Okay, this is where I ask you a favour. So obsessed have I become with the story of the Camborne riots, I decided to research and write my own version, weaving the genuine facts and people with events and characters of my own invention. Naturally, I’d like to see my story published, and, equally naturally, publishing houses won’t take a punt on an unknown writer with an obscure story unless they believe there’s a market for it.
So, I need to prove people out there want to read my story. People like you. Below is a brief synopsis, or outline, of my story: The Camborne Riots of 1873: An Eyewitness Account. After that, is the opening chapter for you to read, along with its explanatory notes. If you a) like what you’ve read, b) would like to read more, and (gulp) c) would actually pay money to read more, email me, Francis, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think it’s worthless tripe, don’t do anything, and I’m sorry I wasted your time!
Read on, and thankyou.
(I realise that I’ve given real people imaginary characteristics and had them say imaginary things. To any descendant of the genuine people mentioned below: no offence was intended.)
Synopsis: The Camborne Riots of 1873: An Eyewitness Account
The police force in Camborne are hated, a bunch of stave-wielding authoritarians managed by a cowardly, non-Cornish despot. They imprison and allegedly abuse innocent women, cheat at cricket, and believe themselves lord and master of all they survey. The people of Camborne, and the town’s miners in particular, have had a gutsful.
One Saturday night, two policemen bite off more than they can chew with the Bawden brothers. Result? They get a hammering, the Bawdens get arrested later that night (after beating off five more officers), and their trial for assault is set for Tuesday. But not if their mine boss, Captain Josiah Thomas (manager of Cornwall’s largest mine), can rig the hearing. He enlists the help of a cocky young pitboy, a compromised philanderer, a hideously injured mine boss, hellfire Methodists and various thugs, and also gets most of Camborne’s population to take to the streets in a show of mass support for the brothers.
But, on Tuesday, it goes badly wrong. The brothers get sent down, and the miners, in the main, take a terrible revenge on those they hold responsible. The forces of law and order are routed in a bloody streetfight. Camborne is subjected to mob rule, and no policeman, or anyone suspected of sympathy towards the police, is safe from the fury of the crowd. Order is only restored when the militia enters the town, and the situation is serious enough for the Home Secretary to get involved. The superintendent is replaced, and the Camborne force is either dismissed or moved to different boroughs. Notwithstanding the fate of the Bawdens, the miners are triumphant. The only figure of authority to emerge with any credit is a local magistrate (and grandson of the safety-fuse inventor), William Bickford-Smith, and even he is powerless.
But then the manhunt for the riot’s ringleaders hots up. The powers that be swear in Special Constables (ironically, key rioters themselves), who are forced to identify suspects whilst, with the silent collaboration of Camborne’s populace, conceal their own involvement. Three men are brought to trial, but there are no convictions, no sentencing: one was a patsy, a simpleton set up by the Specials, and the other two provide witnesses who perjure themselves in order to get their compatriots off. It helps that the counsel for the defence is a smooth-talking crook. In a raucous, dramatic hearing, the authorities are made a fool of. Bickford-Smith is embarrassed. No one, until now, knows who the real rioters were, who commanded them, or what really happened. This, finally, is the true story…
The narrator, in broad Cornish dialect, is Ned, a fictionalised version of my great-grandfather, who was a teenager at the time. (I present myself as merely the posthumous editor of his tale, which was given to me by a relative – I elaborate on this in my introduction.) He claims to have been present at every significant point of the riot: its origins, main flashpoints, and aftermath. His version provides a coarse and ribald counterpoint to the newspaper coverage of the tumult; said coverage actually provided me with the main inspiration for the story. My novella also includes extensive explanatory notes and biographical details, a glossary of the more arcane Cornish phraseology, and appendices.
Riot? Gisson! Don’ call that a fuckin’ riot, boy! What, a bunch o’ bleddy miners runnin’ away from the fight?! Don’ make us piss, honestly! That might be ‘ow they do things up in bastard Wales, but that don’t fuckin’ suit us down ‘ere! Up there, they threw a few bleddy pebbles or what-ave-ee at the police, or kresslers as we used to call the buggers, then fuckin’ ran off when the kresslers pulled o’ their staves out! Fuckin’ wrap up!
Hell, down ‘ere, when we fuckin’ riot, we do’n proper, an’ kick the fuckin’ kresslers out like a pack o’ bleddy lepers! Smashed the town to fuck, beat the shit out o’ ‘em…Ever tell ee ‘bout that, did us? Back in ‘73? Well then. Fuckin’ riot in Wales! Crap! The riot back then, ‘ere, in Camborne, now that was a few days to bleddy remember! An’ I was there – an’ not jus’ standin’ bleddy by either, you can be fuckin’ sure o’ that, boy. I saw’n all, an’ a damn sight more besides. You’ll be the first to ‘ear tell o’ this, I’ve been tighter’n a nun’s chough ‘bout un fer years, an’ fer good bleddy reason, as you’ll find out. An’ some o’ what you’ll trig on to, no bugger writin’ fer the ‘papers ever fuckin’ did. Which is ‘ow I intended un – an’ that makes us the bleddy authority. Now listen ‘ere.
