The Robin

robin cropped


“Is not the robin always brought with pleasant recollections to our minds when we think about the legend of the little children who lost themselves in the wood, I think I am justified in saying that he is.”

So Bernard B. Alexander starts his essay about robins in the 1866 edition of The Observer. Thanks to Jenny Bailey, the past Head of English and Senior Mistress, for identifying the legend as ‘Babes in the Wood’, where a robin covers the two children with leaves.

After the brief reference to legend, Bernard’s essay goes on to describe the robin in enormous detail, including their behaviour, where they live and so on. There is more than a page about their “pugnacity”, and Bernard talks about experiments that he’d heard of involving a robin’s reaction to a toy robin in the window.

Natural History has a strong tradition at Bootham, and the Natural History Society was established in 1834. The essays in The Observer, the Natural History Journal (which was made up of contributions from all the Quaker schools in England and Ireland) and the other records of the society show that an enormous amount of time, energy and care went into observing and recording the world around them.


  1. Vol. VII, p153-65. The essay was written by Bernard B. Alexander, who was at Bootham School between 1862 and 1866.
  2. For more on Bootham School’s Natural History Society, see or the book Natural History at Bootham: the early years (contact me if you would like more details).

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