On this day in history….19th August 1975

On this day in history : 19th August 1975 – Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, is vandalised by campaigners calling for the release of robber George Davis from prison….img_3734

34-year-old East London mini-cab driver, George Davis, had been jailed for 20 years for his part in an armed robbery in Ilford, Essex – a police officer had been shot and injured…. However, it was claimed Davis was a case of mistaken identity – he had not been involved in the pay-roll robbery…. Since his imprisonment in Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight a series of marches, petitions and fund-raising events had been organised…. Even a 7 hour roof top demonstration on St. Paul’s Cathedral had been held by his brother-in-laws, Jim and Colin Dean….

Campaigners had gained entrance to the Headingley ground, had dug holes on the cricket pitch and had poured oil over one end of the wicket…. They had painted slogans on the walls demanding Davis’s release…. The damage was discovered by head groundsman, George Cawthray – and the final match of the series between England and Australia had to be abandoned…. This meant a draw was declared and England did not have the chance of winning back the Ashes….

Police travelled from London to Leeds to investigate – and four people were brought to trial…. Three received suspended sentences whilst the fourth, Peter Chappell, was given an 18 month prison sentence….

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Image credit : sarflondondunk via Flickr

Following the incident an internal inquiry was set up to look into the handing of the Davis case…. In conclusion Home Secretary Roy Jenkins expressed serious doubt as to Davis’s identification, which had been based on the evidence of two police officers…. In May 1976 Davis was released from prison….

However, in July 1978 Davis was jailed for 15 years after pleading guilty to taking part in a bank robbery…. He was freed in 1984 – but three years later was to receive a further 18 month sentence for attempting to steal mailbags….

On this day in history….18th August 1587

On this day in history : 18th August 1587 – The birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in the New World; what became of her and the rest of the Roanoke Colony remains a mystery….

Colonists had set sail for Virginia onboard ‘The Lion’ in May 1587 – the Captain of their expedition was Simon Fernandez, the Portuguese navigator…. Their chosen destination was Chesapeake Bay – but on reaching Roanoke in late July, Fernandez stopped to let his passengers disembark and then refused to allow them back onboard again….

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Roanoke Colony – drawn by John White during his first visit to the region in 1585. Roanoke is the pink coloured island, centre, right – John White, public domain

Roanoke, which is now part of North Carolina, had previously been inhabited by 15 men…. The new settlers patched-up the dwellings left behind by their predecessors and attempted to search for the men – but all they found were bones….

The settlers were led by Governor John White; he made enquiries with some friendly natives, the people of Chief Manteo and was told the 15 men had been killed by a hostile tribe…. On the 8th of August White led his men on a dawn raid….but they got it so wrong! Instead of attacking an antagonistic tribe they attacked friendly natives, killing one and wounding many more…. From then on relations with all the tribes declined….

Ten days later White became a grandfather; his daughter, Elenora, who herself had been born in London circa 1563, gave birth to a healthy baby girl…. It was announced : “Elenora, daughter to the governor of the city, and wife to Ananias Dare, one of the assistants, was delivered of a daughter in Roanoke”…. Ananias Dare, a tiler and bricklayer by trade, had also been born in London, circa 1560…. The Dares named their new daughter ‘Virginia’, as she was the first to be born there….and she was christened the following Sunday….

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Baptism of Virginia Dare, lithograph, 1880 – Henry Howe, public domain

Towards the end of 1587 food supplies were rapidly beginning to run out; the supply ships, not knowing Fernandez had stranded the Colonists at Roanoke, did not stop there…. The settlers persuaded White to set off and make his way back to England to organise necessary provisions for them – something he eventually agreed to – but against his will….

These were difficult times; England was at war with Spain – and Queen Elizabeth I had commandeered almost all seaworthy ships with which to fight the Spanish Armada…. This meant White did not return to Roanoke until the 18th of August 1590 – on what would have been little Virginia Dare’s third birthday….

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The return of Governor White to Roanoke – Public domain

Only there was no sign of his grand-daughter, or his daughter – or indeed any of the 80 men, 17 women and 11 children who made up the Colony of Roanoke…. The houses and fortifications were collapsed….not torn down but purposely dismantled….and there was no evidence of a battle or a struggle…. White had told the settlers before he left that if they were forced to leave they should carve a Maltese Cross as a sign…. There was no cross to be seen….just the word ‘Croatoan’ carved onto a post of the fort…. White assumed they had moved on to Croatoan Island (now called Hatteras Island)…. He never did find out what happened to them….their disappearance remains a mystery to this day….

Of course most theories conclude that they were killed by natives; although others say they were given refuge by sympathetic Chesapeake Indians…. There are those who believe they were taken captive by natives and forced into slavery; there were even reported sightings of European women and children among the native people…. We will never know what happened to little Virginia Dare….but featuring prominently in myths and legends, through American folklore she lives on….

