Hanging A Monkey: True Or Legend?

Kondoru

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Its distressing to think they might have hung a small boy.

People can be nasty but seafarers are often sympathetic with the shipwrecked; even if they are enemies, it might be them next time, after all.

Maybe they decided to give him a bit of a fright and ended up scaring him to death? That I can believe.
 

EnolaGaia

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Hartlepool's statue commemorating the hanged monkey story has become a focus of controversies - first whether the statue deserves some explanation lest it offend, and second whether the action supposedly agreed to provide such explanation is going to happen.

Here's the news story about the first ...
Hartlepool's monkey statue to be given 'explanatory sign' to avoid offending visitors

Council leaders in Hartlepool have decided a plaque must be placed on its famous monkey statue to explain its origins in case people are offended by it following the Black Lives Matter protests and scrutiny over statues.

The statue, at the town's marina, was placed there to represent a tale about a monkey which was mistaken for a French spy in the Napoleonic War and subsequently hanged.

Legend states that the animal was the only survivor of a shipwreck off the northeast coast of England and because the villagers had never seen a monkey before, they mistook it for a Frenchman and convicted it of being a spy. ...

There is a lot of debate about whether the event really happened. The first official telling of the story was thought to be in a song performed in 1855.

The Daily Telegraph has reported that a sign will be placed on the monument following conclusions in a report from June 2020 that it could be "misused by those with differing agendas to portray Hartlepool as unfriendly towards foreigners". ...
FULL STORY: https://news.sky.com/story/hartlepo...ory-sign-to-avoid-offending-visitors-12327668
 

EnolaGaia

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Meanwhile, and in contrast, here's the news story about the second controversy ...
Hartlepool council leader denies monkey statue explanatory sign

Hartlepool Council's leader has denied claims from his own authority that a monkey statue was to be given a sign explaining its background.

The statue represents a monkey that was said to have been mistaken for a French spy and hanged in the early 1800s. ...

But council leader Shane Moore said "no action needs to be nor will be taken". ...

But Mr Moore, who represents the Hartlepool Independent Union party, later wrote: "On a day when we should be celebrating Hartlepool being awarded the full £25m in Towns Deal money we are instead talking about how a statue of a monkey needs a sign to prove it isn't racist.

"In the morning I'll be reminding council officers that there was a decision taken last year by elected members that said no action needs to be nor will be taken in relation to our existing town street names and statues. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tees-57403460
 

EnolaGaia

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There may be another problem with this story relating to which monkey statue might or will be given an explanatory plaque. There are two statues in Hartlepool commemorating the hanged monkey story - the one at the Marina (illustrated in the news articles cited above) and another one erected as a monument on Hartlepool Headland.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_hanger
 

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But wait - there's more (controversy)!

As noted in passing within this thread's opening post, there's reason to believe the Hartlepool story is derivative - a later retelling of a story from elsewhere.
... And, despite the fact the story has stuck in the North East town, Hartlepool is not the only place where a washed-up monkey was said to have been hanged.
The most similar tale, from 1772, centres on Boddam, near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
Villagers supposedly hanged a monkey as it was the only survivor of a shipwreck - no survivors meant they could claim salvage rights.
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tees-40801937
 

EnolaGaia

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Here's a more detailed description of the case for Boddam being the source of the hanged monkey story.
The tale of the monkey hanged in the North East

It is a story that has lingered over a North East village for more than 200 years and even today people of Boddam don’t really like to talk about it.

It is a story that has lingered over a North East village for more than 200 years and even today people of Boddam don’t really like to talk about it.

So strong was the tale of the monkey hanged by local fishermen that it underpinned a long standing local feud ..., even until relatively recently. ...

It all began with a folk song written around 1800 which was based on a story long passed around this corner of Scotland.

The folk tale details how fishermen had climbed aboard a shipwrecked boat to strip it of cargo and material - only to find a monkey still on board. ...

Laws of the day allowed ‘wreckers’ to claim booty from stricken vessels, as long as no living soul remained on the boat.

