Post Date: 31st October 2013
Author: Matt Gedge
October 30th 1926 was a sad day for Fleet Street, London. One of its most famous characters had just passed away, succumbing to pneumonia after years of entertaining the crowds in the ancient watering hole Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
The legend grew, and when in August 1905 Polly disappeared after his cage was left open, the hunt for the bird was big news. According to the Dundee Courier, “Mr Moore the Cheese landlord was in tears, organising a search party of fleet footed waiters who were to be seen spying among the chimney pots and telegraph wires of Wine Office Court, Kings Head Passage and adjoining streets. Policemen were offered gold to find Polly dead or alive and return him to the Cheese. Later in the evening when all seemed lost, a man walking along Farringdon Avenue was asked ‘give me a kiss darling’ to which he replied ‘certainly not’, with the phantom voice then demanding ‘pudding and two veg!’ and ‘Hurry up!’ It was of course Polly, who was caught and with much rejoicing returned to the pub.
After his death, there was a competition to find an appropriate epitaph. This was the winning entry by a G. Rostrevor Hamilton:‘The pop of corks, the gurgle of wine. Kissing and human speech were mine Accomplishments that could not save me from the dry and silent grave. Enough! No maudlin tear be shed: Not all of Polly shall be dead Though silent, here upon the shelf I stand – in memory of myself’