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ENGLISH LION ATE ALBERT, BUT
SNEEZED HIM UP ON WAY TO OZ

We've just read that a New Zealand zoo feeds horses' heads to its lions (shudder). It's a practice possibly followed by other zoos around the world, but if so, they keep quiet about it. That gruesome story reminded us of English former music hall comedian and later film star Stanley Holloway's classic monologue, The Lion and Albert, which told how a lion named Wallace had swallowed the little lad 'ole, together with his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle and all. Radio stations throughout the British Empire (as it was then, in the 1920s) often played the recording.

Here are the words, which have been posted on several websites. To get the full flavour, read them aloud, slowly, and try to imitate Holloway's broad Lancashire accent:

THE LION AND ALBERT
by Marriott Edgar*

There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was young Albert
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle
The finest that Woolworth's could sell.

They didn't think much of the ocean
The waves, they were fiddlin' and small
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded
Fact, nothing to laugh at, at all.

So, seeking for further amusement
They paid and went into the zoo
Where they'd lions and tigers and camels
And old ale and sandwiches too.

There were one great big lion called Wallace
His nose were all covered with scars
He lay in a somnolent posture
With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about lions
How they was ferocious and wild
To see Wallace lying so peaceful
Well, it didn't seem right to the child.

So straight 'way the brave little feller
Not showing a morsel of fear
Took his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle
And shoved it in Wallace's ear.

You could see the lion didn't like it
For giving a kind of a roll
He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im
And swallowed the little lad 'ole

Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence
And didn't know what to do next
Said "Mother! Yon lions 'et Albert"
And Mother said "Well, I am vexed!"

Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Quite rightly, when all's said and done
Complained to the Animal Keeper
That the lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it
He said "What a nasty mishap
Are you sure it's your boy he's eaten?"
Pa said "Am I sure? There's his cap!"

The manager had to be sent for
He came and he said "What's to do?"
Pa said "Yon lion's 'et Albert
And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too."

Then Mother said, "Right's right, young feller
I think it's a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert
And after we've paid to come in."

The manager wanted no trouble
He took out his purse right away
Saying "How much to settle the matter?"
And Pa said "What do you usually pay?"

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone
She said "No! someone's got to be summonsed"
So that was decided upon.

Then off they went to the Police Station
In front of the Magistrate chap
They told 'im what happened to Albert
And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing
"And thank you, sir, kindly," said she
"What, waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy lions? Not me!"

That tragic story did not see the end of Albert. Veteran Australian radio personality Richard Twentyman, who presents a weekly broadcast from the Geelong (Victoria) community radio station Pulse 94.7FM, has discovered this sequel which Holloway apparently recorded several years later:

ALBERT DOWN UNDER
by Marriott Edgar* and Dudley Bayford

Albert were what you'd call "thwarted".
He had long had an ambition, which...
Were to save up and go to Australia,
The saving up that were the hitch.

He'd a red money box on the pot shelf,
A post office thing made of tin,
But with him and his Dad and the bread knife,
It never had anything in.

He were properly held up for bobbins,
As the folk in the mill used to say,
Till he hit on a simple solution -
He'd go as a young stowaway.

He  studied the sailing lists daily,
And at last found a ship as would do.
"S.S. Tosser: a freighter from Fleetwood,
Via Cape Horn to Woolloomooloo.

He went off next evening to Fleetwood,
And found her there loaded and coaled,
Slipped over the side in the darkness,
And downstairs and into the hold.

The hold it were choked up with cargo,
He groped with his hands in the gloom,
Squeezed through bars of what felt like a grating,
And found he had plenty of room.

Some straw had been spilled in one corner,
He thankfully threw himself flat,
He thought he could hear someone breathing,
But he were too tired to fret about that.

When he woke they were out in mid-ocean,
He  turned and in light which were dim,
Looked straight in the eyes of a lion,
That were lying there looking at him.

His heart came right up in his tonsils,
As he gazed at that big yellow face.
Then it smiled and they both said together,
"Well, isn't the world a small place?"

The lion were none other than Wallace,
He were going to Sydney, too.
To fulfil a short starring engagement
In a cage at Taronga Park Zoo.

As they talked they heard footsteps approaching,
"Someone comes" whispered Wallace, "Quick, hide".
He opened his mouth to the fullest,
And Albert sprang nimbly inside.

'Twere Captain on morning inspection,
When he saw Wallace shamming to doze,
He picked up a straw from his bedding,
And started to tickle his nose.

Now Wallace could never stand tickling,
He let out a mumbling roar,
And before he could do owt about it,
He'd sneezed Albert out on the floor.

The Captain went white to the wattles,
He  said, "I'm a son of a gun".
He had heard of beasts bringing up children,
But were first time as he'd seen it done.

He soon had the radio crackling,
And flashing the tale far and wide,
Of the lad who'd set out for Australia,
Stowed away in a lion's inside.

The  quay it were jammed with reporters,
When they docked on Australian soil.
They didn't pretend to believe it,
But 'twere  too good a story to spoil.

And Albert soon picked up the language,
When he first saw the size of the  fruit,
There  was no more "by gum" now or "Champion",
It were "Whacko!", "Too right!" and "You beaut!".

They gave him a wonderful fortnight,
Then from a subscription they made,
Sent him back as a "Parcel for Britain",
Carriage forward, and all ex's paid!

*  Marriott Edgar was born 5th October,1880 in Kirkcudbright, Scotland and was half brother to the novelist Edgar Wallace. He toured with Stanley Holloway in 'The Co-Optimists' and was affectionately known to his friends as 'George'. He was described as medium height, quiet with a droll sense of humour. He died in London on 5th May 1951. - Monologues.co.uk

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Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted April 2003

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