“IT seems incredible to me in this day and age but, in the early 1960s, when I was a small child, we lived in Scarborough where Boyes has a large department store and on the second or third floor, in the haberdashery department, all along one wall there were large cages which were occupied by monkeys!” says Simon Weatherill, who now lives in Northallerton, and saw last week’s appeal for monkey-related stories.

“We used to make regular visits to the store, and while mum was stocking up with material, zips, buttons etc, my sister and I would visit the monkeys.”

It does seem incredible – but it is true. Boyes was founded in Scarborough in 1881 as a remnant warehouse – some people on the North Yorkshire coast still fondly know it as “the rem” – and it now has nearly 70 stores across the north and east of England.

Only Scarborough, though, seems to have had monkeys as an attraction for customers – also in the cages were chipmunks and budgies.

The last two monkeys were called Jacko and Dinah and were in residence into the 1970s.

In 2012, the Scarborough News was told by a long-standing member of Boyes staff: “Jacko was very strong and real bad tempered. Once, he ran across the top floor, wrecking the place, and threw a big prim off a plinth. Eventually he was sedated with a dart.”

The Northern Echo: Echo memories - top picture shows a photograph published in the Northern Despatch when it reported the opening of South Park aviaries in February 1936

The opening of the aviary in South Park in 1936

OUR interest in monkey-related stories was sparked by an informant who though he remembered a monkey being kept as a pet in a cage behind Cockerton Green in the 1950s (Memories 541).

However, our correspondent now wonders whether his memory is playing tricks and he might have seen the simian chappie in Darlington’s South Park.

Three monkeys were indeed donated to South Park in 1904. During the summer, they lived in the aviary with a pair of African kites, but in the winter, they were moved to a greenhouse where they lived with 14 canaries.

At least one of the monkeys lived into the 1930s, because we have reports of it being over-friendly with the rabbits and suffocating them to death.

There is also a story that the last monkey choked to death on a cigarette - we don't think it was smoking, but, sadly, it chewed on a dogend thrown into the cage.

It seems that the monkeys had gone by the time the aviary was rebuilt in its existing position in 1936. This time it had a new feature: a penguin pool. A couple of African penguins were acquired, and at least one of them – known variously as Joe, Percy and Peter, and not known to trouble the rabbits – lived into the 1960s.

The Northern Echo: Echo memories - South Park - Peter the Penguin in his enclosure in South Park with the Fothergill Gountain through the cage door in the background

Above: Peter the Park Penguin in the avaries in South Park, taken by Harry Challis who, for five years at the beginning of the 1950s, was the parky in charge of the animals. Poor Peter was a sad, lonely penguin when his partner passed away and in his last years he had trouble eating. Harry started each day by cycling to Atkins’ wet fish shop in Blackwellgate and buying half a pound of fresh fish for Peter. He’d cycle it to the aviary on the basket on the front of his basket. Because of Peter’s eating difficulties, Harry had to open the penguin’s beak and slide the fish down his neck. “It liked herring best, but ate whatever it got,” said Harry

BUT monkeys were kept as pets back then. Last week, we told of Gillian Wales’ very painful encounter with a monkey that was kept on a farm at Wingate in the 1950s.

Now Steve Walton reports: “Back in the late 1960s, a group of us were coming back from Richmond one night on our motor bikes and one of us got a puncture just outside Barton on what was the old A1.

“We ended up at Burn Bros Transport in Barton, which is the building next to the Half Moon pub only it is now minus its roof.

“The fitter let us use the workshop to repair the bike and they had a pet monkey fastened up in the workshop tea cabin.”

INDEED, monkeys have long been kept as pets. In 1274, Bishop Robert de Insula kept two in Auckland Castle "to drive away his cares".

After dinner, he would keep the older monkey in its cage while the younger one was encouraged onto the table to stuff its face with almonds. Then the older one was released. The two monkeys fought, usually resulting in the older one winning. It would then pick the almonds out of the younger monkey's mouth and eat them "amid roars of laughter proceeding from the Bishop and his guests".

SO do you have any monkey memories or stories? From Boyes to Barton, from Scarborough to South Park, we’d love to hear them. And what about penguins in parks? Please tell…