When Boddam wreckers found the monkey, the animal ran up the mast - with the men then choosing to hang it.

While this cleared the way for the booty to be taken from the boat, some versions of the story claim that the fisherman didn’t know what the monkey was and believed it to be the devil.

The Boddamers Hung the Monkey-O is rarely sung in the North East now given the offence it causes, according to Fiona-Jane Brown, a North East historian and folklorist who studied the song, its roots and traditions.

Dr Brown said: “People in Boddam still hate the song and the story. They really despise it. You will hardly ever hear the Boddamer song sung at a folk club - unless people are playing it to be really silly.”

Despite the strength of feeling the song evokes, there appears to be little evidence of truth in the story behind the comic ballad.

The earliest versions of the song refer to a ship called Annie with a boat of the same name wrecked off the North East coast in 1772, Dr Brown said.

The historian also pointed to a 1674 act of the Scottish Court of Session which set out that “if any living thing survived on board a vessel cast ashore it could not be considered a wreck.” ...

In Hartlepool, music hall star Ned Corvan wrote a version which details how fisherman killed a monkey on a ship because they believed it was a French spy. ..

Dr Brown said: “The Hartlepool version is that they hung a monkey thinking it was a French spy, implying that the Hartlepool fishermen were completely ignorant and didn’t know what a Frenchman looked like.

“The Hartlepool people took it up. The folk have adopted it and turned it around, but it never happened in Boddam.” ...
FULL STORY: https://www.scotsman.com/regions/aberdeen-and-north-east/tale-monkey-hanged-north-east-2463985
 

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This 2009 article provides an even more detailed account of Fiona-Jane Brown's account of how the hanged monkey story traveled from Boddam to Hartlepool.
How monkey murder brought British coastal towns together

A less publicised monkey association, if one no less well known in the North-east of Scotland, stems from a folk song called The Boddamers hung the Monkey-O.

It describes how a monkey survived a shipwreck off the village of Boddam near Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. The villagers could only claim salvage rights if there were no survivors from the wreck, so they allegedly hung the monkey.

Fiona-Jane Brown, a folklorist at the University of Aberdeen's Elphinstone Institute, is carrying out research on the areas of belief and identity in North-east Scotland, the Outer Hebrides and mainland Shetland.

Aware of the link between the Aberdeenshire village and Hartlepool's own monkey-hanging myth, she decided to delve deeper into how each legend grew.

"The historical and cultural journey of the song is absolutely fascinating," she said. "The first mention of the Boddam legend can be dated back to 1772 when a shipweck of the Annie is said to have taken place on the Buchan coast, which is recalled in one version of The Boddamers Hung the Monkey-O song."

"That was followed by the Scottish ballad The Monkey Barber, which was published in 1825 in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The story centers on a barber's pet monkey who is mistaken by an Irish farmer for the barber himself and demands to be shaved."

The core of the song appeared to travel south, as just two years later a similar tale appeared in Allan's Tyneside Songs. Called The Sandhill Monkey, it tells of how a labourer mistakes a monkey for a local shopkeeper. That same year, a song about a baboon appeared in Thomas Armstrong's Newcastle Song Book.

And it is this ditty which is thought to have spawned the Hartlepool song, thus embedding the monkey myth in the local culture.

Fiona-Jane explained: "According to the urban legend, the Tyneside baboon was a pet of some Russian Cossacks who had visited the area during the Napoleonic Wars. They dressed the beast in uniform but it escaped and caused confusion among the locals."

Historians have suggested that the tale inspired Tyneside music hall star Ned Corvan to pen The Hartlepool Monkey song as part of his act around 1854.

But according to Fiona-Jane, Corvan's song also retained whole lines from the original Boddam version and used the same tune, The Tinkers' Waddin'.

She said: "The Baboon song was still very popular at the time, but it's likely that Corvan may have also toured in Scotland and heard the Boddam Monkey song, which was probably well-known amongst fishermen on both coasts.
FULL STORY: https://phys.org/news/2009-01-monkey-brought-british-coastal-towns.html
 

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