5 Minutes With the Horniman Walrus
He’s an icon. A behemoth of London’s art world. A local celebrity. He is the Horniman Walrus and we got to chat to Forest Hill’s most familiar face.
Mr Horniman Walrus arrived at The Horniman Museum & Gardens in 1886 and has spent just as much time sat perched upon his icy throne for everyone to see. Not your average walrus, he was originally overstuffed because his owners weren’t totally sure what he should look like, which explains his curves. His vast size and shape still holds today however, and he’s become one of the favourite attractions at the museum. We chatted to him about loves, loathes and what makes a ‘such a fine, corpulent beast’ like this one tick.
What is your name?
My name is the Horniman Walrus (although some refer to me by my more formal title Odobenus rosmarus).
How old are you?
After passing a century I stopped counting.
Where did you live before the Horniman Museum?
I enjoyed a fine old time in Kensington in 1886. I was featured at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition and the people thronged to see me – around five and a half million, including Queen Victoria herself, who thought me a very fine specimen.
What was the weirdest thing about London when you arrived?
The expressions on everyone’s face. They had never seen such a fine, corpulent beast as myself before, so I was an education.
Do you have any family?
My fellow beasts of the Natural History Gallery are like a family to me now, not to mention the Horniman staff. My favourites are the visitor attendants who walk around me all day – we have long chats – and some of my regular visitors.
What do you do while sitting on top of your iceberg every day?
I listen to conversations and catch up on life. At night the ‘berg is a bit like the kitchen at parties – everyone comes over for a natter.
You must’ve been in a few funny #museumselfies, how do you keep such a straight face?
I think, “What would Queen Victoria have done?” then exude my regality.
Which animals are you friends with in the museum?
I am very close to the penguins and always enjoy getting a back scratch from the sloths.
What happens when the museum is closed?
It isn’t a party every night, but I’ll let you into an insider secret. That film Night at the Museum was a documentary.
What event at the museum do you enjoy most?
I like the Lates because I get to catch up on gossip after people have had a glass or several of wine.
I would love to take part in some of the more hands on activities like kite making or bunting, but my flippers can’t grasp the tissue paper very well, so I content myself with seeing what others have made.
How do you ensure you’re always looking good for visitors?
I keep my moustache looking trim and my tusks gleaming with my glam squad, who come in and see to my person. They do a spiffy job, I must say.
You joined twitter, how do you handle all of the fame on and offline?
It is a lot of work, but I try to stay humble.
Tell me about one thing you love and one thing you loathe…
I love a good sing-a-long and am a natural at Karaoke. You can guess what my signature tune is.
I particularly loathe the Forest Hill sink hole and any claims that I am somehow responsible for it with my girth.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
A charming bon vivant.
Your favourite thing in the whole wide world?
Ballroom dancing, naturally.
Go and say hello to Mr Horniman Walrus yourself all this week at The Horniman Museum & Gardens. You can also take part in some of the half-term activities they have planned.
The Horniman Museum & Gardens,
100 London Road
Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