Ether Signposts #20/52a: Dookits / Doocots, Lost Futures And Fading Sentinels Amongst The Land

  • Dookits-Stephen Mclaren-Cafe Royal Books-2

    Of late I have found myself exploring the Café Royal Books archive of their limited edition, one published per week photo booklets and wandering down various related pathways.

    There have been a few of their books that have particularly caught my eye, Stephen Mclaren’s Dookits being one of them.

    This is a book of pigeon lofts in the Eastend of Glasgow, which apparently are now disappearing from the landscape as the related sport/activity falls out of favour.

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    When I looked up the meaning of dookits online I came across a number of definitions which said it was a word that also meant a cupboard without doors or possibly a pigeonhole, with doocots being an alternative word.

    And then after a bit more rummaging around I found that they were not so much pigeon lofts but rather:

    “The often misunderstood doo-cot is used in a complex game of pigeon “kidnap”.

    “The concept: let one bird out to bring a neighbour’s bird back to your doo-cot. On entering the doo-cot, the neighbours bird is captured and becomes the property of the capturer.

    Techniques: All sorts of techniques are used, of which seduction is one of the most common.
    A female in a particularly attractive condition seduces another person’s amorous male back to her loft or to his, depending which one wins.  If seduction doesn’t work, then aggressive males will bully another bird back to their doo-cot, often with heavy blows from the leading edge of their wings.

    “The doo-cot differs from the pigeon loft in that the birds are not housed within the structures and are kept elsewhere in lofts, bedrooms, outhouses.”

    (The above is taken from the Hidden Glasgow website.)

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    A curious game that I’ve never even vaguely heard of before.

    The structures themselves make me think of brutalist architecture aesthetically but maybe brutalist architecture through the filter of the kind of local folk art that you might find in Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s Folk Archive book and project, that takes in the likes of cafe signs and fairground art rather than just the more narrowly defined rural, traditional type of folk art.

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    They also made me think of Cold War defence structures; in particular the Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Posts which are small scale scructures that were intended to be manned by volunteers who would report on the scale of an attack and which have been abandoned but that still dot the land.

    As with those, with some of the dookits there is a sense of them being quiet watchers or sentinels.

    Although again, these would be such structures through a more hands on, from the people, almost folk art filter.

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    There was something about them that made me think they could be the ultimate edgeland structure, to be part of attempts to connect, reconnect with and/or bring a touch of nature amongst sometimes bleak overlooked spaces and at the points where urban built up areas transition, sit alongside and fade into the countryside.

    While they are particularly utilitarian in design and materials there is a strange beauty to the structures. They seem inherently imbued with a kind of stalwart melancholia, possibly in a similar hauntological manner to that which can be found in brutalist and Cold War structures; there is a sense of them being from lost futures, from an almost parallel world or age.

    Directions and Destinations:
    Doocots at Hidden Glasgow
    Dookits by Stephen McLaren at the Café Royal Books archive
    Dookits of Glasgow at Stephen McLaren’s site

    (File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)

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