EXACTLY 150 years ago this week, the Echo’s sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times, was telling of the “death of the giant policeman”, as its headline said.

“Richard Meek, who was formerly a member of the Durham County Constabulary, and who was stationed at the Felling, died on Friday last at Yetholm, near Kelso. The deceased was well known as the tallest policeman in the kingdom, his height being 6ft 10ins in his stocking feet. He was incapacitated for duty two years ago owing to being consumptive, and with the view of improving his health, he went to Yetholm, where he died. The deceased was 30 years of age, and was married.”

In 2011, the Daily Mirror reported that Britain’s tallest policeman was 7ft 2in PC Anthony Wallyn, of the Metropolitan Police.

Loading article content

Down at Croft Spa station, which was actually in Hurworth Place to the south of Darlington, there was an unexpected delivery.

“On the arrival of the government train from the south at Croft, on Wednesday night, a woman named Conolly, booked from Leeds to Ferryhill, was found to be in Labour. The stationmaster, Mr Atkinson, had her removed at once into the ladies’ first class waiting room, and there, in less than ten minutes, she was delivered of a fine male child. The woman, her infant, and the four children were afterwards removed to private lodgings.”

The real reason we were flicking through old papers from 150 years ago was in the hope of finding more on the amazing story we told last week, of how in late May 1867, six marmosets had been found dead in a garden pond in Yarm. We hoped that the following week’s paper would provide an explanation of the mystery monkey massacre.

Disappointingly, there was none. Instead, there was news of “one of the most extraordinary circumstances ever heard of in this country” – which is a very brave assertion – which had taken place in Belper, Derbyshire, where three gorillas had escaped from their caravan at Mr Manders’ travelling menagerie.

They could not be coaxed down from the roof of the caravan, so Mr Manders ordered a blank shot be fired over their heads. This had the desired effect as they leapt to ground via the elephant wagon but, with the crowd scattering, they headed off on the road to Derby, with Mr Manders giving pursuit on his pony.

“Riding alongside the first animal, which displayed its molars in a threatening manner, Mr Manders administered a crushing blow with a large bar of iron gas tubing across its loins, causing it to drop instantly,” said the D&S.

The second gorilla was stunned by a well-aimed stone, while the third was skilfully lassooed on the outskirts of Derby.

“It is a matter of congratulation that after all these stirring scenes were enacted without the slightest injury to any person, and we may add that anew flooring of a more substantial character having been laid down in the caravan, the three runaways were consigned to their old quarters,” said the D&S.