The Lion in London’s Black Taxi: Memorable Story of Singh, and the Boy Who Loved Him | Animals

“He was one of the zoo’s politicians’ pets,” said the London Zoo.

Singh Sher arrived in a black taxi and jumped on a lead from the front door.

Well trained at home, he would wipe his face with a flannel when he ate, and when he tickled.

An unusual Asian lion stands at the Regent’s Park Gate of the zoo, calmly controlled by a 10-year-old boy, a tale of the age of the empire, the steam of Indian nationalists and Italian fascists. Good homes, and a little boy’s wish comes true.

Francis Rushbrook Williams, now 97, remembers the summer as a boy when his lion came to stay.

“I used to play with him at home and in the greenhouse. I would go to every square and he would ‘boo, boo boo, boo’ and I would do the same.

Singh Sher Kab, two months old, on the rooftop of the Hotel Excels, Naples, on April 21, 1935, just days before Mussolini was introduced from Rome.
Singh Sher Kab, a two-month-old, on the rooftop of the Hotel Excelsior, Naples, on April 21, 1935, just days before he was introduced to Mussolini from Rome.

He was soft on his toes. We played with each other and we patted each other, he was just like a cat.

In this wonderful, remarkable summer, more than eight decades later, the family has gone into hiding: now their Sydney-based granddaughter, Victoria McNally, has published a children’s book, The Line to Time Stand.

As a child, Frances was alone at a boarding school. His separation was unusual for Omar, but he was found to be particularly severely missing from his parents and home, which was exacerbated by the distance between the two.

His father was Lawrence Frederick Rushbrook Williams, a commander in the British Empire, and an associate professor at All Spirit College, Oxford University.

Francis wrote him weekly letters from school, his letters to British India, where he was born, and where his father served as director of the BBC’s Eastern Services (his father later became Eric’s). He used to write a letter to a struggling novelist by name. Blair, better known by his nickname, George Orwell.

Professor Rushbrook Williams was a well-known Indo filer and expert on the subcontinent. When an Indian lawyer called Mohandas Gandhi came to England, he often stayed at Williams’ family home in Surrey. As a child, Francis remembers India’s future father for his violent handshake.

Rush Brooke Williams was also a personal assistant to Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. The Maharaja’s father was Ranjit Singhji, who was almost universally recognized as the best cricketer of his time, and he also batted for England along with WG Grace.

‘We often had injuries’

In the summer of 1935, Rushbrook Williams decided to go to England, and he wrote a letter to his young son asking if he wanted a gift from the subcontinent.

Francis, 4, in Shimla, India, where he was born and lived with his parents
Francis, 4, in Shimla, India, where he was born and lived with his parents.

“Something is alive,” the boy wrote back. The request reached the ears of the Maharaja, who had initially offered the elephant.

The Maharaja said, “Oh, why don’t you take my elephant, it can play with the limb of the mouth. It will be perfect,” says McNally, although he believes that his grandmother, Farida, Summarize the idea.

“I think he considered it, but thought, ‘Well, you know, what would I do with an elephant in London? What would I eat? Where would I get sugarcane?’

The Maharaja then told Rushbrook Williams that his tiger had just given birth to a baby donkey.

“Why don’t you come and choose a baby cub and go home to the lion house for Francis?” So what did he do She wrote in her diary that she went to the dirt and chose the one with the longest legs.

“It simply came to our notice then [Freda and Laurence] That the lion cubs got home. I think it was a way to show their love, and to fulfill that dream of bringing ‘something alive’ home, perhaps because they have been apart for so long.

SINGH – The Sanskrit name for “lion” – the two-week-old baby was immediately prepared to go to England. A carpenter made the Sangh a traditional travel crate, consisting of night and day parts, and the family boarded a cruise liner with Victoria from Bombay on 11 April 1935 with the Maharaja.

Every day the lion, just a handful of weeks old, was raised on the exercise deck. “Too much of a kitten,” he said, riding the dogs.

1935 was an important moment in world history. In the Indian subcontinent, nationalist sentiments arose. The Government of India Act, passed by the British Parliament, will eventually be an important step towards independence and the birth of the world’s largest democracy to date.

Meanwhile, throughout Europe, democracy was in turmoil: the growing face of fascism was unrivaled.

Victoria’s first port was the port of Aden. The ship went on to say that the ship needed more children’s formula – the lion did not eat anything else. According to the professor, nor will he take the bottle that was given to him: “He wiped it off with one of his paws.” He only drank from Freda’s hands.

“I will never forget feeling her rough tongue move out of my hands,” she later wrote in her diary.

Victoria McCanley at the Bondi apartment in Sydney NSW.
Victoria McCanley, and her book, The Line That Came to Live, are fine at her NSW Bundy apartment in Sydney. Photo: Carly Earl / The Guardian

Suez was transferred to Cairo for a cruise, before boarding again at Port Syed for Naples.

The lion that came to live.
Photo: Victoria McNally

From Naples, the Maharaja, along with his various panjendrams and staff, went to the Travel Party Room, where he was invited for tea with the Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini, as well as members of the exiled Greek royal family.

