Sunday, 17 July 2011

Police Raid - 1881

Police Raid - 1881
        “Cock fighting has been quite prevalent in and about Hamilton for some time, and the sports had got to feel so secure that they neglected ordinary precaution against surprise. For two or three weeks mysterious convocations of bird fanciers have been noticed, and it was discovered that sundry well-known fighting birds were receiving unusual care, and that a main of extraordinary proportions was being arranged, became evident to the experienced detective.”
A Cockfight Spoiled : The Raid of the Police on the Sports at Rock Bay
Hamilton Spectator. March 18, 1881.

Around midnight, Wednesday, March 16, 1881, Hamilton Police Chief A. D. Stewart, Detective Gates and Constables McNair and Spohn hired a hack (taxi) to take them, accompanied by a Spectator reporter, out along York street towards the west end of the bay where the Rock Bay hotel was located.
The police had learned that a major cock fight was to be held there. When several sports were spotted sulking about the side streets with their birds in bags over their shoulders, Chief Stewart decided that it was time to move.
Getting out of the hired wagon some distance from the hotel, the policemen silently approached the location where it was rumoured that the cock fight was to be held.
The continued barking of a dog in the vicinity almost gave them away, but, as noted by a Spectator reporter covering the event noted, “after some some difficulty and a good deal of moral suasion, the policemen succeeded in quieting the dog, and approached the hotel without being noticed.”
Creeping towards a hotel window, Chief Stewart and his men peeked through some window blinds and saw a pair of birds being put in a pit, a space about 14 feet square located next to the bar. Men were observed placing bets of upwards of ten dollars per battle, and large quantities of cash were seen being exchanged.
As the police looked on, a bird named Tom Kelly was being prepared for his bout. Tom was a locally famous rooster, and cries of “Five to one on Tom Kelly” could be heard.
At this point, as described by the Spectator man, the chief, after posting a man at every exit, strolled up to the hotel’s main entrance, “and performed a well-executed Masonic rap.”
Suddenly someone shouted, ‘the police, by God!” Pandemonium then reigned as all inside made a rush for one of the exits.
The exit covered by Detective Gates was the first to be approached. After the door was thrown open, the detective coolly remarked, “you needn’t run, boys; there’s no need to hurry.”
The crowd then assembled at an alternate exit where “the gentle and kind-hearted Constable Spohn blocked that potential escape route.
The windows then were approached, thinking that they were only possible way to get out of the hotel remaining.
Again as delineated by the Spectator coverage of the chaotic scene, “sashes were carried away, and people began to drop out of the second storey windows. One well-known young man caught his pantaloons upon a nail, and hung suspended in the air for a time. They scattered in all directions, some concealing in the bar, other behind fences, and others making big time for home across the ice.”
Back inside the hotel, everything was in a state of confusion. Chairs and tables were upset and the temporary bar set up within the cockpit itself was smashed.
Those unable to escape by the windows, pulled up their collars and pulled down the hats in a vain attempt to walk past the policemen without being recognized.
However, as recounted by the Spec’s young man, “they were all spotted. “You needn’t run, Jimmy,’ or ‘good evening, Harry,’ or ‘what’s your hurry, Billy?’ from the officers proclaimed to them that they were recognized. But still they felt that they were wanted at home right away, and for home they picked, as fast as possible.”
Overcoats, umbrellas, canes, hats and game birds were all left behind in the crowd’s haste to escape.
Of the fifty to sixty men attending the cockfight at the Rock Bay hotel, forty names were secured by the police. As noted in the Spectator article informing everyone about the bust, “the list embraces many men who are considered to be quite respectable, and who are frequently seen in devout attitudes at church.”
The thirty-two game birds which were confiscated at the hotel presented Chief Stewart with a dilemma as to their disposal. The usual procedure was to wring their necks and donate the carcasses to charity to be cooked into a free meal for the poor.
As game bird meat was very tough,  and as the birds were very valuable, it was suggested that the birds be sold at auction, and the money so raised then donated to charity.
The birds were taken to No. 3 police station to await their fate.
The following morning after the raid, police court proceedings were frequently interrupted by defiant crows from the incarcerated fowls. Finally, the somewhat exasperated Police Court Magistrate Cahill gave notice that the birds would immediately be turned over to Thomas Burrows to be auctioned off.
The Saturday morning auction was attended both by a Spectator reporter and what he described as a crowd of  “motley description which embraced representatives from all quarters of the city. The sporting element was decidedly present, and the proceedings were enlivened by a fistic set-to between two members of the first families of Corktown.”
          There was suspicion among some suspicion that some of the birds included in those being offered at auction were not among the ones confiscated in the raid. The sentiment told the Spectator man was that “dunghills had been substituted for the game birds which originally occupied the bags.”
          The representative for the Spectator, although having arrived well before the advertised starting time of the auction, was unable to make his way through the dense crowd to see and hear the auctioneer well.
          Then he was recognized and was allowed to pass through the crowd.
          “Let the gintleman in” someone in the crowd said, “It’s mesilf seen him at the fight, and shure, he’s come to buy his birds.”
          “The words were magic,” the reporter later wrote. He was jostled through the crowd to a prime spot up front, and he noted that “great is the power of similarity of tastes.”
          After a few birds had been auctioned off, a large, dark bird, with a white neck, was brought forward to loud cries of “dunghill” and “no good” from the crowd.
          Mickey Flynn then yelled out, “on me father’s estate in Donegal, there was jest hundreds of burrds like them kilt for nothing iles but manurin’ the fields around the castle.”
          An acquaintance of Mickey Flynn interrupted fim, shouting, “manure the peat bog around yer mother’s cabin, ye mane, Mick! Shut yer face, an’ don’t be stritchin’ yer long bow here.’
          When a large bird with long legs was presented for sale, someone in the crowd shouted, “ ‘E looks like Joe Gates, blow me tigh if he don’t.”
          Joseph Gates, the detective who assisted Chief Stewart in the raid, was a less than popular figure with many in crowd.
          After the large bird had been compared in looks with the detective, someone in the crowd shouted “well, thin, he isn’t much use av he’s like like him.”
          Unbeknownst to the two making the observations, Detective Gates himself moved in behind them. As observed by the Spec man, their comparisons of the bird and the detective were “silenced by a tap on the head from the redoubtable Joe himself.”
          When another bird was offered for sale, someone in the crowd yelled, “there’s not a crow in him, he’s a silent bird!”
          “Faith, thin, he’ll do to send to Parlymint,” cried out someone else, “tisn’t them as crows the most as does the most anyhow or ye’d be a fine bird, Patsy!”
          As the auction proceeded, the crowd became more and more restive.
          Sam McNair, who was assisting the auctioneer, held up a rooster and shouted, “here’s a $25 bird!”
          Several in the crowd disagreed and gave vent to prolonged shouts of derision. One cried out, “does his mother know he’s out?”
          McNair, resenting the sarcasm, shot back, “be aisy, or ye’ll be out yerself.”
          The argument continued and a fist fight was only narrowly averted.
          Finally, all the birds were auctioned off. The total receipts were $26.95, far below what was expected.
Nonetheless, the money was turned over to charity bringing an end to that part of the raid aftermath. All left was for the appearances of all those in attendance at Rock Bay to appear in police court to face their charges.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Carters - 1881