No one bleddy asked us if we wanted the fuckin’ kresslers in Town, much less ‘em settin’ their bleddy ‘eadquarters fer the whole o’ fuckin’ West Cornwall slap-bang in the middle o’ Camborne. Christ sakes man! We ‘ad our own shit to be goin’ on with, an’ next minute Town’s got a shower o’ helmet-wearin’, stave-wieldin’ brass-buttoned assholes stankin’ ‘bout the place like God fuckin’ put ‘em there to make our lives hell. It was like, as Town was their base, that ‘ad to be the one bit o’ bleddy Cornwall better policed than any fuckin’ other. Got on yer tits, I can tell ee. I ‘sppose if the bastard in charge ‘ad been somethin’ like a decent ‘uman being, y’know, one with some compassion an’ common fuckin’ sense, Town an’ kressler may’ve lived together somethin’ like’n. But no. Hell, no. We ‘ad to ‘ave fuckin’ Stephens, an’ upcountry, lanky girt tuss, oo used to strut ‘bout the place like ‘e ‘ad one o’ their staves rammed up ‘is ass. He would look down on ee with ‘is beady little eyes an’ ‘is furzy fucking moustache – if you were doin’ bugger-all, ‘e ‘ad a way of makin’ of ee feel guilty, if you get my drift. Judgement ‘ad already been bleddy passed as far as ‘e was concerned. Stephens reckoned the people o’ Camborne were all bleddy guilty o’ somethin’ or other anyhow, an’ in a way ‘e was right. Town was guilty of ‘avin’ absolutely no time fer the cunt at all. He treated us like shit, an’ we paid un back equal.
Now, you may believe that, with the passage o’ time, I’m blowin’ matters up a little bit ‘ere, but no fuckin’ mind o’ that. Fer example, there was a maid in town, Bennetts, oo they ‘ad flung in gaol on suspicion o’ theft – every fucker knew she was as innocent as the day she was born, apart from fuckin’ Stephens, an ‘is main kressler, Burton – now there was an evil bastard! He was as popular as a dose o’ fuckin’ clap an’ twice as nasty. Anyway, not only did they ‘ave ‘er in the cells fer sod all, Stephens an’ bleddy Burton strip-searched the poor maid, an’ much fuckin’ worse besides! Beastly fuckin’ trade. That carry-on stirred things right up in Town, I can tell ee. Bennetts though, she ‘ad ‘er bleddy moment back – but more fer that later on.
Problem was, put a bastard like Stephens or Burton in charge, an’ all the other kresslers believed they could act bleddy similar – like Osborn. Jesus, Osborn.
Puttin’ a uniform on’n was like puttin’ a suit o’ armour on a bag o’ shit – it’s still a bag o’ fuckin’ shit. Osborn thought ‘is kressler uniform put un at the right ‘and o’ the Duke o’ Wellington. Christ, ‘e fancied ‘isself somethin’ fuckin’ rotten! Stankin’ down Trelowarren, arms ‘hind ‘is back, swayin’ that stave, ‘elmet cocked back, smooth chin ‘igh like ‘e’d just conquered the bleddy Sudan an’ came ‘ome with a stack o’ medals…if you didn’t know the bastard, y’might say to yerself, fuck me, some man ‘ere, pard, wouldn’t want to cross ee on a dark night…But thing was, every bugger in Town did know un fer a pig-ignorant, lazy, cowardly pain in the fuckin’ ass. Yeah, ‘e might stride past ee like ‘e’d just received a earldom from the bleddy Queen, but every bal-maid an’ cheel that’d trigged un either rolled their eyes or pulled faces at the fucker (odd times a tob’d be ‘eaved at un, aimed to land a short distance off, which usually made the cheels grizzle an’ Osborn start like some bleddy darkie ‘ad slung a spear past ‘is chacks); or the pards would stare into ‘is back, sizin’ of’n up, ‘is watery eyes, narrow shoulders, pissy arms an’ kindlin’ legs. That was law an’ order?! Fuckin’ ‘ell. Like a bleddy saplin’ bein’ the main tree in a forest o’ damn oaks.
Most o’ the kresslers in Town were somethin’ like Osborn – paper fuckin’ Napoleons. I mention Osborn more ‘ere, like, as it was ‘is antics at a bleddy cricket match that got the riots goin’, really. An’ it jus’ so ‘appens that it was a cricket match I played in, boy.
Similar to the way the football got organised, mos’ Saturday af’noons from late spring till, well, going on autumn, a few of us miners would play odd games o’ cricket. This was ‘fore all the bleddy leagues like what they ‘ave now, so us from Camborne wheals like Dolcoath and Crofty would play ‘gainst the men of Pendarves mine up in Beacon, or against them lot from King Edward’s in fuckin’ Troon. I’d started to turn out fer the Camborne men – we played at Roskear Fields, like they do now – an’ I ‘ave to say, that season, 1873, we ‘ad some fuckin’ team, Christ!
