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Reggie is stolen! The early years, 1926 - 1938

One of the earliest records of Reggie being stolen was his kidnap by UCL in 1927. Ronald Lawton, a former Dentistry student, remembers the victorious march up to the ‘Godless College of Gower Street’ to rescue him: ‘Large numbers went up there with a lorry load of rotten vegetables to recover him. When the Police thought the battle had gone on long enough, they opened the UCL Quad gates and started hauling people out. There were two arrests. By chance, they were both sons of clergymen!’

Unfortunately, UCL security staff locked the Quad gates so the fruit-laden lorry could not pass through, leaving King’s students unarmed. Up to a thousand members from the two warring Colleges were still involved and the battle even received press coverage. Reggie was triumphantly received, although he had been painted and filled with fruit. (At this time he was hollow, and over the years, UCL took particular delight in defiling his innards with such ‘donations’).


                              Image: The 1927 march on Gower Street (Archives)

A King for a Queen

In 1929, the Duke and Duchess of York visited King’s as part of the centenary celebrations. Students presented the Duchess with a gift for their young daughter, Princess Elizabeth, of a small woolly ‘Reggie’ on wheels. Some days later, a letter arrived from the Royals’ Private Secretary saying:

‘Princess Elizabeth is quite delighted with the red lion and refuses to play with anything else.’

It was the first time Reggie had flirted with the glitzy world of the rich and famous, but it was by no means the last.

The cartoonist Kenneth Bird, aka ‘Fougasse’, was a King’s Engineering student from 1904 to 1908 and produced many drawings of Reggie, one of which was used as the College’s informal logo for a time.

The Lord Mayor’s Procession of 1930

The account of this fateful day comes from Major PR Reid, MBE MC, who was a King’s Engineering student at the time…

‘My first day at King’s – I arrived without a hat… By chance I met Victor Hopkins in the Drawing Office with a brand new bowler hat! I think we filled it with beer some days later in Marchesi’s, and that was the beginning of many adventures.

‘Marchesi’s no longer exists, but it was a kind of restaurant with a long bar counter, just a few yards from the Strand entrance of King’s. We first year ‘Beers’, were soon introduced to its delicacies. I lunched often on a pint of beer and a cream meringue. We would meet in the evenings there too, after a game of Rugger on Wednesday or Saturday, to drink pints of beer upon which we grew bloatedly and devilishly drunk in the students’ manner.

‘We also met there in preparation for the Lord Mayor’s Parade of 1930, more famous than usual that year because we made it so! I think it was the first and last occasion on which Circus or Zoo animals took part. We cheered lustily at the Embankment entrance as the parade passed, raising Reggie aloft at frequent intervals to show we possessed the King of the Beasts at King’s.

‘But what a rumpus there was when the elephants took a violent dislike to Reggie and charged, trumpeting in rage! The crowds broke and fled, but we could not. We were wedged in the entrance. I remember seeing Grant clinging fast around one of the legs of the big bull elephant to prevent himself being trampled upon – while the said elephant gored our sturdy aluminium* Reggie through and through with his tusks. The mahouts eventually restored order, but the event made the headlines in the evening papers.’

*Major Reid was unaware that Reggie is in fact made of copper.

Reggie was repaired after this terrible ordeal and despite many battles, remained intact at King’s while the world sped towards war in the late 1930s.

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