For the past 36 hours, Melbourne has been in the grip of seagull mania, and we’re as guilty as anyone.
We all knew the Great Seagull Frankston Train Incident was 99 per cent hoax, but sometimes a good story is a good story, and you just want to see where it runs. Yesterday morning, when we called Metro Trains spokesperson Sammie Black, we could almost see her rolling her eyes over the phone. The conversation was punctuated by a lot of deep sighing from Sammie, who wasn’t quite sure how the whole thing had blown up, or why everyone from Brown Cardigan to NY Mag had picked it up.
As the night wore on, the story got bigger, with triple j joining the speculation when an “eyewitness” told the national youth broadcaster he’d seen the whole thing, only it was in 2007, and “we didn’t have smart phones or anything back then”.
So full props to the team at Mashable Australia, who discovered that despite Sam-from-Melbourne’s radio claims, the whole thing was a joke. A really old joke, from Hey Hey It’s Saturday.
Generously describing Hey Hey as “Classic Australian TV”, Mashable uncovered a tweet that pointed out the story was suspiciously similar to a gag told on the show by the late Maurie Fields. The reporter contacted Fields’ son, Marty, to see if he could verify that his dad came up with the story.
"Circa 1989," confirmed Marty. "Slightly different form but effectively the same joke."
Despite this, Chris Harrigan, the online editor at Smith Journal whose Facebook post sparked the story yesterday, is standing by it. "The friend (of a friend) who told me the story finally broke his media silence yesterday afternoon [and] I have another friend who works for the public transport system who thinks he might be able to track down CCTV footage of the avian incident if I can give him a date," said Harrigan.
"I suppose the main thing I want to do is clear my name. Never in my 30 years have I been accused of watching Hey Hey It's Saturday. Understandably, I take such slanderous allegations very seriously," he added.
It’s possible this is the last we’ll hear of the story. But even if it turns out there’s more to it, the Frankston seagulls’ 15 minutes are probably up.