Every bugger we’d taken on that season, we’d bleddy beat, easy. Up to Beacon, stuffed ‘em out o’ fuckin’ sight – I ferget the scores, but rest assured, we pissed all over ‘em. Then we’d ‘ad Redruth, at Roskear. No contest. Men ‘gainst bleddy bal-maids – an’ I got my top score fer that year, 18 not out. Combined pards o’ Penponds an’ Barripper? Trampled underfoot like bleddy weeds! Praze came to Roskear, an’ wish they’d stayed ‘ome – all out 35! Fuckin’ joke! An’…aw, anyway, don’ bleddy matter, we were the top fuckin’ team. Roskear ground used t’be packed out man, an’ you got yerself well-known round Town too, an’ treated like a fuckin’ ‘ero. An’ we ‘ad one more game that year, one more victory, an’ we’d finish unbeaten fer the season. An’ the team we were up ‘gainst, well, they’d gone without a loss too. Oo else would it be, but our pards from up the hill: Troon. They’d been scattin’ bowlers all over the fuckin’ shop all bleddy summer, an’ us in Town were bleddy sick o’ ‘earin’ their bullshit ‘bout ‘ow they were ‘bout to do the same to us. Fer all that though, they ‘ad a strong side, ‘specially battin’. Fuck, they’d put 200 on ‘gainst Redruth, an’ again ‘gainst Beacon. So it weren’t ‘xactly a done bleddy deal, hell no.
But we ‘ad one player, one man oo could swing un fer us, one man they truly bleddy feared. He could bowl un so fast the ball would fizz through the fuckin’ air ‘fore it smashed into yer stumps or, worse, yer goolies. An’ that man was Jimmy Bawden.
Jimmy Bawden. What a man. What a fuckin’ bowler! Well over six foot, two ax-handles fuckin’ wide, black ‘air, eyes the colour o’ steel, stubble rougher than a badger’s asshole an’ a chin you could crack rocks on. He ‘ad more muscle on’n than an ox in heat an’ thighs like fuckin’ pistons. He worked up Dolcoath, like most of us bleddy did, an’ rumour had it ‘e could break ore with ‘is bare ‘ands, grind gravel with ‘is teeth an’ shit bleddy hell fire. (I never trigged if all that was true, but let’s jus’ say I never doubted it, ‘avin’ known the bugger.) I do know ‘is voice could’ve carried over the damn Tamar an’ no one, no bleddy one, ever picked a fight with un. No one was that fuckin’ daft.
Well, one bugger was. But I’m gettin’ to that.
His cricket? Well, Jimmy bowled faster than The Demon himself, tha’ Australian bastard we ‘ear tell of. His run to the wicket, which must’ve been forty foot long, easy, an’ was enough to make some bastards facin’ un faint in terror, put us in mind o’ the Puffing Devil – like, ‘e fuckin’ steamed in. Then ‘e ‘ad this massive girt leap to the wicket with ‘is left arm pullin’ ‘is ‘ole body back, an’ ‘is left leg raised so damn ‘igh you could see the sole o’ ‘is boot, ‘fore ‘e brought ‘is right arm over an’ smoked the fuckin’ ball right down at ee. Jesus. To be ‘it by one o’ the scorchers ‘e’d send down was like bein’ branded with a bleddy iron, I can fuckin’ tell ee. I only ‘ad to face un once. I remember tellin’ myself to keep my fuckin’ eyes on the ball, the bat straight, an’ not to bleddy move away. Well, by the time ‘e charged in from over sixty fuckin’ feet ‘way from where I stood an’ leapt at us like a fuckin’ madman, I ain’t ‘shamed to admit I’d no fuckin’ stomach left. The ball ‘it my fuckin’ bat ‘fore I’d reacted to un, an’ thank Christ Jimmy ‘ad only been limberin’ up! Hell knows what ‘is full speed was like to front up to, an’ I’m glad I never bleddy found out.
An’ Osborn? Well, ‘e ‘appened to play fer Troon, an’ ‘e wasn’t any fuckin’ good when ‘e was brilliant! All right, ‘e was okay I ‘sppose, an’ made a few runs ‘ere an’ there, thing was ‘e thought ‘e was a better batter than what ‘e actually was – like second only to bleddy Grace, that bearded bugger. Why ‘e was turning out fer Troon I don’t know, ‘e was the only man there oo weren’t underground, but I’d ‘eard tell ‘e was a relative o’ one o’ the players, oo reckoned on’n bein’ bressy to ‘ave a kressler on the team. Typical fuckin’ Troon man, if you ask us. Whatever of’n was, Osborn thought ‘e was in the side on bleddy merit, which was bullshit, but ‘e acted up on the pitch in a similar way to ‘ow ‘e was in ‘is kressler uniform, an’ fuck me if it didn’t get on every buggers’ tits.
So yeah, a big bleddy Saturday. The ground was filled up early on, with people sat five-deep from the boundary right up to the bleddy walls on the railway side, all the bleddy benches round the outfield taken, an’ the grass on Carn Brea side you practically ‘ad to tiptoe through, fer fear o’ treadin’ on some bugger’s bleddy ‘and or spoilin’ their croust. Sunny Corner was as you’d expect: burstin’ with damn onlookers. Troon ‘ad brought their fuckin’ support ‘long too, they were up top end o’ the ground, an’ ‘fore play began there was that low hum all over the place, she was brimmin’ an’ every sod there was wantin’ a bleddy decent spectacle – or failin’ that, somethin’ to bleddy klapp on ‘bout later on.
