In 1906, on his honeymoon expedition in Africa, Percy Powell-Cotton was attacked by a wounded lion. He survived with a lot of claw marks on his back, having been rescued by his trackers and bearers.
He carefully kept all the items linked to the story – his tattered clothes, hat, boots, the stick and whip used to beat the Lion and the gun which finally despatched the creature. And the folded copy of ‘Punch’ magazine that was in his pocket and stopped the lion’s claws penetrating a soft part of his body. He even kept the Lion’s skin – and it can now be seen recreated as a Lion in mortal combat with a Buffalo in Gallery 3. It is the most dramatic taxidermy in the Museum.
In the years that followed when he was not away travelling he would tell his “Lion Story” to visitors, both personal friends and those coming to see his Museum.
We have started to accumulate a list of dates when he told the story, so we are beginning to find what a feature of the Museum it was. From July 1922 to August 1926 we have 48 occasions on the list. Sometimes he tells the story several times a week. Children are a popular audience – from schools, Sunday schools, even from France. What they made of it we do not know. How did he tell it? Did he act up the drama, his shock, the bravery of his helpers?
One thing is certain – he knew it was a good story, worth keeping all the props for.