Last month a viral video showing an Ass strapped to a parasail dangling 150’ above a southern Russian beach. Sun readers who appear to live in a permanent state of ‘horror’, were, duly, horrified. They begged the mighty Sun to ‘do summit, it cruel innit, donkey’s aint supposed to fly’.
The Sun swung into action; they paid the donkey’s owners the staggering sum of 70,000 roubles and flew the hapless animal off to the Kremlin School of Riding. They flew one of their top reporters out to Russia to supervise this photo opportunity and provided the Donkey with a red blanket firmly noting him as the ‘Sun’ donkey…
All a bit extreme you might think? Well, some of us have long memories (and some of us are indebted to Gentleman Ranters for having nudged those long memories not so many weeks ago!) You see the Sun has form where donkeys are concerned.
Back in the 80s, there was a minor flash of Ass when some Spanish animal rights activists ran an advert claiming that every year a donkey, invariably ridden by a very fat Spaniard, would be crushed to death in the annual fiesta at Villanueva.
The Daily Mail duly burro’d into the story:
This time next week Blackie the donkey will be dead. It is his misfortune to have been selected for sacrifice from hundreds of other humble burros by the men of the Spanish village of Villanueva de la Vera.
On fiesta day – next Tuesday – he will be dragged through the streets echoing to the cheers of crowds of men, women and children, with the fattest man in the village on his back.
When his legs buckle beneath him, others will leap on. Finally the gentle, patient creature will die under a ton of pounding ‘humanity’.
Too much for the Sun readers, who had somehow managed to follow the story with their stubby fingers, in a stolen copy of the Mail – they begged their Editor to intervene. He promptly flew his best reporter out to Spain to save Blackie the donkey.
Back in the UK, my dear departed Aunt, who happened to go by the surname of Blackie…..was so overcome by this news that she changed her will. It still read ‘to my dear Niece, the sum of £20,000’ which was extraordinarily generous of her, but now it ended ‘and the balance of my estate to Blackie the donkey if possible, or other donkeys cared for by the xxxxxx donkey sanctuary.
The Sun’s hotshot reporter, one Hugh Whitlow, paid a farmer to look after ‘Blackie’ whilst he arranged to ship him back to the xxxxxx donkey sanctuary. Being good Fleet Street men, they liked a drop or two in the evenings, especially in those days when good Spanish brandy was to be had for a handful of coins. Whilst they were imbibing, the Daily Star reporter arrived in Madrid. He tracked down the farmer that the Sun had entrusted Blackie to, and duly bought him. The Star’s headline the next day was ‘Gotcha, The Star saves Blackie’ along with a picture of the bill of sale. The Sun’s man was distraught.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, another of Fleet Street’s hot shots, Edward Owen – for the entire press pack were now in pursuit of the hapless Ass -had discovered that the owner of the bar now held title to the donkey after a series of sales between Spanish peasants. Owen, who spoke Spanish unlike the other reporters, managed to buy the donkey for £225 whilst everyone else was using sign language to order yet another drink.
Are you keeping up?
Kelvin McKenzie, on learning of this latest exchange reportedly offered Owen £6,000 for Blackie. Owen declined. The Sun went on to run a series of stories mocking attempts to bring Blackie to England – on the grounds that he didn’t speak English and would be traumatised by the flight and the change of environment!
Not something that is bothering The Sun in their jubilation at having secured their current donkey in the Kremlin riding stables well away from other hacks, and awaiting transport back to England – where he doesn’t speak the language!
Blackie did eventually make it to England and the donkey sanctuary. He died in 1993. My Aunt died in 1994. Her estate was in the region of three quarters of a million pounds. Now you know why I take such a keen interest in stories involving donkeys and the Sun……
Mr G christened the only two remaining donkeys in that infernal donkey sanctuary – Benny and Ficiary. If there is any justice in this world someone will take the pair of them up parasailing with a very dodgy harness.