Falco Subbuteo



I remember on special occasions I would be allowed into the ‘Good Room’ of our semi-detached suburban home in Glasgow to play my father at Subbuteo. The green felt pitch was rolled out on to the carpet and it was the top game for father-son bonding. Little did I know at the time that the soccer game with small plastic footballers on button-shaped discs was named after the beautiful little falcon, the Hobby.

Just last week I was gazing skyward on a warm sunny morning above our Patch on the Somerset levels, watching no less than six Hobbies soaring in the thermals feeding on dragonflies and other insects. It is like a pocket-rocket Peregrine, with long boomerang shaped wings. It has slate-blue wings, a dark moustache, striped breast and bright orange leggings that cover spindly yellow legs. It is a corking bird of early summer on the Levels. At the moment they are re-fueling after their migration from Africa and can often be seen in groups hunting over the reedbeds. Then they seem to disappear. They slope off to nest in an old crow's nest and keep a very low profile as the summer comes on. Once their chicks hatch they come back into view and, if you are lucky, they can sometimes be seen hunting young Swallows and House Martins.

We were with Phil and Jerry from the Midlands who were out with us for the day, and they were really enjoying the aerial show that the Hobbies were putting on. Neither had ever seen a Hobby before, and I think they were as excited as I was when I was allowed in the ‘Good Room’ with my Dad.

Stephen relayed an anecdote from his new book ‘Mrs Moreau’s Warbler – How birds got their names’  that in 1947 one Peter Adolph came out of the RAF at the end of the war and came up with the idea of the famous table-top football game. Going to the Patent’s office to register the game he was asked what he was going to call it. He said he wanted to call it ‘Hobby’ after his love for falconry. “Oh no, you can’t call it that, that is much to general a name” said the jobsworth from the Patent’s Office.

“OK then” said Adolph

“I’ll call it Subbuteo”

Little did the man at the Patent’s Office know that the Hobby’s Latin name is falco subbuteo.

Graeme Mitchell