Tuppence Per Person Per Week

Tuppence Per Person Per Week

This week’s choice is the sequel to “Albert and the Lion” which I covered in June 2020, in which we discover what happened after his unfortunate adventure.

‘Twas the man from Prudential – ‘e’d come for
Their tuppence per person per week.

Marriott Edgar (1880—1951)

Poem 244. Albert’s Return

You’ve ‘eard ‘ow young Albert Ramsbottom
At the zoo up at Blackpool one year
With a stick with an ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle
Gave a lion a poke in the ear?

The name of the lion was Wallace,
The poke in the ear made ‘im wild
And before you could say, “Bob’s yer uncle!”
E’d upped and ‘e’d swallowed the child.

‘E were sorry the moment ‘e done it;
With children ‘e’d always been chums,
And besides, ‘e’d no teeth in his noddle,
And ‘e couldn’t chew Albert on’t gums.

‘E could feel the lad movin’ inside ‘im
As ‘e lay on ‘is bed of dried ferns;
And it might ‘ave been little lad’s birthday—
‘E wished ‘im such ‘appy returns.

But Albert kept kickin’ and fightin’…
‘Til Wallace arose, feelin’ bad.
And felt ‘twere time that ‘e started
To stage a comeback for the lad.

Then with ‘is ‘ead down in one corner,
On ‘is front paws ‘e started to walk;
And ‘e coughed, and ‘e sneezed, and ‘e gargled
‘Till Albert shot out like a cork!

Old Wallace felt better directly
And ‘is figure once more became lean.
But the only difference with Albert
Was ‘is face and ‘is ‘ands were quite clean.

Meanwhile Mr. and Mrs. Ramsbottom
‘Ad gone home to their tea, feelin’ blue.
Ma said, “I feel down in the mouth, like.”
Pa said, “Aye, I bet Albert does, too.”

Said Ma, “It just goes to show yer
That the future is never revealed;
If I’d thowt we was goin’ to lose ‘im,
I’d ‘ave not ‘ad ‘is boots soled and ‘eeled.”

“Let’s look on the bright side,” said Father,
“Wot can’t be ‘elped must be endured;
Every cloud ‘as a silvery lining,
And we did ‘ave young Albert insured.”

A knock on the door came that moment
As Father these kind words did speak.
‘Twas the man from Prudential – ‘e’d called for
Their tuppence per person per week.

When Father saw ‘oo ‘ad been knockin’,
‘E laughed, and ‘e kept laughin’ so—
That the young man said, “Wot’s there to laugh at?”
Pa said, “You’ll laugh an’ all when you know!”

“Excuse ‘im for laughing,” said Mother,
“But really, things ‘appen so strange
Our Albert’s been et by a lion;
You’ve got to pay us for a change!”

Said the young feller from the Prudential,
“Now, come, come, let’s understand this…
You don’t mean to say that you’ve lost ‘im?”
Ma said, “Oh, no, we know where ‘e is!”

When the young man ‘ad ‘eard all the details,
A bag from ‘is pocket he drew
And ‘e paid them with interest and bonus
The sum of nine pounds, four and two.

Pa ‘ad scarce got ‘is ‘and on the money
When a face at the window they see
And Mother says, “Eee, look, it’s Albert!”
And Father says, “Aye, it would be.”

Albert came in all excited,
And started ‘is story to give;
And Pa says, “I’ll never trust lions
Again, not as long as I live.”

The young feller from the Prudential
To pick up the money began
And Father said, “Eee, just a moment,
Don’t be in a ‘urry, young man.”

Then giving young Albert a shilling,
‘E said, “‘Ere, pop off back to the zoo;
Here’s your stick with the ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle…
Go and see wot the tigers can do!”

Here we discover the sequel to Albert’s adventures at the zoo, Wallace the lion’s repentance, Pa and Ma’s pragmatic acceptance of the situation and Pa’s greed showing through as, missing out on the insurance pay-out, he urges Albert to “Go and see wot the tigers can do!”

This monologue is written exactly as it might be spoken on the music hall stage, with the dropped aitches and idioms suggesting that the Ramsbottoms are lower-class and Pa’s avarice hinting at an impecunious nature.

The monologue splits into two parts: first, it tells the story of Albert’s ejection by Wallace, who has been regretting his hasty actions. It then turns to tell us about Pa and Ma who return home without their son, but who quickly turn their thoughts to the silver lining in the cloud: the fact that they had insured Albert’s life (paying “tuppence per person per week”). By a coincidence, the “man from the Prudential” arrives at the door to collect their premium and Pa is immediately struck by the irony of the situation, becoming speechless with laughter so that Ma has to explain, “You’ve got to pay us for a change!”

Once they have explained the circumstances, the young man pays up (nine pounds, four and two is nine pounds, four shillings and tuppence—it doesn’t sound like much, does it?) but the very moment Pa grabs for the money, Ma sees a face at the window and exclaims, “Eee, look, it’s Albert” and her husband mournfully says, “Aye, it would be” as he sees the pay-out slipping from his grasp. In a last-ditch effort to prevent this, he forestalls the young man from the Prudential and presents his son with the Woolworth’s stick topped with a horse’s head, telling him to “go and see wot the tigers will do.”

I like this poem for its humour: the idea that Albert emerges from the lion’s jaws unaltered apart from his face and hands being clean, Pa’s rejoinder to Ma’s “I feel down in the mouth like” with “Aye, I bet Albert does too”, and Pa’s assertion that they haven’t lost Albert, “Oh no, we know where ‘e is!” I picture a Victorian version of the Royle Family—with Jim Royle instructing a younger Antony to “pop off back to the zoo”.

I first heard this monologue, like many others, on a Stanley Holloway LP belonging to my parents and I’ve always loved the humour of these comic performances.


  • Listen to Stanley Holloway’s performance on YouTube.