Ben Hayes takes a look at the club’s association with the UK’s favourite festive bird, the robin.
First published in Valley Review on December 22nd 2018
The iconography of Christmas is complex and has many sources. Christian and European pagan symbols mingle with commercially derived images, one of the most widely used being the Robin. According to one legend the Robin gained its red breast from by pulling a thorn from Christ’s crown of thorns, His blood staining the previously brown breast red. Another version is that the brown chested bird fanned the flames of a dying fire in the manger, burning itself but warming the baby Jesus.
The iconography of Charlton is almost as tangled. The sword in hand badge represents the now little used Valiants nickname, introduced in the 1960s. The Addicks, in the museum’s view, the original and unique Charlton nickname is the one now more often used but we run out to the Red, Red, Robin.
The Robins nickname was adopted in 1931, for the obvious reason that we play in red, as also do Bristol City, Cheltenham and Swindon, three more Robins. But the image didn’t appear on the club shirts until after the war and not always then. Originally, set on a plain white shield with the letters C A F C quartered and worn in both cup finals, the badge became more colourful in various enamel badge versions but through most of the 50s and early 60s Charlton shirts featured no badge.
The Robins were widely used however in different versions. The bar under the old covered end featured three robins and that pub sign is now one of the first things visitors see when they enter the museum. A reversed version can be seen on a rare enamel badge that the museum would still like to add to our collection.
The club has, at different times be more open to accepting a supporters’ club than others. In the early 50s the club would not let supporters use the name Charlton Athletic and so it became “The Robins Club” before the club relented. These badges are quite rare but the more common version issued by the club in the 1950s are easier to come by.
In 2015 the robin was voted the UK’s favourite bird and despite its cute Christmas card image is fiercely territorial and will fight to protect its home. Maybe not such a bad nickname after all.