Bear Street Barnstaple ~ Wendy the Gorilla.

Simon Groves

Joined May 2010

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“WENDY” the Gorilla who liked ‘Beethoven’.

Since her adoption Wendy was not most pleased with the name that Henrietta, her ‘owner’ had given her. She had always protested that it was “not a gorilla name at all!!!” and was what visitors to zoos; kids with ice creams and the general ‘morass’, might expect or indeed, want, a gorilla to be called.

She was a silver back…a particularly bluish silver grey, silver back, gorilla…. who had learned to communicate with her owner Henrietta.

Lady Henrietta Meredith was an almost completely deaf musician who played piano by using what she called the “Ludwig method” of playing the piano. Like Beethoven had done, ramming a walking stick into the frame of her piano she could feel and hear the music vibrations enough to play beautifully. As a baby, Wendy had learned to tap Henrietta’s walking stick as she played the piano to get her attention…and so began a sign language teaching programme, that led towards Wendy’s reintroduction to Barnstaple society.

Apart from attending the Women’s Institute (as a rather radical and cinical member, I have to say) Henrietta had few hobbies outside of her daily piano playing… (She walked twice daily, but that was not a hobby for her, more a health practice, like her regular taking of the waters of steeped elderflower.) But she did rear Silver back gorillas in her gardens at Highbury Manor near Arlington, Barnstaple. (House name altered for security reasons…)

She tended to sell the young gorillas on to the U.K. zoo circuit when they reached teenage…. and if no vacancies came she would just ask them to leave, and offer them help with housing and getting welfare benefits, filling out forms etc…

As a result Lady Henrietta had the repuation of a being ‘quite an eccentric’.

Despite current strict international, and national laws on keeping and rearing wild gorillas, and the quite firm qualifying rules of UK welfare benefits, remarkably, her scheme seemed to work… and she is now a firm believer in the reintroduction of Silver-Back gorillas to UK society.

This was the first day that Wendy had been let out on her own… and she was caught here on camera by surprised tourist, Sian Simpkins of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, as she gazed, with facination into the window of the Funeral Parlour, on Bear Street, at the beautiful headstones on display there.

Mrs Simpkins hadn’t heard about the reintroduction programme, or any of the other recent unusual animal sightings in Barnstaple, and has vowed to write a book about the geographical dispersion, globally, of several species sighted in the borough.

The North Devon District Council council have issued warnings for people not to approach Wendy, with sweets, as she is borderline diabetic.

As a piece of art expression this piece might be thought to express the ‘solidity’ and ‘reliability’ of our self in adversity..

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Artwork Comments

  • Charmiene Maxwell-Batten
  • Simon Groves
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