The following two letters appeared in the Manchester City News on January 23rd 1883 and January 31st 1883:
London, January 23rd
A Dutch gentleman, who many years ago had the office of Inspector of Prisons in Holland, informed me the other week that “spiders sing” on the following authority:- Questioning a prisoner who could not sleep at night if he did not find it wearisome lying awake, he was answered, “ I should if it were not for the singing of my spiders.”
“Singing! Spiders don`t sing!” ejaculated the inspector, with some doubts of the man`s sanity. “Oh yes,they do,” said the prisoner; listen!” He did listen, and in the stillness could distinctly hear harmonious sounds proceeding from the said spiders; faint,but, as he said, “clear and harmonious!” I have watched beautiful garden spiders at work, but not in silence so profound as to hear them “singing”. Perhaps some of your naturalistic friends may be wiser, or be tempted to observe for themselves.
(1) ISABELLA BANKS
Greenhays, Manchester, Jan. 31st
With reference to Mrs Linnaeus* Banks`s note on the so-called Singing Spiders, I think that the sounds in question may have been produced by one of the species belonging to the family Theridiodae, and probably by the species known as Steatoda bi-punctata (Linn.). The male of this species, like others of the same family, produces a creaking sound by the rubbing together of two horny plates on the thorax and body, but it can hardly be called a song, although a species has been described from North America which produces a sound compared to “the purring of a cat”. The sound (which is produced only by the males) is supposed to serve to call the females, and is mentioned by Mr Darwin in his Descent of Man as being the first instance he has met with in the ascending scale in which a sound is emitted for that purpose. The species I have mentioned is of frequent occurrence in this country, as well as in Holland and on the Continent in general. The garden spider, Ep. Diademata, does not produce any sounds.
HENRY C.YOUNG. (2)
1 Manchester City News Country Notes (book version) p. 7
2 Ibid p.10
THE LAST PEAK DISTRICT WALLABY 2010 (*1)
The last Peak District wallaby just got knocked over by a car half an hour ago.
Or was that sound a shot?
Because it`s lying here at my feet,
still and warm.
A wallaby sandwich? Perhaps I`ll talk to the Snowgoose (*2) about it.
Otherwise, what a pointless end to the seventy year tale of the Roaches wallabies.
© Richard Muirhead
*1 Since writing this poem I have read on a web site that a wallaby was seen in 2011.
*2 Snowgoose. A Macclesfield restaurant.