The Hartlepool Monkey

Album: Travelling The Tees (1971)

Songfacts®:

  • 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! >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

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