October 19, 2019

The Monkeylore of Hartlepool

Yesterday, I posted about the geographical origin of my last name where I pondered which football club I would root for if I were in that location. I received a response telling me I should look into Hartlepool FC. Boy, was this a fun rabbit hole!

For starters, the team’s mascot was once elected mayor.

In the 2002 council election, the team’s mascot “H’Angus the Monkey”, aka Stuart Drummond, was elected mayor of Hartlepool as an independent, under the slogan “free bananas for schoolchildren”. Even though his candidacy was just a publicity stunt, Drummond has since been re-elected after throwing off his comedy image and identifying himself increasingly with the Labour group on the council.

And why is the team’s mascot a monkey in the first place? Both the team and the townspeople are known as “Monkey Hangers”, because according to one story an actual monkey was hanged back in the days of Napoleon. Olden times were wild.

According to local folklore, the term originates from an incident in which a monkey was hanged in Hartlepool, England. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship of the type chasse marée was wrecked in a storm off the coast of Hartlepool. The only survivor from the ship was a monkey, allegedly dressed in a French army uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding the monkey on the beach, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial; since the monkey was unable to answer their questions and because they had seen neither a monkey nor a Frenchman before, they concluded that the monkey must be a French spy. Being found guilty, the animal was duly sentenced to death and was summarily hanged on the beach.

There have since been numerous monkey references throughout the town, ranging from statues and numerous team mascots to song lyrics. I’ve never been to England, but if I do go, I’ll definitely have to make a stop in Hartlepool someday.