Insight & Analysis

Angry baker talks openly about elephant in room

Published: Jul 2019

There’s no getting away from the elephant in the room, especially if the room happens to be above your baker’s shop.

Archives from The City of Edinburgh Council have perhaps revealed the origin of the expression as the work of Dutchman, Abraham Sever, who kept a live elephant in his flat in the Scottish capital.

Documents from 1705 record the complaints of baker, Adam Kerr, who raised an issue about the animal being housed above his shop near Fishmarket Close in the city.

With claims that his premises and equipment were being ruined by the creature’s dung, and by water seeping through the roof caused, he assumed, by its weight, he petitioned Guild Court officials to make a visit to the premises and open a full discussion about the original elephant in the room.

Previously, Sever had filed a petition on 31st October 1705, requesting the council allow him to show off his elephant to the people of Edinburgh as a charity fundraiser.

Officials had obliged, stating that: “The Council upon ane petitione given by Abraham Sever Dutchman grants liberty to the petitioner to expose his elephant to all persones within the toun and suburbs upon his payment of ane gratification to the kirk treasurer for the use of the poor”.

The elephant arrived in Edinburgh following a tour of Europe in the 1680s and 90s. Following Kerr’s intervention, the unwelcome pachyderm was eventually moved to Dundee.

Sadly, having been removed from the flat above the angry baker, it died just one year later, in that city’s suburb of Broughty Ferry.

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