The cheeky monkey who made headlines recently after escaping from a wildlife park in the Scottish Highlands, may have caused chaos, but he had nothing on the monkeys which once caused a mayhem of mischief in Southend.

The seven-year-old male Japanese macaque – called Honshu – escaped from the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, near Aviemore, before making his way to a resident’s garden.

A drone was sent and Honshu was tranquilised with a dart and taken back to the park - five days after his ‘ape escape’.

Back in late June of 1928 it wasn’t just one playful primate that was running amok in Southend, it was 20.

Echo: Cheeky species - Japanese macaque monkeys just like the escaped Honshu Cheeky species - Japanese macaque monkeys just like the escaped Honshu (Image: Stock image)

A group of the animals had broken out of their home – the House of Monkeys within the Kursaal Zoo – in the dead of night after an unknown intruder smashed into the venue and let them out.

It was never discovered who had committed the break in or if releasing the monkeys was intentional, however the Southend Standard newspaper certainly thought so and put the incident down to ‘youths’ who had deliberately smashed the lock to the monkey house to let the animals run free and cause mischief.

Twenty out of the 500 monkeys who lived in the ‘house’ or the ‘Monkey Jungle’ as it was more commonly known, didn’t care either way. They saw their chance for freedom and made a run for it.

“Exciting escapades at Southend” was the Standard headline as the entire town became gripped by the monkey saga which quickly became the talk of the town.

“About 20 monkeys promptly left the house intent on improving their knowledge of the Kursaal grounds and the surrounding district,” reported the Standard broadsheet.

“They spread themselves abroad in great delight, exploring nooks and corners and mounting to roofs. The news of their escape spread like wildfire – a hue and cry was set up and members of the Kursaal staff, aided by interested neighbours, took up the chase and made matters lively.”

At this time the Kursaal was Southend’s foremost entertainment venue and the zoo was the first of its kind in the region.

Tourists and daytrippers flocked to see the zoo’s exotic inhabitants which included lions, grizzly bears, polar bears, wolves, jackals, ostriches and no less than nine tigers (at the time even the world famous New York zoo only had three) and many other interesting animals.

Echo: Gotcha! A runaway monkey is lifted down from the top of the Scenic Railway ride by a zoo attendantGotcha! A runaway monkey is lifted down from the top of the Scenic Railway ride by a zoo attendant (Image: Newsquest)

And of course they came to see the cheeky monkeys. But anyone who came on June 24, 1928 was out of luck as the mutineer monkeys decided to make the most of their new found liberty, despite Kursaal staff and the authorities clambering to recover them.

One of the monkeys was soon seen sunning himself on the tower of the Kursaal’s Alpine Ride.

Another found his way into the Kursaal’s lavish ballroom and scrambled to the top of the arch above the stage.

He then saw fit to scamper off into another direction with staff giving chase.

“One spent the entire day on the top of the Scenic Railway,” added the Standard.

“Yet another mounted the Bowl Slide, he was then chased from roof to roof of the cages forming the zoo.

“Others left the grounds altogether and prospected to the front of the building.”

By the following day and after much perseverance by the Kursaal staff, half of the truant monkeys had been re-captured.

But the remaining ten would remain at large for another two days.

Some returned one by one of their own free will, finally bored of their adventure. Others were more stubborn.

One particular monkey who had taken refuge on the roof of the nearby Ship Hotel had no intention of coming down and bit the hand of a zoo attendant when they finally managed to grab him.

Another monkey wandered as far as Park Lane - some half a mile away- where he broke the window to a house by jumping through it. After a general rampage around the home he then settled onto the roof, until he was re-captured.

Even the monkeys that returned of their own accord remained in a rebellious mood, emboldened by their recent antics.

“The ones that had come back on their own proceeded to rip open a bag of meal and started helping themselves freely,” said the Standard.

By the end of the week, however, the chaos had returned to calm and life in the Monkey Jungle settled down again.

A new arrival - a monkey named Jos Brown (perhaps the Caesar of his day) was soon to arrive and liven up spirits in the Monkey House.

“He is the most valuable monkey in England,” reported the Standard “This is for a remarkable reason - he is a bundle of perfect good humour “Whenever there is a scrap in his hearing Jos looks in to see what’s the matter and invariably succeeds in restoring good humour.”

In October 1961 monkeys were back in the news in Southend.

The RSPCA was galvanised into action after 101 monkeys died while on a flight from Nairobi in Kenya to Southend Airport.

The animal charity launched a huge investigation after the monkeys arrived at Southend in crates – amongst a cargo of 350.

A total of 101 had suffocated to death and the monkeys that had survived were taken to an RSPCA hospital in London.

The monkeys had been sent on the 4,500-mile trip so they could be sent onto various zoos across Europe and America.

An RSPCA spokesman described it as one of the worst cases of animal mortality he had seen.