Terry remembers the monkey business

17:00, Jul 27 2013
Terry Gillan and wife Toni Gillan at the Marlborough Anniversary Day picnic

The recent death of PG Tips chimpanzee Louis brought back memories to Blenheim man Terry Gillan who worked on the classic adverts in the late 70s.

Mr Gillan told Saturday Express that he was a lighting technician with Berny Springle Productions when they filmed the series of ads featuring chimpanzees.

Louis was the biggest of the chimps and especially comical, said Mr Gillan who is in southern Spain attending his daughter's wedding.

"He bit me once," Mr Gillan said, "not for any reason but just for fun."

Two sisters and a brother from the Bertram Mills Circus trained the chimps which like young children, were mischievous, noisy and challenging to work with.

"They would climb on the lights stands and the camera," he said.


The ad series ran from 1956 until 2002, apart from being pulled for 18 months in the 70s following pressure from animal rights groups.

Mr Gillan was especially fond of the ad showing Louis shifting a piano down the stairs, famous for the lines: "Dad, do you know the piano's on my foot?" answered by, "You hum it son, I'll play it!"

Louis the chimpanzee, who appeared dressed as James Bond in the adverts during the 1970s and 80s, died at his home of Twycross Zoo in Warwickshire on Monday last week, following a short illness. His partner and fellow PG Tips star, 42-year-old Choppers, is being "monitored closely" by zookeepers as she mourns her lost friend.

British and international newspaper The Independent reported zoo spokeswoman Natalie Gudger saying that 37-year-old Louis never allowed the fame of the PG Tips ads to go to his head.

"He was very chilled out and relaxed," she said.

Zoo director Sharon Redrobe said "millions of people would have visited" the chimp over the past few decades.

"Born at Twycross, he was one of the original PG Tips chimps and has lived to see all of the changes; from chimps' tea parties to the modernisation of the zoo, including the recent chimp integrations into larger social groups."

The Marlborough Express