The Hartlepool budgie which said 'howay' and the dog which served crisps in a famous town pub

A Geordie budgie, an eel which liked titbits and a kitten with two heads? It all makes up an intriguing part of Hartlepool’s past.

Sunday, 17th July 2022, 4:55 am

Historian Graeme Harper is at it again.

He also told us about the 6,000 year old toad found alive, the six-sided crocodile fish and the Greatham woman accused of witchcraft.

Pets of all varieties have made the news in Hartlepool.

Now he has another fascinating read for us – all about pets of all shapes, sizes and characters in town.

Up until its closure in the 1990s trip to town was complete without a visit to Walton’s pet shop on York Road. Its array of fish, birds and small

mammals proved an irresistible attraction to any passing animal lover.

But over the years some Hartlepool pet owners have demonstrated a taste for a more unusual domestic companion.

Waltons pet shop in York Road.

In April 1918, a West Hartlepool woman had a pet eel called Jack that had died at the grand old age of 20. According to an article in a regional newspaper at the time, the eel recognised its name when it was called and would often come out of the water to be petted or for titbits of food.

It would glide from its bed of shells and pebbles to the surface.

Even more unusual was the animal taken home by a father and son in December 1936. They had gone to gather sea coal but came away with a five-foot seal which was chilling in a bathtub back at the family home.

Another pet with a difference was Jimmy the jackdaw. Jimmy was injured when Kenneth Taylor from Owton Manor found him in the 1950s.

The curious case of the chickens which were stolen from a police officer.

But Jimmy was carefully nurtured back to health and after three years of loving care, Kenneth and Jimmy made the Northern Daily Mail headlines.

An unusual incident occurred In November 1921 when a local policeman was on his morning beat.

When he got to some allotments, he noticed a large number of feathers scattered on the ground. The suspicious copper followed the trail until it took him to his own garden, when it dawned on him that it was his own precious chickens that had been stolen.

A further trail of feathers – and blood – led to a house where a suspicious pile of chicken bones was found in the fire and two freshly cooked birds sat on the kitchen table. Four local men were subsequently charged with theft, with two of them being sent to prison.

Jimmy the jackdaw who was nursed back to health in Hartlepool.

More traditional pets such as cats and dogs are perennially popular.

In June 1890 the Northern Daily Mail reported on a remarkable cat that belonged to John Donovan of the Fish Quay – a kitten with two heads and eight legs. ‘The freak of nature is lively and doing well and the mother being much more attached to this than the other members of her family.’

An extraordinary canine was the subject of a Northern Daily Mail article in May 1951. Jen – a golden retriever – was owned by Mr and Mrs Marshall who claimed it was ‘probably the most intelligent dog in the north of England.’

Jen was a pub regular and enjoyed visits to Hartlepool boxer Teddy Gardener’s Victoria Hotel where it was trained to take customers’s orders for crisps.

According to the article Jen had other talents too,’ her master will hide a £1 note, a 10s note and a diary about the house and tell her to return them in that order. It is done in a trice.

"He will casually remark that he needs a light for a cigarette and Jen seizes a piece of scrap paper and lays it in his lap.’ The dog also had a habit of finding other stray orphaned animals and rearing them as her own.

The fish tanks inside Waltons.

Another talented pet was the stray budgie adopted in October 1954 by Mrs Clarke of York Road. The bird had been found by her brother whilst he was working on a ship making its way to Poole on the South coast.

The bird soon settled in its new home and began to find its voice – a voice that quickly gave a cue to its origins. ‘He’s certainly a Geordie ‘Mrs. Clarke told the Northern Daily Mail. He says ‘’howway’’ and ‘’ave y’ben down t’pit’’ ‘

The sea-faring Geordie budgie came a couple of years too early for an intervention from Hartlepool’s Missing Budgies Bureau - the first of its type in the country.

It had been set up in 1956 by local budgerigar breeder Mr. A V Moon of Tristram Avenue. For two shillings a year budgie owners could add

their bird’s details to the bureau’s data base where their colour and characteristics – and vocabulary- were recorded. A year after forming the bureau had successfully returned 31 birds to their owners. The idea quickly caught on and was adopted in other towns.

Read More

Read More
Historian finds more Hartlepool monkey links - centuries after the legendary tal...

Strays were generally dealt with by the RSPCA but one kind-hearted animal lover worked tirelessly to look after lost pets: Mabel Peel.

In November 1951 The Northern Daily Mail visited Mrs Peel who had been running her own unofficial animal hospital since the 1930s. They found Mrs Peel caring for four cats, a tortoise with a broken leg, and ‘Peter the Puffin’ who had been found covered in oil.

Our thanks go yet again to Graeme for some wonderful contributions and we would love to hear from anyone else with Hartlepool nostalgia tales to tell.

Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Alan Moon who set up Hartlepool’s Missing Budgies Bureau - the first of its type in the country.