Report of Ratting Days from 2006 to 2012, the annual tradition when teams of Tristan da Cunha men compete to rid the Potato Patches of rats.

Ratting Days 2006 to 2012

Ratting Day 2012

Held on Monday 23rd April

Report from Tina Glass

Pictures from Tina Glass
and James Glass

James Glass' pictures in this section show:

Above: Below-the-Hill Team
hunting well 'up the hill'

Kieran, Callum and Julie
on top of Hillpiece

Above: Below-the-Hill Team:
Left to right Callum Green, Kieran Glass, Neil Swain, Jim Kerr, Conrad Glass, Raymond Green and Julie Green

Below: Callum, Julie and Kieran

Left: Neil and Kieran

On Monday 23rd April at 5.30am the silent tranquility of the village was awoken by the gong hitting to announce the annual Ratting Day. This task was carried out by the Chief Islander, Ian Lavarello and Neil Swain (Agriculture Officer). There were two heavy downpours of rain but soon after this the rain clouds cleared and it turned out to be a nice day after all.

Shortly after this the sounds of vehicles and dogs barking could be heard as the teams of men and children prepared to head for the Potato Patches to hunt rats. The rats are caught and tails cut off and collected to be counted at the end of the day. The men are divided into 10 teams named after distinct sections of the Potato Patches: Old Pieces, Second Watron, Below-The-Hill, Daley’s Hill, Redbody Hill, Coolers, Twitty Patch, Farm, Bills Hill and Johnny Patch.

The Administrator's and doctor's Land Rover, bus and private vehicles were used to transport women and children to the patches. At the patches the ladies prepared a scrumptious lunch for the men on their return to the camping huts at midday.



Tina Glass' Pictures
of Ratting Day Scenes

By 6pm everyone was back to the Settlement for the exciting part of counting the tails to see which teams had won. Counting took place at the Veterinary Clinic by Chief Islander, Medical Officer, Acting Administrator Kobus Potgieter and Neil Swain.
After this was completed everyone went to get ready for the dance and prize giving which took place at the Prince Philip Hall. Prizes were awarded at 9pm and were as follows:

For the most rat tails:
1st Prize Bills Hill
2nd Prize Old Pieces
3rd Prize Below-The-Hill

Longest tail:

1st Prize Johnny Patch 277mm
2nd Prize Bills Hill 272mm

Booby prize :

Twitty Patch

A total of 1009 rats were caught for the day. There was lots of celebrating and dancing to round the day off.


Tina Glass's pictures
of the tail count,
prize winners and
the dance afterwards
in the Prince Philip Hall
as the successful 2012
Ratting Day draws to a close

Ratting Day 2011

Held on Friday 27th May

Report from Tina Glass

Pictures from Tina Glass,
Conrad Glass and Sean Burns

Christopher, Lewis and Patrick
of The Coolers Gang head for their hunt
Sean Burns with Allan, Stan, Jack and Darren of Second Watron Gang
At 5.30am on Friday May 27 th the gong was rung by Chief Islander Ian Lavarello to announce the annual Ratting Day had arrived once again. Shortly after teams of men set off early with their dogs to the Patches to hunt rats. Once caught there tails are cut off and collected.
Later on in the morning the bus, Administrator's Land Rover and privately owned vehicles were used to transport the ladies, children and pensioners from the village to the Patches where lunch was prepared. Ratting Day is an exciting day for the island children and most leave very early in the morning with their dads or other relations.

Dean, Clifton, Shane
and Riaan

Lewis Glass and Gavin Green
of The Coolers

Left: Darren Repetto
Above: Jack Green
Right: Stan Swain
all of Second Watron Gang
About midday the teams of men retire to camping huts for a hearty lunch, which has been cooked by the ladies. This meal usually consists of roast beef, potatoes, and curries, milk tart, traditional potato plum pudding, etc. After lunch it was back to hunting again to see how many more rats and mice could be caught before the day’s end.
Marie Repetto cooking
in the traditional way
Marina Burns with a
Tristan Potato Pudding
Thomas Lafaille, Marina Burns and Joanne Green
Paula Swain, Dawn Repetto, Vanessa Lavarello, Steve Swain,
Kirsty Green, Sasha Green
Johnny Patch's young generation team of Tristan Glass, Kieran
Glass, and Shannon Swain
Dilys Green and Ann Marie Collins

Below-the Hill Gang members Neil Swain and Conrad Glass are joined for the day by Jim Kerr