I won’t bore ee with the ins an’ outs, but Town batted first an’ we made 136, I reckon. I scat a couple, then the fuckin’ crowd an’ occasion got to us an’ I skied a fucker to long-on, like a fuckin’ idiot. Young, I ‘sppose. Then it was Troon’s turn, an’ all season they’d just gone out an’ started beltin’ of’n everywhere, but not ‘day. Either we were fieldin’ like buggers or what, I don’t know, or p’haps like us, the onlookers an’ expectation was on ‘em too, but they were squeezin’ those bleddy runs out like shit from a boulder. Single ‘ere, two there, no risk, ‘eads down. Problem was, their nerves started playin’ on Town too, an’ ‘fore long we ‘ad a couple’f misfields, a dropped fuckin’ catch, groans an’ applause an’ heckles from the crowd…an’ all of a bleddy sudden, Troon are fuckin’ 85 fer 2, only 46 to win, twelve overs o’ play left, you can ‘ear the crowd breathe an’ it’s like the whole o’ fuckin’ Cornwall’s watchin yer every move…
An’ then, our skipper, Constantine Angove, called up Jimmy Bawden fer ‘is second spell (Troon’d seen the bugger off earlier), posted fielders roun’ the bat, five slips, an’ a long fuckin’ leg – me. An’ you could sense the mood in the ground change: every fucker, player, spectator, whatever, knew this was Camborne’s time to shit or bust. An’ no one knew’n more than Jimmy. As ‘e marked out ‘is run, ‘e turned back to look down Sunny Corner, where I was fieldin’ with ‘bout a ‘undred pissed up bastards sat behind us ganderin’ at the action, an’ put ‘is ‘ands to ‘is ears: make some fuckin’ noise down there! An’ they did – I ‘ad to grin, with my back to ‘em all, as they gave Troon what bleddy fer:
“Go on, boy! Fuckin’ lash un down!”
“Gotta fuckin’ go fer un, pard! Scorch one past ‘is fuckin’ chacks!”
“Bleddy right! That bugger said you bowled tripe earlier – sort’n the hell out, will ee?!”
Jimmy did sort un out. I’ve never seen such a fuckin’ horrifyin’ spell o’ bowlin’ as that afternoon at Roskear. Third delivery Jimmy sent down broke a chip o’ wood off the chap’s bat that flew up an’ jammed in ‘is fizzogg jus’ below ‘is eye – ‘e ‘ad to be carried off screamin’. Next over Jimmy sent down a bumper that the fuckin’ batsman tried to ‘ook, only ‘e bleddy missed un completely, the ball caught un on the chin, spun un round, an’ knocked un right out bleddy cold an’ straight back onto ‘is fuckin’ stumps. He got carted off too. As the crowd got bleddy noisier, Troon started to panic an’ began flayin’ away at the ball, but Jimmy weren’t bleddy flustered. Next up, the ball was so damn quick it knocked the bat clean out o’ the batsman’s ‘ands an’ back onto the stumps ‘gain! Troon 102-5, eight overs left, we’re all fuckin’ over Jimmy an’ givin’ the Troon batsmen hell! Next batsman: clean bowled, yorker. Never fuckin’ saw un: well, ‘is eyes were fuckin’ closed an’ ‘is ‘ead was turned. 105-6. Next: retired hurt: Jimmy got one that caught un flush in the fuckin’ knackers an’ made un pass out in fuckin’ agony. He wouldn’t be bleddy comin’ back out, so 113-7. The next cunt, ‘e vowed to go down swingin’. Scat a four. Then another. Thundered a fuckin’ girt six into North Roskear Road. 127-7. Fieldin’ out there was like bein’ boiled in a fuckin’ cauldron by a thousand screamin’ witches. Then the bugger swings again off Jimmy, an’ nicks one behind, to general uproar. 127-8. (The chap oo caught’n, later on the bruise from the ball came out on the back o’ the bugger’s hand.) Single. Another single. One gets carted into the outfield, an’ they fuckin’ run three, with every bugger bleddy bellowin’. 132-8. Five to win. My guts’re jumpin’ up to my throat an’ I’m ‘alf deaf with all the shit bein’ hollered behind us. Jimmy, pantin’, wessin’ up, flicks ‘is ‘air back, turns an’ runs in ‘gain…
An’ fuck me if the ball weren’t clipped down my way! I ‘ad to be bleddy lively, the field’s downhill there an’ she can get ‘way from ee; I sprinted to my left, all ‘em sat down Sunny Corner now up on their bastard feet an’ screamin’ at us like I was racin’ the damn Derby, slid on one knee, gathered’n up, an’ ‘eaved the fucker back to our ‘keeper, Jeremiah Adams. An’ I watched, breathless, though I’d only gone a few yards. They’d run a single, then, as the ball’s in the air, with Jeremiah willin’ the bugger to land in ‘is gloves, the crazy Troon bastard turns blind fer a second run, an’ ‘is pard chances un too! I watched Josiah, an’ ‘e starts grinnin’ even ‘fore the ball’s arrived – ‘e knew a run out was bleddy comin’, an’ so she was! Jeremiah smashed all three stumps down, just fer the hell of’n! I yelled with bleddy joy, raised both me arms to Sunny Corner oo were practically pissin’ themselves with delight, an’ ran in fer the congratulations. Pandemonium, boy, the bleddy lot! 133-9. Four to win. One wicket to bleddy get. Who’s their last man? We were all stood in the middle, gurnin’ over to see oo she was.
It was Osborn. Stankin’ out prouder than a cock on weddin’ night. Most of us grizzled. Victory was bleddy close.
“Right pards,” said Constantine. “No fuckin’ ‘bout now, we know ‘e’s no fuckin’ bat, an’ the game’s all but ours. Ring field, pressure on’n, an’ Jimmy, fast, full, straight, an’ that little prick’s ours, inna?” Jimmy jus’ shrugged ‘is shoulders like it was a done bleddy deal.
