Life for follicly-challenged lawyers made a misery by London gulls — but help on hand
International commentators often gently mock UK barristers for persisting with 18th-century court dress, but now there is a practical reason to maintain at least the wigs — as seagull protection devices.
It has emerged that the authorities at Lincoln’s Inn have been forced to adopt drastic measures to protect a certain class of male barrister — the follicly-challenged.
According to avian experts, bald barristers are especially vulnerable to seagull attack during the birds’ nesting and mating season, which, just for the avoidance of doubt, is now.
And The Times (£) newspaper reported yesterday that Lincoln’s Inn officials have resorted to bringing in raptors to defend senior juniors and silks with not much left on top.
John Lincoln, one of the inn’s appropriately-named wardens, told the newspaper:
“I’ve treated people with bloody heads before who have been pecked or scraped by their beaks or claws when they’ve swooped down. It’s not been pretty.”
Coming to the rescue are two hawks, Bob-Jack and Mischa, and a falcon, Shiva. Lincoln’s Inn has instructed the birds to patrol its grounds and to see off pesky gulls.
Controlling them is Jake O’Neil, from an outfit called Surrey Bird Control, who explained:
“We arrive prior to the seagulls and provide a credible threat to stop them developing nests on the buildings. Normally you might use spikes or nets but because there’s a lot of old architecture at Lincoln’s Inn it’s more efficient for us to use Harris hawks to make sure the honourable members have a nice, peaceful summer.”
O’Neil described the threat from the gulls. They “swoop down out of the sky and aim themselves directly at someone’s head so people are either injured by their beak on claws on contact or injured when they dive out of the way. In the past they’ve particularly attacked bald men and they’ve drawn blood.”
According to the newspaper, the raptors are trained not to attack lawyers or kill seagulls — but instead to provide a deterrent threat.
Mr O’Neil said:
“Seagulls are very clever and they alert each other to the presence of a predator with the calls they make. When the hawks are around, seagulls all over central London know this isn’t a safe place to nest. We’re restoring order.”
But as one astute Times reader pointed out on the paper’s online comment section, an arguably cheaper measure would have been to apply for an exemption to the Bar Council’s long-standing guidance that barristers should not wear their wigs outside of court.
Indeed, Legal Cheek suggests that top-of-the-range wig purveyor Ede & Ravenscroft could manufacture a plastic reinforced model — something akin to a cycling helmet, perhaps — to provide comfort and safety for those bald tenants perambulating through or lunching in Lincoln’s Inn during this fraught seagull mating season.
Images via Alex Deane, Meg Wise and Wildy’s Bookshop