Friday, 7 October 2011

Monkey News (NZ528338)

With apologies to natives of Hartlepool, who must be heartily sick of the tale…

The Fishermen Hung the Monkey, Oh!

During the Napoleonic Wars the sole survivor of a wrecked French ship – an innocent monkey – was supposedly washed ashore at Hartlepool.  He was promptly hung by the local fishermen for fear of him being a spy.  The story was captured in song by Tyneside artist Ned Corvan in the 1860s.  Many versions of the song prevail – here is one.

In former times ‘mid war an’ strife,
When French invasion threaten’d life,
An’ all was arm’d up te the knife,
The fishermen hung the monkey, Oh!
The fishermen wi’ courage high,
They seiz’d the monkey for a spy,
Hang him, says yen; says another, he’ll die,
They did, an’ they hung the monkey, oh!

They tried ivery means to myek him speak,
They tortured the monkey tiv he loud did squeak,
Say yen that’s French, another it’s Greek,
For the fishermen they got drunkey, oh!
He’s all ower hair sum cheps did cry,
E’en up te summic cut and sly,
Wiv a cod’s head then they closed an eye,
Afore they hung the monkey, oh!

Some the monkey’s fate they did bewail,
For all the speechless pug had his tail (tale),
He’d be better off i’ Durham jail,
For the monkey wis tornin’ funkey, oh!
They said he myed sum curose mugs,
When they shaved his heed an’ cut off his lugs,
Sayin’ that’s the game for French humbugs,
Afore they hung the monkey, oh!

Hammer his ribs the thunnerin’ thief,
Pummel his pyet weel wi’ yor neef,
He’s landed there for nobbit grief,
He’s aud Napoleon’s unkey, oh!
Thus to the monkey all hands behaved,
Cut off his whiskers one chep raved,
Another bawled oot he’s niver been shaved,
So they commenc’d to scrape the monkey, oh!

They put him on a gridiron hot,
The monkey then quite lively got,
He rowl’d his eyes tiv a’ the lot,
For the monkey agyen turned funkey, oh!
Then a fisherman up te monkey goes,
Saying hang him at yence, an’ end his woes,
But the monkey flew at him and bit off his nose,
An’ that raised the poor man’s monkey, oh!

Now let us hope that iver at sea,
We’ll still maintain sovereignty,
May France and England lang agree,
An’ niver at each other git funkey, oh!
As regards poor Pug, aa’ve had me say,
His times they’ve past for mony a day,
But in Hartlepool noo, thoo’ll hear them say:
Whe hung the monkey, oh?

[Note:   Nobbit - nothing but;   funkey - in a passion]

The fame of the Hartlepool monkey was spread nationwide by Hartlepool Rovers’ rugby team who, during the 1890s, adopted a stuffed monkey as a mascot and hung it from the crossbar before each match.


  1. Good story Mick. A few years ago I went to a re-enactment day at Hartlepool, on the harbour. I think it is still held on the Saturday nearest Trafalgar day towards the end of October. It is a great day out and commemorates the great sea battle of 1805 in a loose sort of way. At one point the French lads sail in and attack the English having successfully landed.The melee that follows is great to watch.
    On my visit one of the Frenchies was hanged. He was supposed to be the famous 'monkey'. Really 'realistic' as the poor lad actually turned blue. In truth they had to cut him down quickly as he was actually beginning to choke. Do you know if this 'day' at Hartlepool is still going. I think the re-enactment societies were the 'Sealed Knot' and the 'Border Reivers'. It was superb fun.

  2. Great little tale, neblessclem - that would have been some manslaughter case! I am not aware of any annual celebration - maybe the one you witnessed was the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar? Unless any locals out there know different?