1866: “Thames porpoise shot, now get back to work”




In the autumn of 1866, several English newspapers reported the “very exciting scene” of a porpoise frolicking in the Thames in central London. There were several sightings of the creature between Tower Bridge and Waterloo. According to one report:

“It appears that for some time past this interesting visitor has been disporting itself in the ample bosom of Old Father Thames and has been much admired by the voyagers up and down the river.”

But the porpoise’s playful antics were not tolerated for long. On Wednesday October 3rd, two boats were launched from Blackfriars Road, each packed with men carrying rifles. They spent several hours firing shots into the murky Thames, in places they thought the hapless cetacean might be swimming. They eventually got lucky and the porpoise died after being hit with several shots. A heated argument later broke out between the riflemen over who was entitled to its carcass. Another newspaper expressed relief that the sideshow was at an end – and that everyone could get back to work:

“The creature of the deep having now been dispatched, the workers [of London] can now cease dallying along the Thames banks and attend to more rightful duties.”

Source: The Morning Post, October 5th 1866; Kentish Chronicle, October 8th 1866. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

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