Larry Swain with tails caught by his
Below-the Hill team

Right: The Count
supervised by Neil Swain,
Sean Burns and Dereck Rogers

By 18.00hrs all the teams returned to the village to hand in their rat’s tails, to be counted by the Administrator, Chief Islander and Agriculture Officer. Counting is carried out at the Island’s Veterinary Clinic after which the following prizes were awarded:

1st prize ~ Second Watron

2nd prize Bills Hill

3rd prize Below the Hill

Longest tail ~ Below the Hill - 26cm

2nd Longest tail Johnny Patch - 25.5cm

Booby Prize Twiddy Patch
The total number of rat and mice tails caught was 553, above the 2010 total of 426 but the second lowest in the last six years.

Jack Green carrying off
first prize awarded to his
Second Watron team

Ian, Gerry, Larry, Neil, Colin, Nigel and Justin

After the prize giving there were some celebratory drinks and later on a dance as everyone celebrates on Ratting Day even those that don’t win!!

Ratting Day 2010

The traditional "Ratting Day" was held on Friday 21st May. 
The day was announced by the ringing of the gong, early in the morning, by Neil Swain, Head of Agriculture.

Most Tails

1st Prize - Bills Hill
2nd Prize - Second Watron
3rd Prize - Red Body Hill


The Booby Prize went to "Old Pieces"

Longest Tail

1st Prize - Bills Hill
2nd Prize - Twitty Patch

Apprentice Hunters

Dawn Repetto
has sent
these wonderful pictures
three little

Jamie Glass,
Ryan Swain
and Calvin Green

how to dig under a stone
to disturb
nesting rodents

Ratting Trends

David Morley reports that a downward trend in rats caught on Ratting Day correlates well with the systematic poison bait stations on the Settlement Plain.

Tails caught on recent ratting days : 2006 - 1105; 2007 - 652; 2008 - 900 +; 2009 - 518; 2010 - 426

David hasn't seen a rat or mouse in the Settlement for a long time, chickens and ducks are raising large broods of chicks with no fear of them being eaten by rats, and vegetables ( especially potatoes) are being left unchewed. Even Kingbirds, who normally seek rodent-proof nests on Tristan's sea-stacks or hardies, are nesting in the Patches (see Terns Page).

All in all, good news for everybody except frustrated hunters perhaps?

2009 Ratting Day

Report from Chief Islander Conrad Glass

Ratting Day was held on Wednesday 3rd June 2009, with Conrad ringing the dong to declare the start of hunting at 7am after much deliberation about the weather. The decision proved wise, as after two early showers in the first half hour, the remainder of the day was nice and sunny.

Images of Ratting Day 2009

Left : Brad Robson's shot of a ratting gang hot on the scent of a rodent nest under a Patches Plain stone hill.

Right: Anja Rosler's shot of the rat tail count with Dr Carel Van der Merwe resplendent in a top hat, with Dereck Rogers casting his expert eye on proceedings and Carel's wife Ingrid.

Rats caught by each gang :

Below the Hill - 202 - 1st Prize; Daley's Hill - 124 - 2nd Prize; Second Watron - 103 3rd Prize
The Coolers - 78; The Farm - 49; Twitty Patch - 48; Bill's Hill - 17
Old Pieces - Nil - Booby Prize =; Red Body Hill - Nil - Booby Prize

Longest Tails :

274mm ~ caught by Below the Hill Gang - 1st Prize; 2nd Longest Tail ~ 266 mm caught by Daley's Hill - 2nd Prize

2008 Ratting Day

Report and Photos from David Morley
All aboard for Ratting Day - Friday 6th June 2008
Friday 6th June saw this year's Ratting Day.  For various reasons it has been impossible to hold it sooner, which meant that although dry and calm, the weather was a bit cooler than we would have liked.  And by this time of year the rats have burrowed deeper, requiring more work to dig them out.
The gangs sent out at first light.  There were 8 teams - Below The Hill, Coolers, Daily's Hill, Bill's Hill, Farm, Second Watron, Red Body Hill and Twitty Patch. 
The Administrator and the MO, among others, provided transport for the families out to the Patches later during the morning and back in time for the judging at 1800.

Left : Preparing the feast - A Land Rover laden with supplies arrives at The Patches to keep hungry hunters going for a day's hunting.
Judge Dereck Rogers was ready and waiting at his vet's surgery at 1800 sharp, with Chief Islander Conrad Glass invigilating and the Admin and the MO observing as referees.

Left Dereck checking tails & David measuring.

