Monday, October 23, 2006

Walesfact No.3: The Monkey Myth

There are cartoonists who make an entire career out of saying President Bush looks like a chimp - and fair enough, as his policies are clearly uncontroversial.

Blokes hanging around pub doorways in Beaumaris often hop up and down like stoats and say "At least us Welsh proper helected a monkey, innit?" But that's where they're wrong.

No Good Boyo takes its mission to explain seriously, and that's why we the editorial staff do not flinch from reporting the truth no matter how unflattering it always is to Wales and the Welsh.

In this case, the maip are usually talking about Sir Arthur Jermyn Bt, a barbary ape allegedly elected to the House of Commons to represent Hawarden in the Unionist interest in 1895.

Sir Arthur indeed campaigned vigorously up and down most of the dense shrubbery and rocky outcrops of the constituency in a closely-contested poll, scoring a number of telling points against his Liberal opponent with only occasional recourse to dung (see photo of his public meeting at Overton market).

Many commentators, not least the editor of the Flintshire Echo, thought both county and country were ready for change, but it was not to be. The Liberal agent argued that the Acts of Emancipation did not free apekind to stand for the Commons, despite the dispensation for the Irish and Jews, and the Crown Court regrettably in Chester found in his favour.

Hawarden remained Liberal, and Sir Arthur retired to the family estate at Penarlag, where he busied himself with laying out the splendid gardens we still see today and trashing the library. An attempt to coax him into standing as the Plaid candidate for the Welsh Universities seat came to nought, although his stint as principal of St David's College, Carmarthen, has entered the annals of Church, gown and the BBC Natural History Unit.

The London street was named after his grandfather, the first in the family to wear a shirt.


Gorilla Bananas said...

A real ape wouldn't have accepted a knighthood. I turned one down before returning to the Congo.

No Good Boyo said...

Quite right, Gorilla mun, I admire the rude meritocracy of the ape. Sir Arthur, however, had the "Sir" as part of his courtesy title as a Baronet from birth, and was never knighted. Much as Gracie Fields acquired her "Our", and Alun Michael his "That Twat".