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Illustration from Virginia Dare : A Romance of the Sixteenth Century, 19th Century novel by Mrs E.A.B. Shackelford, loosely based on the life of Virginia Dare – Public domain

On this day in history….17th August 1896

On this day in history : 17th August 1896 – Mrs Bridget Driscoll, from Croydon, Surrey is the first person in Britain to be knocked down by a car and killed….

Bridget, aged 44, had been on a visit to the Crystal Palace with her 16-year-old daughter; as part of the exhibition automobiles were being demonstrated…. People were unfamiliar with these new horseless carriages and many were unsure how to react around them….

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Bridget Driscoll (circled) Public domain (this version – Madgamers via Wikimedia)

The driver of the Roger-Benz, an employee of the Anglo-French Motor Co., had only been driving for three weeks (there were no driving tests back then)…. He claimed he was only doing 4mph and had rung his bell and shouted “Stand back!”…. But as he swerved and zig-zagged towards them Bridget Driscoll hesitated and appeared bewildered…. Bridget had the misfortune of becoming Britain’s first motoring fatality – at the time there were fewer than 20 cars on the roads….

At the inquest her death was given an ‘accidental death’ verdict – the coroner stated that he hoped “this would be the last death in this sort of accident”…. It is estimated there have been more than 550,000 people killed on Britain’s roads since then….

On this day in history….16th August 1743

On this day in history : 16th August 1742 – Champion bare-knuckle fighter John ‘Jack’ Broughton formulates the first prize-ring code of boxing rules….

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Jack Broughton – W.THOMAS.SCFRANK HAYMAN, R.A. Henry Downes Miles ( 1806-1889) – Public domain

Broughton, born around 1704 was the son of a farmer from Baunton, Gloucestershire…. At the age of 12 he went to work at the quayside in Bristol – and would often fight with the local lads…. Before long he came to the attention of James Figg, England’s first bare-knuckle champion – having claimed the title in 1719; the concept of current-day boxing originally came from him….

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James Figg – John Faber Jr after John Ellys – Public domain

Figg owned an amphitheatre in London – and it was here that he trained Broughton to bare-knuckle fight…. Once Broughton had become successful he opened an amphitheatre of his own, near to Oxford Street; it became the largest and most influential establishment of its kind in the country….

At the time ‘rules’ varied from contest to contest, Broughton decided some regulation was needed…. He devised a set of rules; among them – that a round would last until one man went down – and that there should be a 30 second interval between rounds…. His rules eventually evolved into the London Prize-Ring Rules – promulgated in 1838 and revised in 1853…. They outlawed head butting, kicking, biting, scratching, gauging, hitting a man whilst he was down, using hard objects in the hands and holding the ropes….

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Broughton’s rules – Jack Broughton, public domain

The London Prize Rules were replaced by the Marquess of Queensbury Rules during the 1860s; however most of the earlier measures still remain in effect today, having laid the foundation to modern-day boxing….

As for Broughton, in 1750 he fought Jack Slack – and within 14 minutes of the contest starting had received a punch that rendered him temporarily blinded – and he had to retire from the fight….His patron of the time, the Duke of Cumberland, is said to have lost thousands on the match…. Broughton closed his amphitheatre very soon afterwards and ran an antiques business instead…. He died on the 8th of January 1789….

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‘The Bruiser Bruisd; Or the Knowing Ones Taken-in’ – A boxing match between John Broughton and Jack Slack – Public domain

On this day in history….15th August 1971

On this day in history : 15th August 1971 – English equestrian Harvey Smith is stripped of his £2,000 winnings at the British Show Jumping Derby, after allegedly making a rude gesture at the judges….

It is said Harvey had been involved in a heated exchange with one of the judges on the morning of the competition, which was being held at Hickstead in West Sussex…. Harvey, who had won the derby the previous year had forgotten to bring the trophy with him for this year’s presentation…. Some believed he had done this deliberately, assuming it was a foregone conclusion he would win it again…. The trophy eventually arrived from Harvey’s Yorkshire home just in time for it to be presented back to him….

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Photo credit : The Dutch National Archives – Public domain

It was after winning the competition that Harvey was seen to make a two-fingered V-sign in the direction of the judges…. He protested innocence, saying “It was a straightforward V for Victory. Churchill used it throughout the war”….

He had a point…. Harvey had used the gesture with his palm facing towards him; Churchill, on first adopting his V for Victory salute had also done so with his palm inwards…. His advisors eventually took him aside and explained the actual meaning of this….and from then on Churchill used the palm outward-facing sign….

Harvey bucked the trend of the then usual upper class snobbery of the show jumping set…. He was a blunt Yorkshire lad, with a broad accent; he was known as ‘Heathcliff on Horseback’…. Frequently clashing with the sport’s governing body, his rebellious nature made him popular with the public…. Through much publicity and the backing of the public the disqualification was reversed two days later….

Harvey Smith (1974)
Harvey Smith (1974) – Photo credit: Rob Mieremet / Anefo CCO

Harvey won the British Show Jumping Derby a total of seven times and represented Britain in the Olympics three times…. He did later admit in interviews that he had indeed V-signed the judges!