The Noble Art

This is another piece from ‘Old Oak’:

Hanslope, a village in Buckinghamshire, was only 14 miles away, and its graceful spire, rising 180 feet in the air is easily visible from the outskirts of Silson. Thither [my father] … journeyed on June 2nd, 1830 to see the meeting between the Irishman, Simon Byrne, and the Scottish Champion, “Sandy” M’Kay. Owing to interference by the authorities, the fight actually took place in the adjoining parish of Hartwell,… It had a tragic ending, for in the 47th round the Scot fell unconscious to the sound and, in spite of being bled on the field, died the nest day in the Watts’ Arms at Hanslope. He was buried in the churchyard across the way and the following warning lines, written by a Scotch friend of my father’s, can still be read on his tombstone:-

“Strong and athletic was my frame;

Far from my native home I came

And manly fought with Simon Byrne,

Alas! but never to return.

Stranger, take warning by my fate,

Or you may rue your case too late;

If you have ever fought before,

Take my advice and fight no more.

It was not an unduly long contest for those days, but there were no Queensberry rules then, and, when the same lot befell his conqueror at the hands of “Deaf” Burke just 3 years later, it was at the end of 99 rounds!

My grandfather Mayo was celebrated for his prowess with his fists, ands death was attributed to a fight. A bully brutally kicked his dog at a fair, and, like any man of spirit, resented the cruelty. He was a man getting on for 50, while the other was in the full flush of health and strength. The affair took place on the hard road, and the falls told terribly on the veteran. Yet, round after round, he came up till more than an hour had gone by. Game to the death, if necessary, he won in the end, but he never entirely recovered from the effects.

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