The War of Jenkins’ Pig’s Ear

Guest post by A. J. P. Whaler

As an amateur historian I often feel a close connection with my surroundings, ambling through a richer environment than those more ignorant, those blind to the great stories that surround us. So let me assuage some of this ignorance as I take you through a brief tour of the events underlying the street names of the famous Harringay Ladder, in North London.

It is a mostly forgotten conflict, the War of Jenkins’ Pig’s Ear, which was fought largely by British forces in northern Europe disguised as itinerant meat vendors, against mostly German forces masquerading as early conscientious vegetarians. Of course, as this conflict presaged the somewhat more famous Second World War, the motives were in truth less idiotic.

Lord Jenkins’ introduction of war ham (refer to the map of the Ladder, to find Warham Road), intended as a significant improvement on the normal ham used in the First World War, which was rendered ineffective and delicious in the presence of mustard gas, was not well received by the British troops. Far more use, they claimed, would have been guns or even cleavers (the absence of which caused much eyebrow-raising considering the otherwise flawless meat vendor disguise). This led to the pejorative soldiers’ expression which lies behind Effingham Road.

But it was nothing short of a devastating weapon in the hands of a few daring commandos (see the Roads, Beresford, Falkland, Frobisher, Fairfax). It was they, who, in defence of the beleaguered Jewish population of northern Europe, drew off the German attention hitherto focussed on turning over brisket and gefilte stalls, under their flimsy vegetarian guise. The war ham was so effective in this endeavour, despite the irony, that the little-known Jews for Jambon group was founded, but who relocated to Australia (Sydney Road) after ham eating was not included as an exemption in the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

A striking counterpoint to this consistent naming of streets after the War of Jenkins’ Pig’s Ear is Duckett Road. Some ostensible scholars will tell you this is named for the war cry given when the British would hurl their war ham (‘duck it!’) knowing full well the Germans didn’t speak English and would more likely turn towards the ham than duck it. This is, of course, apocryphal, and Duckett Road is a corruption of the French ‘ducquet’ meaning ‘little Duke’, which is what Lord Jenkins called his favourite pig.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of one small corner of North London. At least it may go to highlight the rich stories that surround the prima facie mundane locales which we inhabit.


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