography, written in 1922, "From Crow Scaring to Westminster", and there are many references in old country accounts to "crow scaring", "crow keeping", "crow stoning" and "rook starving". The rewards were modest - at the age of six, Edwards was paid a shilling for a seven-day week in Norfolk. In Gloucestershire, things were more varied - the going rate was from 6d a day, although if you were unfortunate enough to live in Winchcombe, all you received was 1d or 2d plus a swede.
Professor Stefan Buczacki, author, Fauna Britannica, Stratford-upon-Avon