Monday, June 20, 2016

The Monkey Mayor of Hartlepool

My friends in the UK were understandably curious about American politics.  In fact they are at least as puzzled as we are over the considerable disdain for establishment candidates.  They have some similar trends going on of course, some are already speaking of Boris Johnson as the British Donald Trump.

Interestingly two different conversations ended up discussing The Monkey Mayor of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool is a rather drab town on the East Coast of England.  One of its few claims to fame is that it was actually shelled by the German Navy in World War One.  The rest of Britain may not have been all that bothered by this, it seems Hartlepudlians are looked down on as being rather dim witted and narrow minded folk.  Sometimes they were even called the derogatory term "Monkey Hangers". More on that in a bit.

In 2002 a referendum had passed creating a new post of Mayor, replacing an earlier Council based system.  This was a solid Labour party district so the outcome was not considered doubtful. But an odd thing happened.

A certain Stuart Drummond was at that time the mascot for the Hartlepool United Football Club.  In his role as H'Angus the Monkey, he decided to run for Mayor as a publicity stunt. Other than to "put the piss up" a bit, as my UK friends describe it, his sole campaign promise was to provide free bananas to all school children.

Well, he rather looks the part of a successful politician...

Hey, you could do worse.  And in a startling rebuke to the complacent Labour Party Drummond/H'Angus won the election.

By all accounts he was a good Mayor.  He knew how to compromise on the banana issue, settling for increased fresh fruit in the school lunches.  He did nothing to embarrass himself or his constituents and won re-election twice.  In fact he is the best Mayor Hartlepool will ever have, being of course the first, and as it turns out the last.  Perhaps having learned a humbling lesson the powers that be found a way to eliminate the office and return to the old system. Personally I like sports mascots and find them several notches up in respectability as compared to most politicians.

Hartlepool is enjoying a bit of prosperity these days.  Probably H'Angus doesn't deserve credit for much beyond lightening the general mood. Oh yes, the "Origin Story" of H'Angus.

As they tell it* during the Napoleonic Wars a French ship ran onto the rocks off of Hartlepool. It broke up in the waves and there were no survivors. None that is except a monkey that had been dressed up in a French uniform, presumably for the amusement of the crew.  The good people of Hartlepool having never seen a Frenchman before convened a drum head trial on the beach.  The ship wrecked survivor being unable to deny accusations that he was a spy was hung on the spot!

*the story is probably nonsense having been in circulation earlier in the form of a popular song!
Later this week.  A village where things are not what they seem.  Also menacing shapes on the horizon.....

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