The Hanging of the Hartlepool Monkey

by Ben Johnson

Legend has it that during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, a shipwrecked monkey was hanged by the people of Hartlepool, believing him to be a French spy! To this day, people from Hartlepool are affectionately known as ‘monkey hangers’.

A French ship was spotted floundering and sinking off the Hartlepool coast. Suspicious of enemy ships and nervous of possible invasion, the good folk of Hartlepool rushed down to the beach, where amongst the wreckage of the ship they found the only survivor, the ship’s monkey which was apparently dressed in a miniature military-style uniform.

Hartlepool is a long way from France and most of the populace had never met, or even seen, a Frenchman. Some satirical cartoons of the time pictured the French as monkey-like creatures with tails and claws, so perhaps the locals could be forgiven for deciding that the monkey, in its uniform, must be a Frenchman, and a French spy at that. There was a trial to ascertain whether the monkey was guilty of spying or not; however, not unsurprisingly, the monkey was unable to answer any of the court’s questions and was found guilty. The townsfolk then dragged him into the town square and hanged him.

So is the legend true? Did the good folk of Hartlepool REALLY hang a poor defenceless monkey?

There could perhaps be a darker side to the tale – maybe they didn’t actually hang a ‘monkey’ but a small boy or ‘powder-monkey’. Small boys were employed on warships of this time to prime the canons with gunpowder and were known as ‘powder-monkeys’.

Over the centuries the legend has been used to taunt the residents of Hartlepool; indeed still today, at football matches between local rivals Darlington and Hartlepool United the chant, “Who hung the monkey” can often be heard. Most Hartlepudlians however love this story. Hartlepool United’s mascot is a monkey called H’Angus the Monkey, and the local Rugby Union team Hartlepool Rovers are known as the Monkeyhangers.

The successful mayoral candidate in the 2002 local elections, Stuart Drummond, campaigned dressed in the costume of H’Angus the Monkey, using the election slogan “free bananas for schoolchildren”, a promise he was unfortunately unable to keep. However this appears not to have dented his popularity, as he went on to be re-elected two more times.

Whatever the truth, the legend of Hartlepool and the hanged monkey has endured for over 200 years.


Source: The Hanging of the Hartlepool Monkey

Scot snaps pic of ancient Orkney settlement older than Great Pyramid of Giza

A Scottish photographer has shared a snap of the “absolutely spectacular” neolithic Skara Brae settlement on Orkney, and it has a fascinating history dating back further than the Egyptian pyramids

A Scots photographer has snapped an incredible picture of an ancient settlement on Orkney that is older that Great Pyramid of Giza.

By Alexander Smail

Jimmy Ireland shared this photo of the “absolutely spectacular” Skara Brae. The stone-built Neolithic settlement is located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of the largest island in the Orkney archipelago. The once-thriving village is said to be the best-preserved group of prehistoric houses in the whole of Western Europe.

Skara Brae dates back to around 3000BC, making it older than Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids. It is part of The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Over the years, a number of artefacts have been discovered at the site. These include gaming dice, hand tools, pottery and jewelery.

Other notable features of Skara Brae include stone hearths, beds, and cupboards. There is even a primitive drainage system that is thought to have carried waste to the ocean.

Taking to the Scotland from the Roadside Facebook group, Jimmy uploaded the stunning photo and wrote: “Words can’t describe how fantastically amazing this place is.

“It’s a must see, if it isn’t on your bucket list. Why not?”

He added: “The absolutely spectacular Neolithic Skara Brae is located in Skail Bay, Orkney. At over 5,000 years young it is older than the Great Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, people lived at Skara Brae for over 600 years from 3100BC to 2500BC.

“In the distance Skail House, home to William Graham Watt, 7th Laird of Breckness whom following a storm in 1850 discovered what was and still is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of our time.”

Since being posted, the photo has hundreds of likes from fellow Facebook users. Dozens of people have also left comments sharing their thoughts on the “interesting” site.

One wrote: “Orkney in general is a great visit. You can’t throw a stick without hitting something ancient.”

“Such an interesting place to visit,” said a second, while a third commented: “Yes it is a great site to visit.”

Another shared: “Was on my bucket list, finally got to go there with my wife this year. The best birthday treat I’ve ever had.”

Jimmy runs a Facebook page called O Flower of Scotland, where he shares his “passion for Scotland, its history, and scenery”.

When outlaw and folk hero James Macpherson was hanged

Robert MacPherson
Robert MacPherson

He is described as Scotland’s answer to Robin Hood – an outlaw and freebooter who shared the spoils of his thieving campaign against the gentry with the poor of the north.

On November 16 2018, a form of justice finally caught up with James Macpherson whose life and death has become the stuff of legend and lore. Reportedly the son of a Highland laird and a gypsy woman, Macpherson is remembered as a man of magnificent stature, strength and intellect who could handle a sword as expertly as he could play a fiddle.

Some accounts record him as the leader of a band of caterans, or cow thieves, as well as a legitimate horse trader. His story was so rich that it caught the attention of Sir Walter Scott with Robert Burns rewriting a lament composed by Macpherson in the run up to his death.

On November 16, 1700, Macpherson was hung from the clocktower at Banff with foul play surrounding events that led him to the scaffolds.

His downfall was executed by his enemy-in-chief, Lord Duff of Braco, who had become increasingly incensed by the antics of the outlaw’s armed posse who were increasingly brazen in their deeds, often marching into towns on market day. Sometimes, they would be led by a piper. Macpherson was captured on two occasions, once in Inverness and another in Aberdeen before being finally seized in an operation executed by Lord Braco in the autumn of 1700 at the St Rufus Fair in Keith. One of the posse was killed when fighting broke out with Macpherson captured after a woman threw a piece of rug over him from an upstairs window. He was tried in Banff by Sheriff Nicholas Dunbar, a friend of Lord Braco, and was condemned to hang for the crimes of purse cutting, theft – and of being an Egyptian or gypsy.

Lord Braco, on hearing that a lone rider was approaching from Turriff with a reprieve, had the town clock turned forward by 15 minutes to ensure the execution went ahead. Before his death, Macpherson apparently mounted the scaffold at Banff to play a fiddle tune that he had composed in his cell. When finished, he offered the fiddle to the crowd which had gathered – but no one dared to accept. He then smashed his instrument and dropped it at his feet, with the remnants on display at the Clan Macpherson Museum in Newtonmore.

The tune said to have been played ahead of his execution is widely known as Macpherson’s Rant or Macpherson’s Lament. Robert Burns later used it as the basis Macpherson’s Farewell. Those involved in moving the clock forward were punished, and for many years afterwards the clock was kept fifteen minutes fast, as a reminder of Macpherson’s killing. Some time after 1839, the faces of the clocktower were removed from Banff and rehoused in the newly built Dufftown tower. It is known locally as ‘the clock that hung Macpherson’. [ . . . ]

Nicked from THE SCOTSMAN: When outlaw and folk hero James Macpherson was hanged – The Scotsman