31 Enero 2017 18:10
He drank tea, he made his bed, and ate roses from the gardens. But it all took a turn for the worse.
'Until recently, we had people that remembered him walking around the village with the children. He used to go into gardens and eat the roses', explained Margaret Groom, an archivist at the Uley Society, remembering John Daniel. In a book about the history of Uley, Ms Groom has compiled a series of photographs of the gorilla who, a 100 years ago, lived like just any other inhabitant of the village. John was born many miles from there, in Gabon, where he was captured alone as a baby after French officers shot his parents. He arrived in France in 1917. He was soon put on sale in the London department store Derry & Toms, where Rupert Penny, mayor of London, bought him for £300 (the equivalent of £25,000 today). In London, he was educated and taught 'good manners'. The following year, Miss Edna Cunningham, the mayor's daughter, brought the baby gorilla to Uley, where he was put into the care of her aunt, Alyse Cunningham. She took him into her country house and brought him up as if he were a child: John had his own bedroom, did his business in a urinal and even knew how to make his bed. They nicknamed him Sultan, and he loved spending time walking around the village with the local schoolchildren. 'The children used to push him around in a wheelbarrow. He knew which house was good for cider, and would often go to that house to draw a mug of cider', recalled Ms Groom. 'He was also fascinated by the village cobbler, and would watch him repairing shoes. He had his own bedroom, he could use the light switch and toilet, he made his own bed, and helped with the washing up.' Miss Cunningham used to take him to a house in London where he accompanied her to gala dinners and to have tea in the afternoons. But John kept growing and in three years went from an infant of 14 kg to an adult of 95 kg. Cunningham now saw herself unfit to continue taking care of him. In 1921, she sold him to an American for 1000 guineas, thinking he'd be sent to a residence in Florida, but the man tricked her. John had been acquired for exploitation in a circus. On reaching the US on 28 March 1921, they decided to first put him on exhibition in a zoo in Madison Square Garden, New York. His health quickly began to deteriorate, thought to be because of his longing for Miss Cunningham. They sent her an urgent message from the zoo which read: 'John Daniel pinning and grieving for you. Can you not come at once? Needless to say we will deem it a privilege to pay all your expense. Answer at once.' Miss Cunningham set sail immediately, but John died of pneumonia before she arrived. He was four and a half. His body was stuffed and donated to the American Museum of Natural History, where it remains today since 1922.