talking turkey with papa

Irish landowner Adolphus Cooke (1792 – 1876) was a firm believer in reincarnation

Reincarnation image found here

He believed that a large turkey cock in the farmyard was the re-born soul of his father. Employees knew that his better nature could be appealed to by citing the ‘opinion’ of the turkey cock. On one occasion Adolphus appointed himself as judge to try his dog, which had taken to wandering the countryside and consorting with dogs of low breeding.

image found here

After numerous warnings were ignored the court was held and the dog sentenced to be hanged for insubordination. A workman was ordered to hang the dog at dawn. The next morning the man was seen leading the dog back to the house. Adolphus was outraged and demanded to know why his orders were not obeyed. The workman explained that the turkey cock had expressed opposition to the execution and the workman wanted to consult Adolphus about this. Adolphus totally believed this farrago and reprieved the dog, who continued to live a long and dissolute life.

turkey found here

Hunting was a major pastime of the gentry at the time, but he opposed hunting. He believed he would return to this world after death as a fox. To be prepared he spent his later years wandering the countryside day and night so he would be aware of each earth and passway to escape the hounds.

baby Fennec fox found here

The best known incident about Cooke is the affair of the crows. He was awoken frequently by the cawing of large flocks of crows and employees told him the noise was because the crows were nesting nearby. Cooke ordered that the crows nest in another part of the estate. They naturally ignored this. He then ordered all his workmen and some tenants to collect twigs and branches and to climb the trees to build nests for the crows. The workers were well paid for this pointless activity and loafed about for weeks. No crows would use the few nests actually made. When Adolphus appeared to inspect the work and was annoyed at the lack of success the workers explained that ‘his honour’s crows’ were now engaged in a civil war with the crows from a neighbouring village (about the nests) and that a huge battle had taken place.

image found here

Cooke was pleased to learn his own crows had been victorious in the battle and demanded to see the dead and injured. The workmen replied that, unfortunately, the neighbouring crows had called a truce and had come back to collect and remove all the casualties. Adolphus showed no signs of disbelieving this avian Illiad and gave rewards to the men who had assisted his army.

image found here

Cooke died an old man in the 1870s and was buried, along with his brother and his childhood nanny, in a ‘beehive’ tomb. This igloo-like construction still exists, though overgrown and neglected, in a local churchyard. It dates from an earlier period of Cooke’s life, when he believed that his post death form would be as a bee.

Adolphus Cooke’s beehive tomb found here