Monday, July 02, 2012

Big Mong in Caerphilly

Can there really be a secret, atavistic, gorilla-worshipping cult in the Rhymney Valley? This is a question I used to ponder whenever citizens of Caerphilly would inform me of a giant ape-like creature that had once appeared in their town. Eyes would light up and they'd start babbling on about the monster's enormity and the loudness of its roar. Furthermore, they’d add, it stood outside Carrefour hypermarket and was called Big Mong. Naturally, I just assumed that they were taking the piss or that the magic mushroom crop around Lansbury Park had been especially potent that year. Imagine my shock, then, when I discovered that it was all true.

In 1972 Carrefour opened a hypermarket in Caerphilly which was a big deal at the time as this YouTube demonstrates. Six years later in 1978 the French supermarket chain decided to celebrate the anniversary in style by bringing over from France the largest animated gorilla in the world. It was 40ft tall and weighed over three tons. It had a mechanical grab and was capable of lifting two people in one hand. It also had a roar that could be heard a full two miles away. Big Mong, as it was indeed shockingly called, was evidently modelled on that daddy of all cinematic monsters, King Kong.

Not everybody was happy. You'd have thought the politically incorrect moniker "Big Mong" might have upset a few people but no it was the absence of any planning permission that annoyed councillor Howard Edwards. He told local press: "I realise this monstrosity will have a lot of appeal for children, but I believe planning permission is needed to put it up. Big Mong is 40ft high and can be seen from a wide area of the town. The roar of the gorilla can be quite startling to someone with a nervous disposition." Despite Mr Edwards's grumblings the monster was erected outside Carrefour and for the five days that it was on show proved to be a popular attraction.

Big Mong lives on in Caerphilly's collective folk memory. Indeed on that modern-day equivalent of a cult gathering - the Facebook Group page - there is a site dedicated to the monster's Welsh appearance. In the above photograph the bikini-clad lady that you can see in Big Mong's left paw - the Fay Wray role, so to speak - is beauty queen Cheryl Perry of Bargoed who, in 1978, was the reigning Miss Caerphilly.

*Photograph is ©Newscom