The words of this amazing caravan – including a lion – preceded the travel party as they traveled across Europe by train. They were stopped from calling government homes, given to listeners with local electronics. The lion usually stayed in the bathroom of the hotel suite.

An American woman in a hotel adjoining room refused to let him go while the lion was still there. In Cannes, Freda would get up quickly to walk the lion before many people took to the streets.

It was early summer when the Singhs came to England.

Dorking with Frances' younger brother Freda and Nick, the lion of the lion in the garden of Westcote House. This photo was taken by correspondents of the Daily Express who came to take a picture of the Sangh on Sunday, May 26, 1935.
With Frances’ younger brother Freda and Nick, Singh Sher Kab in the garden at Westcott House, Darking. Photographer: Daily Express

Rush Brooke Williams developed a shortcut to the quarantine responsibilities required in the UK at the time. The family’s ancestral home in Surrey had a conservatory and a high-walled brick fence.

The lion lived there, slept in a glazed building, and was able to roam freely in the rose garden.

Now, eight decades later, with Francis Singh still reminiscent of his wonderful summer memories, his “living thing” has reached home from the land of his birth.

The boy and the animal had been together for a month, indoors and in the garden.

Recalling Francis, happily excited and playful, Singh was “just like a cat.”

When did he learn to clean his face from flannel, using his claws after eating from Freda?

“After each meal, she carefully wiped her milky cloth on a cloth we left with her feeding bowl,” wrote Rush Brock Williams.

Singh guarding a zoo at the London Zoo in 1935. The zoo's companions loved Singh because he loved raising and loving children. Singh would pinch his hats and chase them around his fences - a favorite sport.
With a zoo keeper at the London Zoo in 1935.

McNally says the Sangh has become stronger and stronger. He said that he has grown big claws but he has never hurt anyone. He played with it, dragging a towel to the ground that he liked to chase and bounce. I think they played with him so much because they feared he would lose his beautiful nature.

Frances and Singh practiced roaring together.

“My grandfather talked a lot about the Sangh, it seemed like he was practicing his roar and Francis would encourage him to keep trying, and learn to roar correctly.

Even after he grew up, the Sangh was overwhelmed, and had a deep love for his family.

But lions become lions, and the suckling kitten grows stronger every day. Singh had started eating meat – and flavor -.

Professor Rush Brooke Williams later wrote, “The zoo sent a man every week to see how he was doing.” He soon insisted that he should eat meat. It was interesting to see how he tore and shook the pieces of meat before swallowing.

At the end of the summer vacation, the professor said, “We felt; he would be very strong in arranging for us.”

An old lion at the London Zoo, donated by Francis and his family in June 1935.
An old lion at the London Zoo, donated by Francis and his family in June 1935. Photo: Victoria McNally

“He never showed us teeth and claws. But the love he gave us was so overwhelming that we were often beaten.

There was no room for a growing lion in the conservatory.

On the morning of June 4, the family wore black. History is silent on the driver’s reaction to the passengers – and went to the London Zoo.

The Sangh led to the main gates, which Francis tolerated.

A current letter from the zoo’s secretary records the transaction.

“I am instructed to thank the Zoological Society for the gift of your low-staffed animal that has arrived safely and is welcomed into our collection: 1 Indian Lion Cub, ‘Singh’ , Phils Leo. “

The next day the headlines were: “Lion at the door from the front of the walk”, “The lion has arrived – by taxi, Singh: the zoo is a political pet”.

“The kids love it,” Freda told a paper’s “zoo correspondent.” My eldest son, who is in boarding school, even came home to see Singh, who was very mild. He was very sorry that he had to go to the zoo.

The separation was a great sorrow for Francis.

His tiger used to go to the zoo, his parents used to travel to the subcontinent and he would return to boarding school alone.

But Francis regularly visited his former pet.

McNally says, “He was going to visit, and the Sangh clearly remembered him and he was bound to meet Francis, and cling to his cage bars. Francis, the zoo’s companion, absolutely They would let him come forward and they would beat him and tickle him as if they were at home.

How was the arrival of the Sangh announced?
How was the arrival of the Sangh announced? Photo: Courtesy of Victoria McNally

Children’s visits attract crowds, and sometimes introduce them to the lion’s confusion.

Francis recalls a visit: “We went to his cage and we taped the bars, and we said to him ‘Singh, Singh, Singh’ … and an old man standing next to us said, ‘ Don’t be sweet, don’t sing. “

Bessie, the Sangh had four cubs of a lioness. But he died in 1940, for some reason. By this time, many of the animals had been moved from Regent’s Park to Wipsnad to escape the worst of the Blaze.

The world was at war. Francis Rushbrook Williams will soon be sharing his age to sign up for 17 years.

Although Singh’s summer at the Conservatory was short, his story is a recurring one in the Rushbrook Williams family, and now, his granddaughter has taken it to the wider world.

“It’s amazing to me that this story is alive, that my grandfather’s memory can live on,” McNally said from his Sydney home.

“It’s just a beautiful story, it’s an amazingly incredible story about a bond between a boy and a lion, but it’s a story that, in fact, is about fulfillment, a wish to be truly fulfilled. is about.”

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