Brighton Aquarium

Memories of an embarrassing parrot!

By Ron Burtenshaw

 
Photo:Brighton Aquarium late 1950s

Brighton Aquarium late 1950s

From the private collection of Sue Loveridge

Additional duties I enjoyed

I had started working at the Brighton Aquarium just after I was fourteen in 1954. My duties were menial, washing floors, cleaning glass and general cleaning. Soon I graduated to watering the plants in the ‘Winter Garden’, a restaurant on the roof terrace above the Aquarium. I must have impressed the Curator with my keenness as it was not long before I was given the opportunity to keep an eye on the tropical fish, and with a bit of tuition, to feed and clean the parrots. I was so proud to be now working with the animals, albeit just the parrots and other tropical birds.

Sick as a parrot?

One species of parrot that I found enjoyable to work with was an African Grey, I cannot remember his name. He was not at all vicious but could still give you a nasty peck if you were not concentrating on what you were doing. Unfortunately, he did not speak, even though I was told that this species of parrot were renowned for their eloquence. One day my poor friend was under the weather, so it was decided to put him in the sick room to convalesce. Now the sick room doubled up as a staff room, with all manner of workers congregating in their breaks or lunch time. After a while, my friend’s health improved and was reintroduced into his display cage among the other bird collection, but no amount of coaxing would get him to even say his name.

A V.I.P visitor

Shortly after this episode the Aquarium had an official visit by the Mayoress of Brighton, a Dorothy Stringer. I was told to stand by my birds so as to answer any questions the Mayoress may ask; I was very proud. It was not long before the Curator and the Mayoress came past my birds and she showed an interest in my friend. As she leant towards the cage I could see her chain of office getting very close to the bars. My fingers were crossed that my pal would not make a grab at this sparkling object, but it was alright because he behaved himself.

Swearing at the Mayor!

Dorothy Stringer leant forward and stroked the parrot’s beak and said ‘Who is a pretty boy then – what is your name?’. My pal replied in an assortment of four letter words, very colourful language that he heard whilst in the sick room. The Curator spun round and glared at me. I just stood there in shock and tried to explain that it was nothing to do with me. I had to discreetly laugh as I could not get a word out of him, but poor Dorothy copped his total vocabulary.

This page was added on 06/05/2011.
Comments about this page

Ha! Ha!.This made me laugh.There was a parrot in a pet shop in Elm Grove years ago that was extremely naughty too.

By Jennifer Tonks (07/05/2011)

I recall the right hand kiosk in the photograph in the mid 1950s. I was the odd job boy for Campings Coaches and this was their office. Of the many jobs I had, one was to cycle down the ranks of coaches of theirs and competitive companies with bookings taken in the office so drivers also selling on the promenade did not overbook. A tip I learned from their office signwriter was to always soak the chalks overnight, so that when used the following day, they had a lovely creamy consistency. Hence their advertising boards were always works of art.

By Roy Grant (09/05/2011)

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