The original intention of a scarecrow was to scare! That was the last thing on most people’s minds when they wandered around the village from 1st August. The sheer
ingenuity, inventiveness and humour on display with eventually well over 70 scarecrows was stunning.
According to history books, the Egyptians used the first scarecrows to protect wheat fields along the River Nile from flocks of quail. Egyptian farmers put up wooden frames in their fields and covered them with nets. Then they hid in the fields, scared the quail into the nets and took them home to eat for dinner! Greek farmers in 2,500 B.C. carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite, who supposedly was ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards and ensure good harvests. They painted their wooden scarecrows purple and put a club in one hand to scare away the birds and a sickle in the other for a good harvest. The Romans copied the Greek scarecrow custom and when Roman armies marched through Europe they introduced Priapus scarecrows to the people there. Japanese farmers made scarecrows to protect their rice fields.
They made scarecrows called kakashis, shaped like people. They dressed the kakashis in a raincoat and a round straw hat and often added bows and arrows to make them look more threatening.
In Germany, scarecrows were wooden and shaped to look like witches. Witch scarecrows were supposed to speed up the coming of spring. During the medieval times of Britain, the scarecrows originated as actual young children who would go through the fields throwing stones when birds would land in the fields. They would also make a noise, banging things called clappers (two pieces of flat wood banged together) to chase them away. But the only clapping heard this time, was gentle applause as one idea after another made us appreciate the skill and creativity of the clever Bildeston scarecrow makers. Everyone had their favourites. The breadth of inspiration was wonderful. From a tower of tyres into minions, Prince Andrew and his alleged takeaway (has Robin reveived any royalties from Pizza Express?), Anglia Water operative at last fixing the leak, maids on bicycles, dancers, mermaids, gardeners, mechanics, Brian from Melton and his family, the crow from Disney, Mr Glencoe helping his wife in the flower bed, cowboys, flowerpot men, lots of NHS staff, the Simpsons, skeletons, covid sufferers, even the Bugle editor… the list goes on!
And what won? The one scarecrow you could hardly see, the invisible man’s scarecrow! Absolutely brilliant!
Huge thanks and well done to Debbie and Kevin Bailey for organising the competition and Grand Draw, dressing up and arranging for Mark Murphy of BBC Suffolk to judge the scarecrows. In total £1289 was raised for the Suffolk Community Foundation. But much more was raised. The reputation of the village was enhanced with many visitors adding to those wandering around on a balmy hot sunny Saturday 8th August. It raised a laugh, it raised our spirits and it also seems to have raised expectations of other local villages to do likewise.
Barking has had their scarecrow display for a number of years and Hitcham has joined in. It was a great success and proved lots of things about Bildeston residents. They rise to a challenge, they are up for a laugh, but then take it seriously enough to compete and produce works of quality and technical ability! At the award ceremony Debbie suggested making it an annual event. Hard to see how next year can beat this, but appreciating the Bildeston scarecrow talent this year, we would bet a bigger, better scary success!