Which raises the question: how many now know what a farthing was?
Answer: a quarter of an old pre-decimal penny: one 960th of a pound, a sum so minute it is beyond comprehension in our inflated economy. Yet it was legal tender until forty days before The Beatles did their first set at the Cavern Club, for which they were rendered the equivalent of 4,860 demonetarised farthings.
I have always thought the tiny farthing, with its beautifully-executed wren (the smallest British bird), one of the more attractive coins. As I recall, the Irish equivalent was the feoirling, and had a kingfisher (similar to the image which was later used on the pre-Euro 50p pieces).
Nor was, or is the farthing merely ornamental.
For many years we had a potential airlock in our hot-water system. If we messed with any of the taps, the hot water refused to operate. Solution:
- Remove the spout of the swivelling kitchen tap.
- Insert farthing (or, if that was lost at the back of the drawer, a modern 5p piece, which fitted equally well, but was lacking in poetry).
- This becomes a “blind” washer.
- Replace swivelling kitchen tap.
- Turn on both knobs.
- Mains water pressure now throbs up the hot water pipe.
- There will be a gurgle, and if left long enough the attic overflow will spout.
- Airlock now well and truly blasted out.
- Restore to normal.
- Job done.
If two sparrows amount to just a farthing, what about a badger?
Well, they come a bit pricier.
£4,116.32 each, as it transpires.
An independent scientific assessment of last year’s pilot badger culls …
The Independent Expert Panel was appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help ministers evaluate the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the Gloucestershire and Somerset pilots.
That BBC web-page comes with a helpful information box:
Not quite 4 million farthings, each. But those pesky badgers moved the goalposts.