As I was paying for goods in Jo-Ann's this weekend I ended up having the strangest conversation with the checkout assistant.
She'd noticed that I was British and mentioned that a friend of hers had a similar accent. When I enquired where this friend was from she couldn't recall but knew it was the place where they 'Hung The Monkey'. I had to giggle, what a strange response.
Naturally I was confused but intrigued. I honestly thought the woman may have got her wires crossed but strangely enough, after searching online, I found a place called Hartlepool where legend has it that they did in fact hang a monkey!
The story goes that during the Napoleonic Wars the British feared a French invasion and were concerned about the possibility of French infiltrators and spies. In amongst this fear the fishermen of Hartlepool kept a close watch on a French vessel as it struggled against the storm but when the vessel was severely battered and sunk they turned their attention to the wreckage washed ashore. Among the wreckage lay one wet and sorrowful looking survivor, the ship's pet monkey dressed to amuse in a military style uniform.
The fishermen apparently questioned the monkey and held a beach-based trial. Unfamiliar with what a Frenchman looked like they came to the conclusion that this monkey was a French spy and should be sentenced to death. The unfortunate creature was to die by hanging, with the mast of a fishing boat (a coble) providing a convenient gallows.
Isn't it funny the things you learn through random conversations with people?