Points to Ponder



For lots of people, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey.

But in fact, in this country the tradition of eating turkey at Christmas only

dates from the 19th century, when it gradually began to replace goose as the

Christmas meal, even though it was originally introduced into Europe from the

Northern and Central America during the 16th Century – about 1511. 

This is good news in terms of healthy eating, because turkey contains more

protein and much less fat (only 1g per oz of skinless flesh) than goose or duck. 

It is low in calories (140 per 100g). 

 Valuable nutrients in turkey include niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, selenium and zinc.  

100g of turkey will provide 50% of the recommended daily allowance of

folic acid for pregnant women.

In a recent publication called “Superfoods: 

Fourteen foods that will change your life” by Dr Steven Pratt, Turkey

is the only meat product that features among these 14.  He says, “that turkey is the leanest meat source of protein

available on the planet, and suggests everyone should eat at least 3-4 ounces of

it each week.  (The remaining

thirteen superfoods include:  broccoli,

tomatoes, blueberries, tea, beans, oats, pumpkin, yoghurt, walnuts, spinach,

salmon, soya and oranges).


Kim Burgess of the British Turkey Federation said “with evidence that turkey can

add years to your life, there is no excuse for leaving it as a once-a-year



It has been estimated (NFU data) that 33 million birds are eaten every year, over a

third of which, are eaten during the Christmas period.

In this country we call our male turkeys “stags” and our female ones

“hens”.  In America, they call

their male turkeys “Toms”.

Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 mph for short distances.

There are about 28 different breeds of turkey bred by turkey producers in the UK, all

derived from the White, Bronze and Norfolk Black.  Ours, this year, 2005, are Bronze and Norfolk Black

According to Michael Roberts in his book* “Turkeys at Home”, the origin of the name

– TURKEY could be:

“Whilst the correct origin of the word has not been irrefutably established, here are

several interesting theories on possible derivations:

1.               The mis-pronunciation of the Red Indian workd for turkey “firkee”.

2.              The bird was new (in Europe) and looked, perhaps, something akin to a Turkish soldier, a “turkoman” (Victorian legend).
3.              The call the bird makes (anyone who has kept turkeys knows they don’t go “turk, turk”, but “keow, keow”).
4.              “Turkish” being slang for something foreign.
5.             mix-up in the Latin names of turkeys and guinea fowl, both thought to come originally from Turkey.
6.             The Tamil word for India for peacock being “Tali”.
7.              The Aramaic-Jewish word for bustard (Otis tarda) “Tahki”. 

This last one rather appeals as possibly being nearest to the truth

because the bulk of domestic turkeys arrived in Spain in approx 1511 and people

have a habit of calling something new after something they know.


by The Domestic Fowl Trust – 1989


The book continues with the history of the turkey:


The Aztec Indians of Mexico, who lived in cities, first domesticated the turkey and

kept them in huge flocks.  The birds

were not only kept for their flesh but also for their feathers, an important

part of Aztec culture.  Being one of

the few domesticated creatures at that time, they were revered by the Aztecs and

used as subjects for paintings; place names containing the Aztec word for Turkey

– Toto – can still be found in that area.


There are six subspecies of turkey, only two varieties playing a part in the make-up

of the domestic bird.  Meleagris

gallopavo is the nominate race and found in Mexico and was the basis of the

domestic turkey.  The other

subspecies was Meleagris gallapavo Silvestris that had a huge range on

the wooded eastern seaboard stretching from the southern states bordering the

Gulf of Mexico up to Canada.  Silvestris

has brown instead of white in the tail feathers.  The Latin name is shared with the guinea fowl (Numidia

Meleagris) presumably because both guineas and turkeys have the same naked

head and neck.  Then gallo



eastern wild turkey was never domesticated to the same extend by the North

American Indians as they were mainly nomadic. 

The turkeys were very plentiful and it was not until the advent of the

gun that they became shy.  Among the

Cherokee Indians, turkey was the prey of children, adults, having more difficult

prey to cope with.  The birds were

“called up” by imitating their calls, and then grabbed by the legs by a

child hiding behind some logs or in a pit, or shot with bow and arrow. 

The wild turkey is still hunted today by this method of calling up which

is more difficult than it sounds – in some States there are turkey calling

competitions, not as you may think judged by turkeys but by people who the

birds and their habits best, the hunters.


The abundance of turkey played a part in the diet of the first arrivals from Europe

and has since always been associated with Thanksgiving Day.



 See below for the Strickland Family history with Turkeys ……..


The Strickland family


The arrival of the first turkeys into England is attributed to William Strickland of

Yorkshire.  Son of Roger Strickland

of Marsk, William was inspired by Cabot’s voyages, circa 1497, to the New

World, and sailed later about 1520, bringing some turkeys back home with him. 

The first known date of turkeys in England is about 1524 when “it

happened that diverse things were newly brought to England, whereupon this rhyme

was made:  Turkeys, Carps, Hoppers,

Piccarell and Beer, came in England all in one year

William Strickland made a fortune from his voyages, buying land extensively near to

Bridlington and Boynton Hall in 1549.  During

the Herald’s visit to Yorkshire in 1550 William Strickland was granted a coat

of arms, which included a “Turkey cock in its pride”. 

He became MP for Scarborough in 1558 and died and was buried, together

with his wife Elizabeth, at Wintringham, near Malton in 1598. 

The church of Boynton contains a stained glass window of a turkey,

together with a wooden lectern with a carved turkey instead of the normal eagle,

but this is a memorial to Frederick Strickland who dies in the 1930x. 

A branch of the Strickland family headed south to Deerhurst, near

Tewkesbury, in the 1759s and a small stone-carved turkey can be found in the

church there.