English tale of tiger and barmaid goes musical
By Gordon Simpson
THE mysterious tale of Hannah Twynnoy and the tiger that killed her in Malmesbury is being brought to life in a new musical production.
The death of the 33-year-old barmaid in 1703 is one of the town’s most intriguing historical stories.
She is reputed top be the first ever person to be killed in Britain by a tiger.
The exact details of her untimely death are shrouded in mystery.
However, it is believed she was working at a pub called the White Lion when a travelling circus set up camp in its large garden.
The infamous tiger, part of a menagerie, somehow broke free and mauled her to death.
Hannah’s tombstone still stands in the grounds of Malmesbury Abbey.
Etched into it is a poem that reads: “In bloom of life, she’s snatched from hence, she had no room, to make defence, for tyger fierce, took life away, and here she lies in a bed of clay, until the Resurrection Day.”
John Hughes and Mike Scanlon, who co-wrote the choral piece Eilmer based on Malmesbury’s famous flying monk, have joined forces again to write the musical.
It will be performed by the Malmesbury Singers at their Christmas concert on Saturday, December 9.
Mike Scanlon, 73, who wrote the words, said he hoped people in Malmesbury would enjoy their take on the events.
“The town has a soft spot for the tombstone of Hannah Tynnoy,” he said.
“It will bring her back to life, to a certain extent, and hopefully allow Malmesbury people to look with new interest when they pass her tombstone.
“Rehearsals are going very well and people are very excited about it, so it’s lovely to be involved.”
Mr Scanlon said it was difficult trying to piece together what happened, but in a way that helped them.
“It’s a double-edged sword, in that you are free to use your imagination because nobody knows the full truth,” he explained.
“We have embellished a bit, because we don’t know too much about her life.
“We won’t spoil it for anyone, but it’s quite a happy ending in the circumstances.”
Mr Hughes, 66, who wrote the music, added: “We really enjoyed doing the story of Eilmer in 2001, and this is a kind of sequel in a way.”