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Profile: Actonbooks
User Name: Actonbooks
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Joined: Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Last Visit: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 2:54:51 AM
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Topic: idiom 'Skying the blue pigeon'
Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 12:18:34 PM
Further research may have answered my own question. The more usual version is "flying the blue pigeon". It was current from at least 1823 and always referred to stealing lead from the roofs of houses. It seems to have been a patois known to the perps and police alike. If found on a roof the excuse commonly used was that the crim had been flying his (presumably racing) pigeon which had landed on someone else's roof and that the bad boy was only up there trying to persuade it to come down, honest officer...
The interesting part is perhaps that "blue pigeon" is more often used for an Australian form of the bird, I think. Returned transportees bringing back the phrase, or perhaps an old and no longer used term for an English pigeon?
I love the fact that in court one thief told the judge that he got the lead legitimately. When made to return with a constable to where he said he bought it, he got half way there when he admitted to the policeman he was lying to the magistrate. "I was only gammoning the beak" was the wonderful remark the officer dutifully jotted down.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Topic: idiom 'Skying the blue pigeon'
Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 5:53:19 AM
I just read of a theft of lead from a church roof in 1889. The theft occurred in London, but the newspaper was the Gloucester Citizen. The opening sentence read:
"Skying the blue pigeon' or stripping and stealing the lead from the roofs of houses is usually considered a mere skirmishing achievement by the Light Brigade of larceny

Has anyone heard of this phrase used in this -- or any -- context?

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