I trotted back down Sunny Corner, to yet more ‘pplause, an’ took up position. Osborn milked un fer all it was worth, Jesus wept. He steadily took guard, patted part o’ the pitch, twirled ‘is fuckin’ bat, ‘justed ‘is cap, scratched ‘is nuts, twirled the bat ‘gain, an’ finally faced up to Jimmy, who was pawin’ at the turf, like a mazed-up bull, ready to charge in practically from the bleddy boundary, an’ finish the bleddy game off sharpish. Sunny Corner stopped their mutterin’ behind me, an’ this made us suddenly very damn twitchy – you could feel their eyes on Osborn, on Bawden, an’, no fuckin’ doubt, on us if the ball came flying my way. Don’t fuckin’ drop un, boy, they’d growl, puttin’ of us off my stride even though they meant well, the grizzled ol’ bastards. The umpire, oo was John Bailey, ‘e worked on top as a sawyer, signalled to Jimmy that all was ready, an’ ‘e took in a lungful of air tha’ made ‘is fuckin’ girt chest swell to twice its normal size, an’ began to move in. As ‘e ran off I crouched forward a bit, got my ‘ands ready by my sides, an’ stanked slowly in wi’ Jimmy’s run, gettin’ ready to follow the ball from ‘is ‘and, through the air, an’, with any luck, right through Osborn’s fuckin’ defence.
But it didn’t bleddy ‘appen. Suddenly, Osborn lets go ‘is bat, raises ‘is hand, an’ calls fer Bailey to ‘alt Bawden’s run, which Bailey duly did. What the hell?! Bawden, teasy, thundered to a halt jus’ level with Bailey, flung the ball to the ground in fuckin’ disgust, an’ bellowed out,
“What the fuck’s it now, Osborn? You can bleddy well wipe yer ass after I’ve cleaned you up, so get the fuck on with un!”
An’ those behind us in the af’noon sun laughed bleddy loud at that, but Osborn weren’t put off, the daft cunt. He stuck ‘is chin out, gurned up even more than fuckin’ normal, pointed of ‘is bat at Jimmy like ‘e was on shift an’ brandishin’ of a stave, an’ said clear to Bailey, clear fer the ground to ‘ear,
“You watch his arm now, umpire. The laws state the arm must be straight at point of delivery. I believe this man here does not bowl, but throws un!”
Silence. No bugger breathed ‘hind us, fact I reckon every sod in the ground ‘eld their breath. Mouths dropped open. Glances were given. An engine was rattlin’ by, an’ I ‘xpected the bugger to stop in its tracks in sheer fuckin’ disbelief at what ‘ad just been said, or the sky to darken an’ birds to bleddy drop dead from the trees. He’d just ‘ccused a man, built like a brick outhouse, oo could bowl faster than a rabbit bleddy breeds, o’ bein’ a fuckin’ cheat! I was sure Jimmy would stank down the pitch an’ beat the shit out o’ un. An’ I wasn’t the only one: I ‘eard one o’ the old buggers behind us mutter to ‘is cronies somethin’ like ‘e’ll ram ‘is balls down ‘is fucken’ throoaattt, boy. But no, none o’ that ‘appened. Jimmy jus’ looked at Osborn an’ smiled, then ‘e said to Bailey, all calm,
“Watch my arm come over straight, John. Then watch the ball go through un like a streak o’ piss…”
Jimmy strolled easily back to ‘is mark, tossin’ the ball up in the air an’ catchin’ of un, knowin’ every bugger’s starin’ at un. Drinks were sloshed down. Pipes rapidly fuckin’ stuffed an’ lit. Watches checked. The silence I swear you could damn well reach out an’ grab – you could ‘ear a bleddy cheel break wind. Meantimes, Osborn is only seconds from fuckin’ trouble, an’ every bugger in the bleddy ground knew un too. But Osborn was too bleddy cakey, an’ so fuckin’ wrapped up in ‘isself as the great bleddy lawman, that ‘e couldn’t see the crap ‘e’d gotten into. Mercifully fer the fucker, I ‘ave to say ‘e was despatched humanely: Jimmy jumps into the wicket, brings ‘is girt great arm up high, and slams the ball down into the turf with all his fuckin’ might, like ‘e’s hitting ore with a spaller. There was a massive, and deep “UUGGHHH” o’ effort as ‘e sweeps ‘is fist down from the ‘eavens an’ ‘urtles the ball on its way.