       There was a class of workers in nineteenth century Hamilton whose occupation made them highly visible to the community at large. These workers were called carters, or draymen, whose small, heavy wagons were available for hire to transport materials of any kind.
        These men, often laughingly referred to as “Knights of the Wagon,” generally made their "headquarters" on an open lot on the north side of Main street, between John and Hughson streets.
A Spectator reporter was assigned the task to visit the carters’ stand and write about the culture of those well-known local characters.
“They are an odd lot of snaps, those carters,” he later wrote, “and the square in front of the court house is sometimes the scene of some very amusing incidents and practical jokes.”
 When business was slow, the carters were known to get involved in animated parliamentary discussions of the burning issues of the day. The discussions usually began in a relatively calm manner, but, on occasion, could end up with fists flying.
On Wednesday January 12, 1881, the young man from the Spectator made his appearance at the carters’ stand, and the following Saturday, his observations were printed in the newspaper, in a column with a headline which read “The Carters’ Parliament : Discussing the Affairs of the World on the Stand.”
Bould Doolin, a carter from the Corktown neighbourhood was the main speaker on the day of the Spectator man’s visit, his subject as usual, being the Irish Question.
“Now, see here, me byes,” he said, I want yes to understand I’ve thravelled all over the United States and had my residence for six weeks an’ a day in New York city, an’ I’ve got this Irish biz down fine. What thim countrymin of mine need is fur to have a fair show, an’no favour, an’ a chance fur to pay fur what land they’ve got. But while them miserable thieves an’ rubbers av English landlords kin-“
“Come off, Doolin!” interrupted another carter loudly, “you’re off your base.”
“Ah sure, and I’m tellin’ the truth, so I am” responded Doolin, “what did Jimmy Redpath say the other day in New York, eh? Did yez read that me bye? An’ thin they talk about sendin’ missionaries to Africa. Bedad, they’d do betther and kape their money at home an’ send it to the poor Irishmen they’ve starved out.”
“Put your name right off,” suggested Jimmy Brick, a carter from the west end.
The carters’ stand was often the site of peculiar incidents, such as the one involving the “amorous lady.”
While the carters were well into a game of craps beside their wagons, a well-dressed lady came walking along the street and invited herself into the game, shouting “knuckle down” and “fun evens” with the best of them.
She then engaged a couple of the carters in conversation and, within five minutes, had proposed to one of them. Demanding an immediate acceptance of her proposal because she was about to leave for Manitoba the following morning, the lady was visibly disappointed to learn that the object of her affections was already married.
However, the lady tried again, turning her attention to Martin Behan “who she saluted and hailed with several pet names.
By this time, a crowd of draymen and passersby had gathered to observe the lady’s advances towards the somewhat embarrassed Martin Behan.
One of Behan’s fellow carters loudly offered to give the lady ten cents if she would give Martin a kiss. As described by the Spectator reporter, “nothing loath, she consented, and made a grab for Martin. That gentleman, however, had concluded he did not want anymore osculatory exercise just then and ran away.”
What followed was a ludicrous chase down Main street, “Martin ran for dear life, up and down the street, over and under the carters’ wagons, his coat tails streaming in the wind, and close behind him was the amorous female, who was terribly in earnest and bound to win the ten cents or kill herself in the attempt.”
The gathered crowd was convulsed with laughter, and even the second storey windows of buildings in the vicinity were filled with amused spectators observing poor Martin’s discomfiture.
Finally, Martin made his escape. The lady, who the Spectator reporter suspected “was a trifle in liquor,” ended her chase and went on her way without the ten cents.
Just another day in the carters’ stand!