Have you ever wondered how you might react if you saw kangaroos hopping around Lincoln High Street? Or perhaps alongside your car? Well that was common practice in the late 1950s to early 60s.
Picture this: you’re driving down Nettleham Road late at night, and in the reflection of your car headlights you see kangaroos hopping down the street.
You may be excused for thinking you’ve gone totally mad, but in the 1950s and 60s a few of these marsupial creatures found a home in Lincoln, thanks to a man who took them in as pets.
Geoffrey Morey published a book about this very time in 1962, detailing why he got kangaroos in the first place and how they adapted to their Lincolnshire surroundings.
The Lincoln Kangaroos tells the story of a couple of kangaroos who lived within the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral and became local superstars.
It initially looked like Geoffrey wouldn’t get his kangaroo dream when a disagreement with Buckingham Palace denied him at first.
Four kangaroos had been brought over from South Australia after a joking remark about bringing them to the UK.
Two of them were soon living in a bedroom inside a London hotel as the owner waited for a response from the royal family, while the other two were presented to Edinburgh Zoo.
Geoffrey had been given assurance that if Buckingham Palace were to reject the two animals, he would be allowed to house them in Lincoln, due to his knowledge on them during his time in Australia.
After back and forths with important figures in London, Geoffrey was told he wouldn’t be getting the kangaroos, much to his despair.
The idea of kangaroos being in Lincoln became a big news story, and it escalated from local papers to national news outlets.
It was even picked up by an Australian newspaper, and when reading about Geoffrey’s ordeal, a local decided to gift him two kangaroos out of gratitude.
Before long, Pinto and Nardoo were passengers on a boat heading to England, specifically Geoffrey’s house in Lincoln.
Geoffrey built a kennel in his back garden for the kangaroos, using straw on the floor and a small heater on the walls to keep them warm.
As was to be expected, this was far from a usual pet experience, and naturally they drew plenty of attention.
Children would bring fruit to feed Pinto and Nardoo, or even just peer over the wall and watch them hop around the garden.
Very early on into owning the kangaroos, Geoffrey spotted Nardoo tangled in a wire fence with her leg trapped.
Due to being a doctor himself, Geoffrey drafted in his colleagues at the hospital to help save Nardoo rather than have her shot.
In what became a remarkably uplifting tale, almost every medical expert in Lincoln worked on getting Nardoo better, even designing her a makeshift walking splint to help her recover.
What anaesthetic do you use for a kangaroo? Well, peppermints obviously. Nardoo would remain calm and quiet during operations so long as she had peppermints to chew on.
Once Nardoo recovered she, along with Pinto, would develop a bit of a habit for leaving home to go on adventures.
An infamous moment is recalled by Geoffrey, the time when Pinto ended up in a Lincoln cemetery after leaping over a seven foot high wall.
After the gardener struck up the lawn mower in Geoffrey’s backyard, Pinto became startled and sprinted away, clearing the wall with ease and going missing for hours.
Geoffrey was at work when he was called by a puzzled young boy who said a phrase that is very rarely heard in Lincoln.
“Did you know your big kangaroo is in the cemetery at the end of your garden?”
It took Geoffrey most of the day to get Pinto back, but eventually did after she found herself in a coal shed, several hours after first leaving.
As well as this, while on holiday in East Africa, Geoffrey read a story in a Ugandan newspaper with the headline “Lincoln police on the hop”.
The story was about Geoffrey’s kangaroos being spotted by a driver late at night, who called the police in astonishment as three wild animals were jumping on the road ahead of him.
The man called police and said: “You may think I’m drunk or even mad, but I’ve just seen three kangaroos jumping down Nettleham Road.”
A ‘Lincoln Safari’ then took place as police scanned the city looking for Pinto, Nardoo and Matilda, before eventually being brought back safe to the garden after a three hour hunt.
Perhaps most fascinating of all about this story, the kangaroos would be welcomed into the house and would even strike up a friendship with the family dogs.
While the kangaroos preferred to box and the dogs enjoyed chasing things, they shared a common bond of laying in front of the fireplace during a cold evening.
It wouldn’t just be Pinto and Nardoo that Geoffrey had to cater for though, as Nardoo would go on to birth five babies.
Johnny and Matilda were the first two, but a double tragedy over the spell of a few months saw Pinto taken away to the zoo due to his aggressive nature, and Johnny fall ill and tragically die while the family were on holiday.
Geoffrey wrote to a man in Australia who collected kangaroos, to tell him of the loss of Pinto and Johnny, and before long he was gifted two more for his family.
These were named Pinto II and Quogga, but the latter was found dead in her kennel just four days later.
Aranda would be born after Pinto II’s arrival, along with two other babies at the time of publishing the book.
It is unsure what happened after the book was published, but we can assure you that no kangaroos now live there!
The book was found by Pirjo Holtta, owner of second hand goods shop Pre-Loved From Lincolnshire, who couldn’t believe the story when she saw it.
“I’ve lived in Lincoln since 2007 and I had never heard the kangaroo story from round the corner!”