En 1863, at the bottom of avenue de la République (formerly avenue de Rodez), walkers on Monte could see a plaster figure of 0.92 m high that surpassed a chimney in the old Planard house. This small monument, which Millavois called “Mabrough”, attracted the eye, it represented the English general Marlborough (1650-1722), who reigned on this long building (11 facade windows on each floor) built shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution and since then. partially masked by other constructions such as the Banque du Crédit Lyonnais.
In August 1863 it read: “From the top of his chimney, which was given to him as a pedestal, the great Marlborough watches with an indifferent eye this dense crowd, sometimes noisy, sometimes calm, who seem happy to indulge in the pleasure of the walk. If he could speak, the big man, he would tell us how many love notes have been exchanged between young men and little girls, and how many handshakes have been given and received before his eyes; but he is dumb, poor, and in the 52 years he has been there, he has only spoken once, which made him lose his hat ”
Where did this statue come from?
To this question Jean Legros gives us the answer in his column published in the Echo de la Dourbie on August 22, 1863: “In 1810, the owner of this house would one day repair a smoky chimney. To this he turned to a young smoker, who undertook to cure her. The artist, who would go at once, climbed onto the roof. to see what wind thwarted the smoke, he stayed there long enough.He was an active and intelligent young man who joined the smoking profession by making plaster figures.
To spend his free time, while looking at the four cardinal points, he began to make with clay and mortar a little man, 3 feet tall, wearing a braided hat, and planted him on the chimney.
What have you put on my fireplace, the landlord told him?
– It’s the great Marlborough; artist idea.
– If it’s an artist’s idea, I respect it, otherwise I can not really see what this English general is going to do on my roof, no matter how much you put him there, he will stay there. »
At that time, Avenue de la République was called “Avenue de Rodez”, and the Millavos of that time used to call it “lou Comy Royal”. This road did not have the configuration we know today at all. The avenue was much wider, surrounded by elm, and the houses built did not go to Crès, but stopped at the level of the present Place Bion Marlavagne. The sidewalks first appeared in 1852. Of course, there was not yet the railway barrier, and when they made Monte, they climbed in one fell swoop to the top of the Crès.
“Get Malbrough talking”
Barely placed, the bust of the English general caught the eye, and the day after its construction all the children of Millau and other people who were not admired admired the character who sat enthroned on the fireplace and learned that his name was Marlborough. He was the hero of one of their favorite songs: “Mabrough goes to war, Mironton, mironton, mirontaine … Malbrough goes to war, do not know when he will return”
It so happened that the very large facade of the Planard building and those of the houses facing it, on the other side of Monte, had given rise to a very sonorous echo, and it was played. “Get Malbrough to speak”.
For more than a year, every child who walked nearby said a word to the dummy and made the echo speak.
“Say, you, up there, they call you Malbrough.
– The echo replied: Malbrough they are calling me.
And the boy, pleased with the answer, walked away happy as Gascon, to whom an echo replied: I’m fine.
Marlborough continued to attract the attention of some publics for some time; but little by little his Memory disappeared, and by 1815 he was almost forgotten.
But he continued to see from the top of his chimney in the crushing heat, in stormy weather, in violent winds, nothing seemed to weaken him.
When Malbrough lost his hat (1815)
During the Restoration, a royalist banquet was held in the open air. France celebrated the return of the Bourbons, and Millau was among them. Songs about the circumstances were sung in the streets. Under the tall elm trees that at that time adorned the avenue opposite the Planard house, the party was very homosexual and very orderly, and while it manifested its joy, the public who composed it hurt no one.
The rest is told to us by Jean Legros: “We had made all the bowls we make under such circumstances, and we no longer knew who to drink to when a guest of an original liquor suggested drinking for Malbrough’s health, whose statue we saw opposite.
All the guests filled their glasses, and the one who had asked the courtship raised his, said in a first faint voice, which grew louder and louder: Marlborough, we drink for your health; may the usurper, whose custody we have entrusted to your countrymen, remain as calm on Saint Helena as you do on your chimney, this daring and enterprising general has fled from the island of Elba, but from Saint Helena he will never return!
He comes back, answering a sonorous and accentuated voice. »
It was evidently an echo-prank, made so much the more explanatory, if the toast by a quite common well-known inaccuracy had omitted the negation ‘ne’ after the word ‘never’. Anyway, many guests, strangers in the city, strangers with their eyes or just drunken bugs.
A shudder goes through the assembly, the guests look at each other with bewildered eyes and without saying a word, fear has cut them off until a young man from the neighborhood has pointed to the perpetrator.
– Yes, it was Marlborough who made his echo speak …
After regaining their courage, having been green with fear and again reddened by the effects of anger, the banquets, or at least some of those whose murder victims had undoubtedly been more abundant, amused themselves by pushing the young people to go down and tear down the portrait of this. Marlborough, which had caused them so much emotion.
“You deserve, young man, a reward; here drink this glass of good wine, and with two or three of your comrades, climb up on the roof of the Planard house and lay Marlborough on the ground, he deserves to be punished.
The boy had soon gathered 2 or 3 comrades for this expedition: armed with sticks, they climbed onto the roof and tried to overthrow the doll. Their efforts are useless, they only succeed in knocking off his hat and chopping off his arm; tired of the fight they withdrew.
It is possible that the owner or a occupant of the house intervened in time to save his chimney.
It is also possible that since this headdress, by its shape, must have been more or less reminiscent of the “little hat” of the abominable usurper, its destruction was enough to appease the drunken wreckers. Be that as it may, in 1863 it was bareheaded and mutilated that the good man continued to consider that the Millavoise youth did Monte.
The Planard building is renamed “Maison Bonnefous” in 1866, when the lawyer Lacroix announced that he was moving his studio there. Still comfortably seated on his chimney, Malbrough continued, mutilated and without a hat, watching Millavois pass by, and then fell into complete oblivion. No doubt that during a repair of the chimney it ended its existence on a ceiling, or who knows, its owner sent it to a final scrapping plant. Forgotten from memory, it will be even more so when the building on which it rested will be partially masked by new constructions such as. Crédit Lyonnais (architect Paul Victor Lacure), which opens on the 1st.eh July 1914, during the presidency of Mr. Barbut, former leader of Alais, in line with the building of the Banque Villa (1872-1876), which since 1936 was converted into a town hall.