My grandfather was a chicken farmer. Not in huge production of course. Far from it. He rented a small mill farm; Newhallhey Farm in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. As a young lad I used to love walking out to the chicken “coits” (as we used to call them) to collect the freshly laden eggs, laid in relative freedom with the hens having the run of the field. Then, in the mid-60’s, everything changed. For some reason, presumably money, grandad switched from free-range to battery hen farming with two banks of cages located in the old farmhouse. The hens lived their miserable lives in a tiny space, kept as egg-laying machines. I disliked it intensely and can recall, even as a young boy, feeling disgusted to see, hear and smell the birds living in such terrible conditions. I can still picture my dad stripped to the waist in front of our open fire whilst my mum picked the chicken fleas from his flesh after he had been cleaning out the batteries.
At regular intervals during the day at the farmhouse we would be visited by Pakistani immigrants wishing to buy live chickens so, I guess, they could slaughter them according to Islamic law. My grandad would sell the chickens in paper feed bags for a quid a time. That was quite a lot of money in 1966.
Fast wind to 2012 and the end of the football season. Blackburn Rovers, supported by my dad have been relegated from the Premiership to the current home of my team, Burnley; the Championship. The club, subject to widespread derision from all quarters, including their own fans, is owned by Venkys, the Indian chicken farmers, who fancied a slice of Premiership glamour and glory. Money talks in football and the Venkys family saw their opportunity to acquire what they considered to be a profitable asset. Now, the chicken have come home to roost and the ghosts of chickens past stalk the corridors of a deserted Ewood Park.
How wonderful is karma!