That ball, more a red fuckin’ blur o’ fire, pitched on a good length, but Osborn never saw un. Fact, ‘e was never able to play the shot ‘e’d ‘ad in mind – if ‘e bleddy ‘ad one. The ball scorched ‘tween ‘is bat an’ leg, an’ didn’t just ‘it the wickets, she fuckin’ smashed ‘em like rotten bleddy kindlin. It was like both barrels o’ a damn shotgun being unleashed point blank at a fuckin’ barn door! Jimmy ‘ad put so much force into un the ball rose right over bleddy Jeremiah’s ‘ead (though I ‘ave to say ‘e’d already ducked, an’ I don’t fuckin’ blame un), bounced once on the outfield, then carried on right into the bleddy crowd down at third man, scatterin’ ‘em all like rabbits from a bulldog. The bleddy game was ours! As everyone, crowd an’ players, trigged on to what ‘ad ‘appened an’ started cheerin’ (unless you’d come to give Troon support that is), Osborn swallowed down ‘is pride an’ turned to look behind un, ‘is bat ‘angin’ down like an old man’s goolies. Obviously not likin’ what ‘e saw (the stumps fuckin’ ruined, ‘long with Troon’s hopes o’ goin’ undefeated), ‘e turned back up the pitch, only to see Jimmy Bawden, pantin’ ‘ard, ‘ands on ‘ips, standin’ a few foot ‘way from’n. In Osborn’s shoes, I’d ‘ave fucked off quicksharp. Jimmy gave un the send-off, as we all ran in to congratulate the bugger:
“I’d bleddy well give ee ten more like that, Osborn, an’ you’d get the same fuckin’ result every time! You can big pattern of’n in front the cheels, boy, but you, an’ yer bleddy kresslers, are bugger all fer real fuckin’ men, an’ even goddamn worse on a cricket pitch! Game over pard!”
I’ll give un some credit, one o’ the biggest men in Town’s flattened ‘is fuckin’ wicket an’ won the match, but still, Osborn wouldn’t bleddy leave it. He didn’t piss off, or even really respond to what Jimmy’d told’n, but goes to Bailey, oo was standing there lappin’ of’n up (neutrality never was the bugger’s strong suit),
“Bailey, I tell you his arm was bent, which is why I offered no shot. Reinstate me, and play on!”
Reinstate me…play on?! Are you out yer fuckin’ mind, boy? The only sound on the pitch was that o’ all our fuckin’ jaws droppin’ in unison. I was bleddy gobsmacked. Constantine looked like ‘e’d walked in on ‘is wife bein’ serviced by a pit-hand, Jeremiah threw ‘is gloves down an’ shook ‘is ‘ead in disbelief, an’ Jimmy…well, a few o’ us took a couple’f steps towards’n, ‘e looked ready to fuckin’ blow an’ tear Osborn’s stupid fuckin’ gorge out. (Not that any of us minded that, obvious, but, well, there was women an’ cheels watchin’ the game that day.) Even the chap Osborn was battin’ with, oo’d been stood up by Bailey wishin’ ‘e was anywhere else, ‘e walked down an’ tried to tell Osborn to jus’ bleddy leave un, pard, game’s done, ‘e ‘ad ee fair an’ square, but fuckin’ none o’ it:
“Bailey”, chirped Osborn ‘gain, “I said reinstate me!” Aw, fuck me, no, not honest!
Unsurprisingly, Jimmy saw red then an’ made a lunge fer the fucker – a few of us reached to ‘old un back, while Osborn jigged aside, the fuckin’ idiot. There was more hollerin’ from the crowd now too, oo were desperate fer more bleddy sport, o’ any kind.
“You’ll fuckin’ see ‘ow straight my arm is in a minute Osborn, you fuckin’ stupid cunt!”, cried Jimmy, swingin’ a fist like a cooked ham, “You offered no shot ’cause you couldn’t see the fuckin’ ball, and you won’t see un ever ‘gain when I ram un up yer stupid fuckin’ ass!” Constantine stepped ‘tween un an’ Osborn, arms out, sayin’,
“Now, fuckin’ ‘ang on ‘ere minute! Bleddy game o’ cricket ‘ere pards, Jesus! An’, as it’s a game o’ cricket, it’s down to the damn umpire whether or not a man’s out or not, or whether the bleddy delivery that got un out was fair or not! Right on with that are us?”
We all nodded. Osborn, realisin’ ‘e ‘ad no choice, nodded too.
“Right”, Constantine went on. “Bailey, how’s that? Is ‘e bleddy out or not?”
All eyes now turned an’ were on Bailey, Jimmy’s burnin’ right through to the back of ‘is ‘ead, an’ Osborn’s gurnin’ at un too, still pigheadedly fuckin’ thinkin’ ‘e’s right. I’ve said Bailey’s neutrality was never ‘is fuckin’ strong suit, an’ so it proved ‘ere too. He would never call Jimmy a bleddy chucker in a hundred years, hell most o’ the stulls Jimmy’s pare used at work were knocked up by Bailey, an ‘e weren’t ‘bout to sign off some o’ ‘is bleddy livelihood by callin’ of’n fer throwin, eh? (Plus Jimmy would’ve battered the fuck out’f un too.) Bailey couldn’t stand the fuckin’ kresslers either, anythin’ ‘e was knockin’ up on the Jan Luke at work was liable to land un in trouble with the bastards, but ‘ere ‘e thought it was a risk worth bleddy takin’. His choices were, simply, this: Town, or kressler? Bailey drew ‘isself up, an’ slowly, deliberately, an’ fuckin’ crucially, raised up ‘is right arm, then ‘e unfurled is middle finger (‘e couldn’t unfurl the first one, ‘e’d sawed un off by accident years ago): OUT.
There was no cheerin’ from round the ground now. We didn’t celebrate the win like we’d done a few bleddy moments back. This weren’t Camborne ‘gainst fuckin’ Troon anymore, this was somethin’ bleddy bigger. Time stopped.
