The Yule Days – Day 8 – ‘Three ducks a-merry laying’
The king sent his lady on the eighth Yule day,
Three ducks a-merry laying, a bull that was brown,
Three goldspinks, three starlings,
A goose that was gray,
Three plovers, three partridges, a papingo-aye;
Wha learns my carol and carries it away?
John Guille Millais (1865-1913) was a British artist. He was born in Perth to the pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais and Effie Gray.
This illustration of the Mallard duck is from his The natural history of the British surface-feeding ducks, published in 1902. Only 600 copies of this work were printed; St Andrews has copy no. 560. The mallard is a dabbling duck, meaning it feeds mainly on the surface rather than by diving, and they are perhaps immortalised in Kenneth Grahame’s Ducks’ Ditty from The Wind in Willows: “Ducks are a-dabbling, up tails all!”