A Little Irish Monkey Business…and More at Home

Dear Reader:

I love historical stories with a fun twist and last Sunday as Tommy, Kaitlyn, and I were eating our brunch/lunch….Tommy was checking the beer selection and commented to Kaitlyn…he wondered if they had Tojo Pale Ale. Kaitlyn laughed and I knew there was a story behind this beer…and there was…a great WWII saga! Music to this trivia history teacher’s ears.

After reading several samples of Tojo the monkey…I thought this version of the story had the most complete re-telling.

“The Monkey Who Dropped in for a Drink” (BBC)

A flying monkey with a taste for rum is to have a permanent memorial in an Irish town.

Tojo dropped in to the County Cork seaside town of Clonakilty during the Second World War when a US bomber had to land nearby.

On board with Tojo were 10 crewmen and a supply of rum.

The plane, christened T’Ain’t a Bird, landed on 7 April 1943 after running low on fuel (a misleading radio report threw them off course.)

Local businessman Thomas Tupper has grown up with the story of Tojo and how he came to be in Clonakilty. It is an interesting tale.

“An American Flying Fortress on its way to Britain from the southern states of America crossed the Atlantic from south America and on their way they picked up a monkey as a mascot,” he said.

“They actually circled the town here in Clonakilty at midday when everyone was having their dinner and this enormous plane, it must have seemed like a space ship, was flying low around the town.

“People were terrified it might knock the spire off one of the churches. It headed out towards the sea and landed on a marsh.”

The airmen who initially thought they had landed in German-occupied Norway were armed and preparing to take the cyanide tablets in their possession until they were reassured that they were on friendly soil.

A crowd gathered as they were taken into custody by local police.

“The custody consisted of them being in a local hotel where a party ensued for three days,” he said.

Irish Welcome

The visitors provided some welcome relief and excitement to the war-rationed residents of Clonakilty.

During their stay, the US airmen were able to reciprocate the warm Irish welcome they had received by sharing their 36 bottles of rum with their hosts and Tojo.

After several days, the crew was taken to Cork before they were driven from the neutral Irish Republic into Northern Ireland where they were handed over to the RAF.

But one very important primate was missing when the the airmen left the west Cork town.

Tojo had taken too much of a liking to the rum and other beverages.

“The efforts of local doctors, chemists, and vets failed to save the monkey and Tojo died of pneumonia,” said Mr Tupper.

“It was a great tragedy and people lined up and queued to see the dead monkey laid out on a sheet in a bed upstairs in the hotel.”

Tojo was buried in soil at the back of the hotel, which has since been flattened out and built over.

“No-one ever dug him up. His little bones are still there, under the floorboards of the dance hall,” Ms O’Donovan said.

Ms O’Donovan’s father Thomas and his sister Bernie ran the hotel when the American visitors arrived.

Tojo had made a lasting impression during his short stay and was given a funeral, with full military honors.

On Sunday, a statue of the unusual visitor who became a local legend will be unveiled in Clonakilty. (April 7, 2013)

Kaitlyn took this photo of Tommy beside the famous O’Donovan hotel and the Tojo statue while they were honeymooning in Ireland last May.

*… And as if that isn’t enough monkey business the stuffed monkey I gave Nala when she was a baby…(Anne said her favorite toy)…came to a sad end about a week ago. In this case, closer to home, it wasn’t the “demon” rum that took the monkey but Nala…who, literally, loved the stuffing out of the monkey.

So until tomorrow…Love never dies a natural death…but it is dramatic to the end…because it never ends.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh







About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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