came to see to us in November to deliver a different
sort of History Group talk!
In 2007, when Suzy
was working with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, taking
groups of children on boat trips and walks around the
Broads, she heard the 800,000 year old story of the
West Runton Elephant. How he lived among Norfolk
woodland, marsh and rivers, along with rhinos, big
cats, horses and hyenas. How, at 4 metres to the
shoulder, he was the biggest of them all – the
biggest, most complete mammoth ever discovered in the
entire world - as big as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. How,
when he was young, he injured his leg, which became
diseased so when, aged 42, he slipped into a river he
could not get out – and so he died.
fascinated by the story, built up from the excavation
and examination of the ancient bones. A touching story
which became a passion that led her to seek out the
bones, then kept in store at Gressenhall. Then to meet
Margaret Hems who, together with her husband, had discovered
the mammoth in 1992 after a stormy night had
washed away part of the cliffs at West Runton. How
could children learn more of this remarkable story?
talk, Suzie held vertically a seven foot cane.
“Imagine another fixed in the top. That’s how tall he
was”. Rather a “linear depiction” of a mammoth, but
perhaps what gave her the idea which became an
obsession. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the
elephant once again walking along the beach?
Suzie had joined the Norfolk Museum Service where she
was surprised to see that the bones had still not been
displayed. So, off then to see Jeremy Moore, well
known in Martham, who specialised in restoring WWII
aircraft. “Will you build me a walking, life-sized
West Runton Elephant?” “Whatever Suzie wants …….!”
engineering drawing, through building with fine birch
lathes, with a head woven of willow to the magnificent
creature walking the beach took two years. Photographs
and video took us through the painstaking process.
Over 700 people came to that first event, at which
Martham was represented by two of our retained fireman
occupying a leg each, with Suzie and Jeremy occupying
the others. The East Anglian press was full of it and
the internet still is. There were many more
appearances, including one at the Martham Carnival
where, sadly, he merely stood and watched we small
humans walking by.
lives in an open barn at Somerleyton, where he has
been once blown over and has provided a home for
nesting chaffinches. Back to how it all started,
reminding us of the bones of small creatures that were
found among his own. Oh, mustn’t forget, he has a new
name – Hugh Mungus, as he is called in the comic book
that Suzie has written for children.
information on an earlier talk in 2013 see this