: Traditional potters

Whistles were made in all European countries but, with rare exceptions, in each pottery center, only a few potters made whistles on top of their usual production.
To make whistle was so subsidiary that this production is anonymous before the 20th century. Nevertheless some features of the whistle makers can be picked out.

  Dynasties of whistles makers
To meet dynasties among the producers of whistles is not astonishing. The traditional way to pass down his job from the father to his son also applies for this know-how. So, one can quote for France some important families of potters making whistles:
  • Lapoutoire in Sarthe
  • Talbot in La Borne
  • Friedmann in Alsace
  • Robin in Drôme...

Robin's pottery in Poët-Laval(Drome)
Coal kiln built in 1857
  An additional production
The traditional potters specialized in making whistles are few. They are usually done at the evening gatherings as a subsidiary work.
Mr. Robin, potter in Poët-Laval, told us:
"My father made ten or so whistles during each evening gathering then turned the jugs when he had a carton full of whistles"
(he was making water whistles)
In many case, the potter did not even produced himself the pipe whistles inserted into the water whistles. This work was made by women or old people of the village who earned so a small income.

The women play an important part in the history of making whistles. If turning a pottery is a very physical craft, modelling the whistles is a job that the potter's wifes or other women often carried out. This know-how to make whistle was transmitted from mother to daughters in some families who improve in this manner the income of their farm .
In the South-west of France, in the village of Sémézies-Cachan, two sisters became very skilful in making whistles. So, one sister, Justine Duprat, Larée wife, made two thousand whistles per year in the 1890s. She has carried her whistles to fire to the potter of the village of Saramon, a neighbour village until the closure of the kilns in this village near 1880.

In a more recent time, the old potters still remember such men who came one or twice per year in their workship for making or firing their cuckoos.
Nobody knew their names but they were often called the 'Father Cuckoo' or the 'Father Nightingale'.