Then Jimmy (we’d let un go by now), nodded at Bailey, just once. An’, with ‘is meaty girt arms crossed, ‘e turned to stare back at Osborn. We all turned with un. This time, though, Osborn knew ‘e’d been bleddy beat. He dropped ‘is ‘ead, folded ‘is bat under ‘is arm an’ started to stank off; but, as ‘e drew level with Bailey, ‘e hanassed something to un – I didn’t catch it, but you could tell John didn’t fuckin’ like it much, an’ I don’t think any other bugger trigged un either. This broke the spell. Applause started up from roun’ the ground, an’ we all started grinnin’ at each other. Unbeaten all bleddy summer! Fuckin’ geddon! Jimmy raised ‘is ‘ead back, laughed out loud, an’ then gave the order out:
“‘S my evening off, pards, an’ Town’s the fuckin’ champions! Hear that fuckin’ crowd, will ee?! Shit! Better get down to fuckin’ Yacks fer a few then, inna? My shout too!”
Chackin’ though every bugger was, we all knew that was tripe. Jimmy wouldn’t give ee the shakin off’f ‘is cock, but we’d be sure o’ plenty bein’ put ‘hind the bar fer us after all that, so we let off a good cheer an’ made to stank down Town to Yacks, or Abraham’s, as some buggers called un after the owner then. I went ‘long too, even though I was on at bleddy Dolcoath later. Back then I was on top in the Buddle House, an’ that job weren’t fer any fuckin’ bal-maid, so I reckoned on a couple there ‘fore all that loustin’.
One o’ the longest nights I’ve ever bleddy ‘ad was ‘bout to start, an’ fer Jimmy Bawden, well, ‘e ‘joyed ‘is bleddy self that evening – it’s as well ‘e fuckin’ did.
For convenience, the references of the most frequently referred-to newspaper articles have been abbreviated. In chronological order:
CT1: The Cornish Telegraph, Wednesday October 8, 1873, p2
WB1: The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, Thursday October 9, 1873, p4
RCG1: Royal Cornwall Gazette, Saturday October 11, 1873, p8
LFP: Lake’s Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, Saturday October 11, 1873, p1
CT2: The Cornish Telegraph, Wednesday October 15, 1873, p2-3
WB2: The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, Thursday October 16, 1873, p4
RCG2: Royal Cornwall Gazette, Saturday October 18, 1873, p4-5.
Secondary Sources: Select Bibliography:
I had frequent recourse to the following works, in an attempt to better understand 1870s Camborne:
Buckley, Allen. The Story of Mining in Cornwall. Cornwall Editions, 2007.
Bullen, L.J. Mining in Cornwall: Volume 8: Camborne to Redruth. Second edition. History Press, 2013.
Emsley, Clive. The Great British Bobby: a History of British Policing from the 18th Century to Present. Quercus, 2009.
Payton, Philip. Cornwall: A History. Cornwall Editions, 2004.
Rowe, John. Cornwall in the Age of the Industrial Revolution. Second revised edition. Cornish Hillside Publications, 1993.
Searle, Ken. One and All: A History of Policing in Cornwall: the Cornwall Constabulary, 1857-1967 Halsgrove, 2005.
Thomas, Joanna. Lost Cornwall: Cornwall’s Lost Heritage. Birlinn, 2007.
Thompson, E.P. Customs in Common. Merlin, 1991.
Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class. Penguin, 1980.
Van Der Kiste, John. A Grim Almanac of Cornwall. History Press, 2009.
Wherever deemed appropriate, and wherever possible, I’ve traced several of the characters Ned mentions to the 1871 census, to flesh out their biographies. In the notes these are referred to as simply “census” unless a different year has been consulted.
For those unfamiliar with, or wanting a better picture, of Camborne, the following online map will be useful. It lays a map of late Victorian Camborne over a modern one:
Notes to Chapter 1
“Don’ call that a fuckin’ riot, boy!” The Times of 23 March, 1911 reports a riot in the South Wales coalfields between striking pitmen and police. There was no hand to hand fighting; indeed after throwing rocks the 3,000 strikers were repulsed by a baton charge. Miners were seen “fleeing before the police” (p8). Ned must have heard this story and his scorn for the Welsh rioters seems to have prompted his own recollections of the events of 1873.
“Back in ‘73?” As mentioned in the introduction, the riot took place on Tuesday October 7, and the “scrimmage” with the Bawdens on Saturday the 4th. The newspapers are universal in their condemnation of the high-handed and arrogant conduct of Supt. Stephens, a “petty tyrant” (RCG2), and his police force, the riots being the sorry result. For example, WB2 notes “the officiousness and overbearing of Supt. Stephens and some of his men were such as to break down the patience of an orderly and well-regulated people.”
“‘eadquarters fer the whole o’ fuckin’ West Cornwall slap-bang in the middle o’ Camborne” Cornwall County Constabulary was formed in 1857, with the HQ for Penzance borough (in effect, the whole of West Cornwall), being Camborne. See Searle, p13-14.
“a maid in town, Bennetts…” RCG1 dismisses as “absurd” the rumour regarding a female suspect, Elizabeth Bennetts, being naked in Stephens’s presence – but CT2 and RCG1 observes that the alleged ill-treatment and misuse of this unfortunate lady at the hands of the police was taken as fact by the majority of the populace. More detail on this episode appears later in the narrative.
“like Osborn…” The spelling of PC James Osborn’s (or Osborne’s) surname varies depending on which ‘paper you consult. He is also listed as PC 191 James Osborne in Searle, p111. The spelling of surnames was more fluid back then; my paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name is recorded in various censuses as Cowls, Cowles, and Coles. Thomas Edwards plumped for Osborn when recording Ned’s account, and remains as such here.
