This composition by saxophonist Alan Wilkinson is not the first song to be written about the Hartlepool Monkey, but it is surely the most charming. It is based on a tale of doubtful provenance.
The story goes that some time during the Napoleonic Wars between 1803 and 1815, a French ship was wrecked off the coast of the town of Hartlepool in the North East of England. The only "member of the crew" to survive was the ship's mascot, a monkey. At that time, no one in Hartlepool had seen either a monkey or a Frenchman, so the animal was hanged as a spy! In this song, the monkey is hanged in the town square; originally it was said to have been hanged on the beach.
The story may have been inspired by "The Baboon," an 1825 song based on the true visit of a baboon to Tyneside with some Cossacks, but it was not until 1855 that the first song about the actual Hartlepool Monkey
was written, by Ned Corvan, a comic songwriter who was no stranger to the North East. Having said that, in 2009, folkorist Fiona-Jane Brown suggested the legend originated in the village of Boddam near Peterhead in 1772 for a pragmatic reason.
Whatever, it was a hit in Hartlepool, especially with the football club which adopted it as its mascot, and in 2002, Stuart Drummond, the man who played H'Angus The Monkey, was elected mayor!
Alexander Baron - London, England