Naturalists should have a glass of the black stuff
it was designed with Guinness in mind
A complete load of nonsense was written about the toucan's beak last week. Research [sic] by scientists in Canada and Brazil have come up with a theory [sic again] that the outrageous size of the toucan's beak is the result of evolution and helps keep the bird cool in hot climates.
Even Charles Darwin was wrong when he said the size, shape and colour of the bird's beak was emblemtaic of sexual desirability.
But as every beer lover knows, the toucan's beak was designed with only one aim in mind: to balance a glass of Guinness.
In 1929, Guinness took its first-ever advertisement in a daily newspaper. It bought the entire front page of the London-based Daily Express to launch the slogan "Guinness Is Good For You". In an age unpolluted by political correctness, the Dublin brewery quoted eminent doctors who agreed that a glass or two of the black stuff every day was highly beneficial as a result of the natural irons and minerals contained in the stout, along with malted barley, hops, yeast and pure Wicklow Mountains water.
Guinness then hired the London advertising agency Bensons to design a series of posters to promote the beer. Bensons took on the artist John Gilroy to paint a series of animal-based illustrations that pointed-up the inherent healthiness and strength of stout. Gilroy used lions, sealions, kangaroos and elephants in his work. When he decided to use a puffin or a penguin, he was advised by Dorothy L Sayers to use a toucan instead. Sayers was a noted crime writer -- the creator of the amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey -- but also worked as a copywriter at Bensons.
In 1935, Gilroy drew and painted a toucan with a glass of Guinness on its beak and Sayers penned the immortal lines:
"If he can say as you can
Guinness is good for you,
How grand to be a Toucan:
Just think what Toucan do."
It became the most famous of the many rhymes and jingles used to promote Guinness. The toucan image has been revived this year to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Dublin brewery but the health police will make sure that Sayers' jingle can not be used with the illustration.
But on 24 September -- Arthur Guinness's birthday -- when we are asked to raise a glass to him, lets also recall the toucan and laugh to scorn the suggestion that its beak is used for anything but a resting place for a glass of the divine black liquid from Dublin.
*One of Dorothy L Sayers' crime novels is called Murder Must Advertise, based on her experience at Bensons.