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The Earl, his monkey and the policeman

Michael William Coplestone Dillon Onslow, better known to you all as the 7th Earl of Onslow. At first I was going to say, "No, I'd never heard of him either", but as my research progressed a small bell started to tinkle in the recesses. Having to look him up I remembered that I'd heard his name mentioned back in the day as he had been a member of the House of Lords. Apparently he had been a thorn in the side of both the two main parties and was noted for his flamboyant persona.

The reason I had cause to look him up was due to a curious and quaint incident that happened in 1962 when Onslow was still Viscount Cranley. Something of a man about town and possibly slightly eccentric he was gainfully employed as an underwriter at Lloyd's of London, the famous insurers.

One morning Mikey boy decided that he would brighten everybody's working day at Lloyd's by taking his pet monkey into work with him. Parking his van (yes, a van) outside of Moorgate underground station he opened the back doors to clip a lead onto the collar of George, for that was the monkey's name. However George had other ideas and promptly escaped, running into the crowd of people using the station and then disappears into the

wasteland next to the station that was to become the Barbican Estate. What happened next is a rather amusing snapshot of how the upper classes were still viewed with deference in the mid to late twentieth century.

Area around Moorgate Circa 1960

The vexed Viscount dials 999 and reports the escaped monkey to the operator. Apparently within five minutes he is joined by three uniformed officers, and Christopher Cook, Moorgate's station-master who commence a search of the last known whereabouts of George (I'm sure the same would happen today).

Spotting him, they begin a a pursuit that lasts nearly an hour, chasing George around the fringes of the City, before he manages to gain access to Aldersgate underground station (Now known as Barbican) and gets himself onto platform level. All the trains are immediately halted and the power isolated.

Aldersgate station platforms Circa 1960

George's would be captors descend down onto the platform and slowly inch their way towards the monkey, but the elusive George stays just out of reach, that is until he runs out of platform. Realising that he's cornered, George makes a desperate attempt for freedom and legs it along the remaining bit of platform with PC Francis MacAfee in hot pursuit. As reported in the Daily Herald the policeman, "Brought the monkey down with a flying rugby tackle" (Given George's size perhaps a bit overly dramatic). Having had his collar well and truly felt by Plod, George is handed back to his now ecstatic if out of breath owner.

The incident made the inner pages of the Daily Herald with no comment whatsoever. No Toff bashing, no animal welfare issues, no Health and Safety concerns, no moaning commuters and no mention of the use of police resources. Simpler times perhaps?

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