February 19, 2014

Who hung the monkey?

While the War of 1812 dragged on in North America, people in Europe were forced to endure a much longer conflict. During the Napoleonic Wars, many in the United Kingdom were living in fear of a French invasion. One town on the coast, Hartlepool, faced the possibility of an invasion when a French ship was wrecked off shore and a lone survivor washed up on the beach.
Hanging the Hartlepool monkey

The lone survivor turned out to be the ship’s pet monkey dressed in a military uniform. The fishermen who discovered the survivor proceeded to interrogate the monkey in an effort to find out its true intensions. Being unable to acquire relevant information, the fishermen deemed the monkey to be a spy, since they had no idea what a Frenchman looked like. A quick trial was held on the beach and the monkey was sentenced to death. The mast of a fishing boat was turned into gallows and the unfortunate survivor was hanged. 

Naturally, the story’s authenticity has been questions over the years but that did not prevent Hartlepool’s neighbours from criticizing the town with the taunt “Who hung the monkey?” Even today the Hartlepool United Football Club often hears the taunt but it has been embraced by Hartlepool as part of its history. This story even helped the local mayor win election in 2002 as he dressed in a H’Angus the Monkey costume. 

There is also a darker version to this story. Some say that the monkey may have been a young boy since young boys served on warships moving gun powder, referred to as a powder monkey. There is also a song attached to this story, see below, that tells of the incident. 

After learning more about the Hartlepool monkey, do you believe it?  


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