The greatest story ever told (…involving Hartlepool)

What’s the greatest story ever told? No, don’t even start with the life of Christ or something.

Is it that monkey that got left at IKEA? The guy that got a selfie with a plane hijacker? Yesterday, when Rod Stewart apologised for staging a mock beheading? Nope. All wrong.

The greatest story ever told is the one about the monkey that became mayor in Hartlepool. But it’s even better than that.

I remember in A Level politics we were studying elections. It was mostly all boring (like all politics am I right lads) but one subject was great – how the public can be very dumb and stupid. Can’t think of any examples from the last twelve months though.

This was way back before the days of Boaty McBoatface and so on. But even then we had Mister Splashy Pants – a whale with a stupid name picked by an online poll via Greenpeace. But the star of this show is H’Angus the Monkey.

H’Angus is the official mascot of Hartlepool United FC (for reasons we’ll get into later). His career started off in the typical football mascot trajectory – appearing at games, getting embroiled in the occasional sexual assault scandal, and so on. So it was no surprise that in 2002, H’Angus decided to run for mayor.

Yup, H’Angus the football monkey mascot ran for mayor. And he won.

There’s actually a note made of this in the official Parliament papers. These include another great fact: in the same elections, someone ran as ‘Robocop’ in Middlesborough and also won. Isn’t democracy great?

Of course, H’Angus was really just a front for Independent-runner Stuart Drummond. Drummond is no longer the mayor of Hartlepool, though he was until the city decided to abolish the post entirely – presumably because they had literally voted in a cartoon monkey.

But why the monkey anyway? This is where the story gets EVEN BETTER.

Hartlepudlians are sometimes referred to as ‘monkey hangers’. This is due a local legend that I’ll just steal from Wikipedia now:

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 off the coast of Hartlepool. The only survivor was a monkey, allegedly wearing a French uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding the monkey, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial on the beach; 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 was in fact a French spy. Being found guilty the animal was duly sentenced to death and hanged on the beach.

Some highlights:

  • There was a monkey onboard a warship. Why would there be a monkey on a ship during war time? To entertain the crew? I’m not buying that.
    Was it some kind of exotic cargo? Was he a crew member, perhaps trained to perform tasks on deck?
    Sadly, we will never have answers to these questions.
  • The monkey was the ONLY SURVIVOR. Like how resilient was this monkey? What were the circumstances that led to every sentient human being dying, but this dumb beast staying alive? Was he involved in the wrecking of the ship? Was it an inside-job? Perhaps he grew sick of being a pet and George Bush’d the whole thing.
  • “because they had seen neither a monkey nor a Frenchman before, they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French spy”
    That is the greatest part of the whole story.

“Oi what’s this ugly, hairy thing?”
“Dunno! I’ve never seen nothing like it.”
“Must be one of those Frenchies.”
“Looks more like some kind of animal to me.”
“Nah, he’s all hairy and he stinks. Definitely a frenchie.

  • Giving the monkey a trial. On the beach.
    Like did they set up benches? Was there a judge? Why would they go to the effort of all that? You’d realise pretty quickly that he wouldn’t be able to stand trial.
    Of course, if you’re gonna hang a monkey, I guess you’d wanna give it a fair trial. But I just can’t picture the circumstances in any way that sounds at all plausible.
  • Just the fact they hung him for being a spy is incredibly ridiculous.

And YES, there’s theories that the story originated from an old celtic song, or that the monkey was just a ‘powder monkey’ – the term for a small child who ran gunpowder for the ship’s cannons. But I don’t want my story spoiled.

The people of Hartlepool don’t seem to mind. They’ve got a memorial for him on the beach now.

So RIP french monkey spy I guess. His memory lives on in a football mascot disrespectfully called H’Angus, and a mayoral election so absurd they stopped having mayors forever.

And THAT, is the greatest story ever told.

Disagree with me: