Menagerie on Fire

The Daily Mirror – Monday 25th March 1912


Monkeys Found Dead in Each Other’s Arms after a Brixton Outbreak

Ten valuable monkeys and two dogs were the victims of a fire at the premises of Messrs. Price and King, the veterinary surgeons of Hackford Road, Brixton, which is also a licensed quarantine station for performing animals coming from abroad. Shut up for the night in cages (three or four in each), the animals had no opportunity to escape, and although the fire brigade were on the scene within a few minutes and the fire quickly put out, it was too late to save them.

The monkeys belonged to a variety artist named Gustav Grais, while the two dogs – a poodle and a fox-terrier – were the property of Mr. Bostock. Scores of performing animals are lodged in the extensive stables of the firm, including horses, lions and zebras, and it was due to the prompt action of the fire brigade that they were not burned.

The ill-fated animals were housed in a loft. How the outbreak originated is not known, but the smoke was so dense that the monkeys were, perhaps happily, suffocated before the flames could reach them. There are several stables and lofts on the premises, built in rectangular form,  but the firemen succeeded in confining the outbreak to one stable only.

‘It all happened so quickly’ one of the attendants told The Daily Mirror, ‘that we had no time to get the animals out’. ‘We made every attempt, but so overpoweringly thick and pungent was the smoke that we could not even reach the cages, although we entered and tried to grope for them. I heard the poor little beggars moaning and chattering in terror, but the sounds quickly ceased.’

When the fire was extinguised the dead monkeys were brought out, still in their cages, and placed in the yard. They presented a truly pitiable sight. Lying in the blackened straw in a huddled mass – several in each others arms – they seemed to have collected together, as if seeking protection from an unknown foe. Curiously enough, among the music hall artists in the habit of keeping their animals on the premises was the Great Lafayette, who himself, with his dog beauty, perished in the recent fire in Edinburgh. His lion, now used by Lafayette’s successor, was in the building up to a week ago!

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