Right : Conrad scrutinising results.
Left : Eureka - the longest tail for 2008 at 250mm - all part of a day's work for the Tristan da Cunha Administrator!

Right : More deliberations

The two categories were largest number of tails, and longest tail.  The first category takes into account the gang numbers, so the biggest total doesn't necessarily win the prize.  Over 900 rats bit the dust on the day.

Results were:

Most Tails

Longest Tail

1st prize - Second Watron (223 tails) 
2nd prize - Red Body Hill (147 tails)  
3rd prize - Twitty Patch   (100 tails)

Red Body Hill (250mm)
Twitty Patch (245mm)

Left : Jack Green receives the first prize from Dereck Rogers on behalf of the Second Watron Ratting team who win the team competition for the second year running.

Ratting Day - Monday 18th June 2007

The annual Ratting Day was announced by Agriculture Officer Dereck Rogers, ringing the fishing gong at 06.30hrs. It was a nice day with the wind from the NW making it calm at the Potato Patches. The police and administrator's land rovers were used to transport the ladies and pensioners from the village to the Patches. 
There was rather a carnival atmosphere, as the men set out to hunt the rats. The dogs were very excited, knowing they would be hunting rats. Soon there was barking of dogs, and the shouting of 'catch him, catch him', as the nests of rats were dug out. They rush for cover with men and dogs chasing them, sometimes being hard to distinguish who was chasing who, as the rats rushed back towards the men, who got smartly out of their way, not to get a rodent shinning up a trousers leg!
About midday the gangs of men retired to the camping huts for a scrumptious lunch which the ladies had cooked. Then it was back to hunting more rats and mice. By 18.00hrs all the gangs had handed their batch of rats tails, to be counted. By cutting off the tail of the rats and mice there is a record of the amount of which each gang kills.
The name of each team is named after an area of the patches, they are: 
The Farm, Red Body Hill, Old Pieces, Second Watron, Daley's Hill , Twiddy Patch, Below the Hill, The Coolers, Johnny's Patch
Dr Carel Van der Merwe, Derek Rogers, and myself counted the tails in the veterinary clinic, We also measured the longest rat tail from each team. There was a lot of banter between rival teams as the tails were counted.
There was a dance to celebrate ratting day later that evening, when the prizes were given out by myself and Dereck. 
If Ratting day was held in early May I think we would have killed more mice because the weather was warmer. 
Thanks to all who took part and to Dereck for organising events.  
Photo taken by Andries de Vries of
Left - Agriculture Officer Dereck Rogers who organised Ratting Day (with his hands full of rat's tails) and
Right - Chief Islander Conrad Glass who wrote this Ratting Day Report
The winning teams were :  

Most Tails:
1st Prize Second Watron 22.6 tails per man
2nd prize Below the Hill 18.3 tails per man
3rd Prize Daley's Hill 16.9 tails per man
Longest Tail:
1st Prize Twitty Patch 27.5 cm
2ns Prize Daley's Hill 27.2 cm 
Booby Prize   Old Pieces

Total number of rats killed 652.

Ratting Day Friday 12th May 2006

12th May 2006 was a lovely sunny day and saw the annual Tristan da Cunha Ratting Day. This traditional Public Holiday, held during the May, sees almost the entire community out hunting with dogs in gangs, with groups meeting in Potato Patches Camping huts for lunch and a celebratory dance in the evening.

There are ambitious plans
to eradicate rats and mice
on Tristan and mice on Gough Island
as they threaten nesting birds,
and their eggs -
see Conservation News Page

Photographs show dogs sniffing out rat nests, men digging out the rodents and the dead rats awaiting tail removal ready for the all-important count and measurement.

The Official Count

Agriculture Officer Neil Swain and Dr Joerg Jaschinski counting and measure the rat tails with Fr Don Wittich in the background acting as adjudicator.

A grand total of 1165 rats & mice were caught

Prizes for most tails went to the following traditional Ratting Gangs :

1st Prize - Twitty Patch
2nd Prize -  Below-the-Hill
3rd Prize - Bill's Hill

Longest Tail  Prizes :

1st 257mm  -  Bills Hill.
2nd 246mm  - Twitty Patch

Ratting Day Prize Giving
in the Prince Philip Hall
by Chief Islander Anne Green

Left : Adrian Swain receives the coveted Ratting Trophy on behalf of the Twitty Patch Team

Right : Dawn Repetto receives the 2nd prize on behalf of the Below-the-Hill. It is interesting to see women are joining gangs that were formerly a male preserve!