“Football”: Camborne was (and is) a hotbed of rugby football. The game of “soccer” is played elsewhere. I doubt if it was the latter sport Ned was referring to. Indeed, my father had to play soccer clandestinely and run the risk of extreme chastisement from his older brothers if he got caught.
“the bleddy leagues like what they ‘ave now…” The Cornwall Cricket League was formed in 1905, though as Ned demonstrates, there must have been a great deal of prior interest in the sport, with scratch teams competing regularly. The Cornwall County Cricket Club was founded in 1894, after playing in various guises throughout the 1800s; there were over a hundred teams playing in Cornwall by 1900. Troon Cricket Club was founded in 1875, and both Camborne CC and Beacon CC in 1906 (though Camborne claim to have to have been playing since 1834). Camborne still play at the North Roskear ground to this day; the map referred to above clearly marks the venue, which was formally opened in 1905. See: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwall_County_Cricket_Club, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwall_Cricket_League, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roskear, https://troon.play-cricket.com, https://beaconcornwall.play-cricket.com, https://m.facebook.com/cambornecricket/
“our pards from up the hill: Troon” Ned here displays the archetypal Camborne man’s prejudices against natives of Troon; this suspicion, mistrust and often open hostility is cheerfully reciprocated by the Troon villagers themselves. Such mutual dislike has made for eventful cricket matches over the years; I myself have witnessed several and Ned is here giving an early example of just such a one.
“Jimmy Bawden. What a man. What a fuckin’ bowler!” Ned’s description of James Bawden (and his brother) over the following passages echoes that given in CT2: they “bear good characters…are a little rough in speech, but [are]…decent, honest, hard-working fellows – just the sort of men who can be easily led but are hard to drive.” James Bawden and his cricket obviously made an impression on Ned. He describes his bowling as akin to that of “The Demon”: this must refer to Fred Spofforth (1853-1926), the Australian cricketer who rejoiced under the nickname. He was the first great fast bowler of Test cricket’s early years and, as the sobriquet suggests, enjoyed a fearsome reputation. It was his irresistible performances with the ball against England (and England’s hapless responses) that gave rise to the origins of “The Ashes” as a term to describe cricketing contests between the two countries. See: http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/7663.html. Jimmy’s run to the wicket also causes Ned to allude to the “Puffing Devil”: this was the name given to the steam locomotive built by the Cornish inventor Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) which, in 1801, carried six passengers from Camborne Hill up to Beacon: this has been recognised as the world’s first transportation by steam, or a drunken misadventure that nearly ended in tragedy, depending on which source you believe. A replica of the Puffing Devil is paraded annually through the streets of Camborne on the town’s commemorative Trevithick Day. See Rowe, p115-6, and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Trevithick
“the railway side…” In Ned’s time the GWR’s branch line to North Roskear mine ran between the cricket ground and Wheal Gerry mine. The branch ran for over a hundred years, closing in 1963, with Holmans running a small section of the line until 1987. Nowadays all that remains of the Roskear branch line in this area is a footpath between the cricket ground and Trenance Road and Roskear Fields (Wheal Gerry is also long gone, as is North Roskear mine). The path is known locally (and rather erroneously), as the “Tramlines”; maybe with the passage of time the route has become conflated with that of the actual Camborne-Redruth tramline, which ran between 1902 and 1937. See: http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/roskear.html, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camborne_and_Redruth_Tramways
“Carn Brea side” Carn Brea is a vast gorse-covered hill between Camborne and Redruth and a famous local landmark. See: https://www.cornwalls.co.uk/Redruth/carn_brea.html
“Sunny Corner” Cricketers fielding at the area of the Camborne ground still affectionately known as “Sunny Corner” are often so close to the spectators as to be able to hear their opinions on the action – which can be inspiring or disconcerting, depending on where the viewers’ loyalties lie. The massive chimney or “stack” which dominates Sunny Corner was originally part of New Dolcoath mine and not erected until 1924. See: Bullen, p82.
“our ‘keeper, Jeremiah Adams…” A photograph of the Camborne cricket team from 1880 held at the Kresen Kernow archive in Redruth identifies the wicketkeeper as J. Adams. If they’re one and the same man, he must have been something of a stalwart. Reference: corn05426.
“John Bailey, ‘e worked on top as a sawyer…” John Bailey’s occupation is indeed noted in CT2 as a carpenter; however none of the ‘papers makes mention of his pastime as a cricket umpire. He features again in the events.
“on top in the Buddle House…” A Buddle House was an area of the mine situated aboveground, comprising dressing floors, where tin was separated from the waste, and the buddles themselves. These were large water-filled pits into which an amount of rocksand from the mine was added, making a solution. A powered wheel drove brushes to agitate the solution, separating the ore from the attle (waste rock): both ore and attle would have to be removed from the buddle by shovel. Photographs of the Dolcoath Buddle House from the 1890s puts one in mind of a Soviet Gulag from the 1930s: it gives an impression of a level of manual labour and working conditions normally meted out to enemies of the state in less-enlightened times. Teenage boys (such as Ned) endured this extreme environment, as did, so the photos prove, female mine-workers or bal maidens: Ned is chauvinistically omitting their contribution in order to exaggerate his own macho stoicism. See: Bullen, p33-6, and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddle_pit.