Hoaxes & Pranks
Hoaxing the Mayor of Cambridge.
The Register (Adelaide, SA)
Date: April 10, 1905
Page Number: 3
Cambridge undergraduates have been having merry moments at the expense of the worthy Mayor. Last week they played off a fictitious Sultan of Zanzibar upon him by telegram, and then audaciously "arrived from London" and were received with civic honours at the Guildhall, where an interpreter duly explained that the Sultan himself was prevented from coming, but rather than that Cambridge, and the Mayor, and the Town Clerk, should be disappointed he had sent his uncle, Prince Mukasa Ali, to represent him. The practical joke began with a telegram to the Mayor of Cambridge, "reply paid":—
"The Sultan of Zanzibar will arrive to-day at Cambridge, 4.27, for short visit. Could you arrange to show him buildings of interest and send carriage? Henry Lucas, Hotel Cecil, London."
The official reply was a graciously worded welcome, and the Mayor gave orders for the reception, and the Town Clerk, an Emmanuel College man, busied himself for the entertainment of the distinguished guest. Carriages were ordered to meet the train, when a later telegram was received, saying— "Unable to arrive till 5.43. No time for dinner."
The fun began in London, when four gorgeously attired gentlemen with dusky complexions, one dark as the darkest Arab, took train in presence of an admiring crowd, at Liverpool street. They were "Prince Mukasa Ali" and three members of his suite. Mr. Lucas acted as courier and interpreter, and the party was received on arrival at Cambridge Guildhall by the Mayor in his chain of office, attended by the Town Clerk. Refreshments were offered, but declined, it being explained that certain barriers of caste, and custom regarding wine, were not to be overcome even by such distinguished hosts. Cambridge grew alive. Crowds gathered to cheer the wondrously apparelled visitors from sunniest Africa. "The backs" and some of the gardens were inspected; St. John's was visited; and the masquerading party met with an ovation in Trinity street.
When the Prince Mukasa bade good-by to the worthy Mayor (Mr. Campkin) he made his way with his suite to the railway station, where, by a clever maneuvre, they bade farewell to Mr. Lucas and entering separate hansoms drove away to a rendezvous, where they changed their costumes, and made their way to their rooms.
The real Sultan attended at Buckingham Palace a day or two previous to the perpetration of the undergraduates' practical joke, about which every one is now talking.
Sultan of Zanzibar Hoax
A telegram announced their imminent arrival to the mayor. (It was signed "Lucas" because, one of the group claimed, "high colonial
officials always carried that name.") Source
St. John's College
Mayor Algernon S. Campkin
Pharmacist in Rose Crescent. Authority on canine species and his interests included botany and swimming. Prominent in photography
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar), and Pemba.
SUPPOSED ROYAL VISIT.
West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic.)
Date: May 23, 1905
Page Number: 4
"Strand, Southampton street.
"To the Mayor of Cambridge.
"The Sultan oflZanzibar will arrive to-day at Cambridge, 4.27, for short visit. Could you arrange to show him buildings of special interest and send carriage?
"Hotel Cecil, London."
The above telegram, which reached the mayor soon after one o'clock on March 2nd, marks the opening scene in one of the most audacious and carefully-planned practical jokes ever perpetrated by undergraduates. What subsequently happened reads more like an extract from a Gilbertian comedy than a narrative of plain fact.
On receipt of the telegram Mr Campkin, the mayor, and the town clerk, Mr Whitehead, an old Emmanuel College man, determined to do the honors of the town to their distinguished guest as well as was possible at such short notice.
Accordingly a reply was sent saying that a carriage would be in waiting, and offering to provide refreshments. Later in the afternoon another telegram was received by the mayor as follows:—
"Telegram received with thanks. Unable to arrive till 5.43. No time for dinner.
PLENTY OF SALAAMS.
An hour or two later passengers on Liverpool street station saw four gentlemen with dark complexions, arrayed in gorgeous flowing garments, and brilliant turbans on their heads, drive up to the station. They were accompanied by a gentleman in ordinary clothes, the interpreter, "Mr Henry Lucas." The four dark gentlemen were "Prince Mukasa Ali" and three members of his suite. Mr Lucas took tickets for Cambridge, and the party on arriving in due course drove to the Guildhall, where they were received by the mayor and town clerk, the former wearing his chain of office.
Here it was explained that the Sultan himself was unfortunately unable to come, and so his place had been taken at the last minute by his uncle, Prince Mukasa Ali. Refreshments were offered and declined, and, as the Prince announced that he must go back by the 7.50 train to Liverpool street, the party went into the main room of the Guildhall, where a bazaar was being held, at which, however, the Prince made no purchases.
Meantime, news of a distinguished stranger's arrival had got about, and as the party came down the steps from the Guildhall to enter the carriage, a large crowd cheered heartily, the Prince gracefully acknowledging the salutation, and even distributing some largesse.
King's College Chapel was, naturally, the first sight to be seen, but, perhaps for religious reasons, it was thought, the Prince declined to go inside. From King's his Royal Highness went for a few moments into Clare, and then, passing Trinity Hall, went into Trinity College. As they passed into the great court the visitors stopped, struck with admiration, and, lifting up their hands, expressed their wonder.
The visitors, indeed, except upon this one occasion, spoke very little, but salaamed continually, and addressed each other by signs on their hands.
A STRANGE INCIDENT.
Thence the party visited the fellows' bardens and the "backs." But Prince Mukasa complained of the cold, so they returned and visited St. John's College, where his Royal Highness was especially delighted with the "bridge of sighs," and seemed much interested on hearing of its famous prototype.
Time, however, was now short, and after a walk up Trinity street, the Prince and his suite took leave of their kind hosts and drove off to the sation, having first expressed their deepest gratitude for the reception accorded them.
On arriving at the station a strange incident occurred, which, if it had been witnessed by the mayor or the town clerk, must have aroused their gravest suspicions. The Prince got out of the vehicle, and, gaining the platform through a considerable crowd, began to march majestically up the long platform, paying no attention to the remonstrances of the railway officials or of Mr Lucas: Then suddenly he turned round and, followed by his suite, proceeded hastily to the exit of the station. Passing out the Africans, though surrounded by a crowd of spectators, bade farewell to Mr Lucas, and, leaping hastily into a couple of hansoms, drove rapidly out into the country, and no more was seen of the supposed potentate.
When interviewed, Mr Campkin, the Mayor, was still in ignorance of the real state of affairs, and, in describing the visit, repeatedly expressed his regret at having been unable to receive the visitors more fittingly, saying that if he had had longer notice he would have communicated with the Vice-Chancellor of the University and summoned the members of the corporation.
What really happened after the Prince and suite had driven away, was this: They went to a pre-arranged spot, and, doffing their gorgeous robes, made their way back to their rooms. Yesterday certain of the party again came up to London and returned to a well-known costumier the garments which they had hired for the occasion.
Hotel Cecil c.1926
King's College Chapel
Bridge of Sighs
A hansom cab