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.