Having a beer with a monkey in Sheepscar.

Growing up in a pub would have been fun, especially a pub that had a feral monkey running wild in it and a pub that brewed its own beer (sometimes containing cat) in the cellar, that would have been fun to live there as a kid.

My paternal grandfather Percy was born in such a pub, his father George owned it outright and it was quite a substantial pub too in a substantial working class immigrant area of the city, the White Stag at Sheepscar, its still there although it closed its doors some years ago and the substantial terraced streets of Eastern European immigrant families were long since demolished to make way for the multiple lane Leeds inner ring road and the daunting Sheepscar junction.

My great-grandfather George had a huge family of ten children and raised them all hale and hearty in the pub in the days when it would be commonplace to lose several of your children during childhood to all sorts of disease and malnutrition, it speaks volumes of a pub landlord that all of his ten children grew to adulthood and potentially gave me a huge family group to extract christmas and birthday presents from, unfortunately it was never the case for my father was not one for keeping family ties, even though they only lived a couple of miles away – in a pub too.

On the other hand there may have been enough of a grievance for him never to have darkened the doors of The Stag again not after his father Percy decided to play cards with his youngest brother Leonard for the right to inherit the pub after their father had died, my dads Uncle Lenny won and we don’t seem to have had much contact with them after that.

The monkey was a well worn tale though, apparently brought into the pub one night by a random stranger passing through, my dad told us it was a sailor on leave who brought the monkey from some foreign clime, took it into the pub to impress everyone, it bit him and ran off up the curtains, sitting on top of the curtain pole taunting everyone all night long, when the pub closed my great-grandfather George realised that the sailor had disappeared and he seemed to have inherited a monkey who wouldn’t come down from his curtain pole.

And there it lived for several months, fed by locals and adept at escaping across curtains and light fittings when chased it became a local attraction at a time when you chose your pub by means of “which is closest to my house”, and you had to be sorely tempted to venture to a different one – the thought of sharing a pint with a monkey in The Stag must have been irresistible, I’d certainly travel some distance even tonight to share a pint with a monkey.

The pub cat wasn’t so fortunate, my dad swears this story is true, his grandad George had a huge wooden tub in the cellar of the pub in which he’d brew beer, several barrels worth at a time to sell in the tap room to the clientele who weren’t so discerning to ask for the branded beers, and very variable the product was too dependant entirely on what ingredients George had managed to find that month and so its not so surprising that one month when the pub cat drowned in the brewing tub but wasn’t found until the brew had been drained off and barreled up ready for sale, that the clientele only commented that that months brew seemed to have a bit more of a kick to it and could he stick to that recipe in future ?

I only have one memory of The White Stag and that was of the day when one of my dads cousins got married and had her reception there, this would have been the early sixties and I only recall a huge room with high ceilings, lots of people, lots of noise and our dad getting extremely drunk and telling everyone how his Uncle Lenny had fiddled us out of our inheritance, I think we left quite early that day but he still managed to get drunk first.

Didn’t mention if the beer tasted a bit funny though.

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4 thoughts on “Having a beer with a monkey in Sheepscar.

  1. Interesting post. My grandmother, on my mothers side, was born in the City Of Mabgate pub. Her parents ran it at the time. My mother’s seventy now, so it would have been around 80 to 90 years ago.,

  2. City of Mabgate, another pub thats closed isn’t it apartments now ?

    I don’t know how long the family stayed in The Stag, I know they were still there in the early sixties but after my dads Uncle Lennie died I don’t know what happened after that.

  3. The pub you remember was the newer version of the one you great-grandfather owned. It was rebuilt in 1932 when your great uncle [Leonard] sold out to Tetley’s. The cat in the brew story may well be true as the original White Stag had been a “brew” premises.
    Beer must have been in the blood as Great-great-grandfather Richard was the publican at the Oatlands Inn, not far away in Alfred Cross Street [CampRoad] and George took it on when his father bought the lease of the King’s Arms, St Peters Street [Quarry Hill]. George briefly went on to the Windsor Castle Inn, Eton Street [Holbeck] before returning to the Sheepscar area and the White Stag. After George died your great-grandmother ran the place for ten years or so before it passed to your great uncle Robert and then on to his brother Leonard.

  4. Wow, thats fantastic, thanks for the info, I only know these people from the census forms and the odd scraps of stories that my father told me, I did get the impression that my grandfather Percy didn’t have much to do with the rest of his family after he moved further up Meanwood Road to run his watch repair business behind the Becketts Arms though.

    I think I need to do a bit more research into them all and Sheepscar itself because from the census it sounds like it was a very “interesting” place.

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