"The monkey swung from the gallows tall,
Hanged by those who did not know him at all."
The story of how the Fisherman of Hartlepool hung a monkey believing it to be a French spy.
During the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s, Britain and France were engaged in another major military conflict...In year 1807, a French ship was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool. Amongst the wreckage was the body of a monkey that belonged to the ship's now deceased captain.
The townspeople of Hartlepool, not being familiar with either monkeys or French for that matter, believed it to be a Frenchman who had survived the wreck. They brought the monkey before the local court and put it on trial for being a French spy. The monkey having something of a less than convincing defense and an inebriated jury, was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to hang.
The monkey was then hanged by the neck from a makeshift gallows. Only after the execution did the townspeople realize their mistake when informed by a local sailor that the 'Frenchman' they had hanged was in fact a primate and not by an stretch human.
The monkey still features prominently in Hartlepool's coat of arms and local nicknames to this day. Two major sports clubs in Hartlepool have incorporated the town's monkey hanging history into their nomenclature:
Hartlepool United Football Club - commonly referred to as "The Monkey Hangers". The club's official nickname is in reference to the infamous incident, and the team mascot is an primate named H'Angus the Monkey. Oh there is more to come!
Hartlepool Rovers Rugby club's logo features a monkey hanging from a noose, and they regularly refer to themselves in a self deprecating monkey related kind of way.
The use of "monkey" and "hanging" references in the names of these clubs shows how the townspeople have embraced their unusual history and turned it into a source of civic pride and dark humor. The nicknames have helped forge a strong sense of local identity for the sports teams.
The monkey hanging story has thus not only shaped Hartlepool's coat of arms and nicknames for its people, but also lives on through the names and mascots of two major local sports clubs. It remains an integral part of Hartlepool's culture and community spirit to this day...
Fast forward a few hundred years...Hartlepool United Football club's mascot H’Angus The Monkey runs for mayor of Hartlepool on a “FREE Bananas” for school children platform...and WINS! Then 4 years later WINS AGAIN!
A little more history.
During World War I and World War II, Hartlepool was heavily bombarded/bombed by the German navy and luftwaffe respectively, causing significant damage to the town and its population. A resilient bunch of folk to say the least.