“There will be plenty of sport at the cigar-makers’ picnic at Dundurn today. The ball match between the Clippers and Primroses is sure to attract a big crowd if the day turns out fine.”
Hamilton Spectator. June 8, 1885.
The event had all kinds of promise to be an enjoyable experience at Dundurn Park.
Even though on strike against the cigar makers of Hamilton, the cigar makers’ union had planned the picnic long before and decided that it would go ahead.
The union had hired Dundurn Park, which at the time was still in private hands. Except for members of union, anyone else wishing to enter the park would have to pay admission, and the admission would also allow entrants to watch the baseball game scheduled to take place.
The union hired a band for dancing and other events to entertain the union members were arranged.
The baseball game was an important tilt between the Hamilton Primroses and the Hamilton Clippers of the five team professional Canadian Baseball League. Baseball was so popular in Hamilton at the time that two teams could be supported, and for the game of June 8, 1885, both Hamilton teams were tied for the league lead.
As the Spectator reporter said to introduce his account of the game, “everybody expected it wold be a great game, and it was a great game:
“The large audience (approx.. 1600 in attendance) was an intensely Primrose one. Probably ninety-nine of every hundred men present gave their sympathies to the boys in blue. In the first two innings everything the Primroses did was applauded vociferously, while the Clippers’ performance was looked upon coldly and in silence. If the Clippers had made the most astonishing play ever witnessed, it wouldn’t have raised a cheer.”1
1 “The World of Sport : Items of Interest to the Noble Fraternity.”
Hamilton Spectator. June 9, 1885
After two innings, the game was tied 1-1, but after that the Primrose fans had nothing to cheer and much to regret with their team’s performance.
The Primroses gave up three runs in the top of the third inning:
“The Prims began to lose confidence in themselves. From that out things went from bad to worse for the blue boys. They grew disheartened and disgusted, and the usual ‘rattle’ that has invariably attacked whenever they have attacked the Clippers, was upon them strong. The audience grew as silent as the grave, and the play went on in funereal quietness. 1
The game ended up as a 12-1 victory for the Clippers.
In his short observations on the game, published in the ‘Notes’ portion of his account of the game, the Spectator reporter wrote :
“Once more the Clippers lead the league.
Blue was a becoming color for the Prims after the third inning.
Pretty even game that at Dundurn – the sympathy of the audience was all on one side and the score all on the other.
The greatest consolation that can be extracted from the game is found in the fact that it was a Hamilton team that downed the Prims so unmercifully. No outside team can do it.
Baseball is a funny game, isn’t it? The Maple Leafs beat the Clippers; the Primroses shut the Leafs completely out; and yet the Clippers can beat the Prims 12 to 1. It is a very funny game.
The London Free press, which excellent journal is of opinion that the Primroses play better ball than ‘the much-vaunted Clippers,’ is respectfully invited to study the score of the game at Dundurn.
There were two picnics at Dundurn. The cigar makers had one and the Clippers had the other.”1
There was a mixture of baseball fanatics and attendees of the cigarmakers’ picnic at Dundurn.
As an unnamed Spectator reporter pointed out in the introduction to his article on the picnic, Monday June 8, 1885 became one of the most unruly days in the history of Dundurn park:
“The cigar makers picnic, held at Dundurn yesterday, was the most disorderly and disgraceful affair of the kind that has been held in Hamilton for years. It was numerously attended by members of various labor organizations in the city who sympathize with the striking cigar makers union, and too many of these allowed their enthusiasm to get the better of their discretion.
“Young men who are ordinarily sober and respectable and well-behaved, were to be seen and heard toward evening, in every part of the ground, in various stages of intoxication, and misbehaving themselves in a variety of ways.
“Several small fights occurred during the afternoon, and in the evening some serious encounters took place. The most serious was a stabbing affray which happened a little while after the baseball match was finished.”2
2 “A Disorderly Picnic : A Stabbing Affray and Several Fights at Dundurn Yesterday”
Hamilton Spectator. June 9, 1885
A man named John Dillon, a moulder by trade, had arrived at the park already under the influence of alcohol, and proceeded to be quarrelsome and threatening with several people at the picnic.
There was a bar set up in the rear of the grandstand of the baseball area. Dillon and a friend, Robert Tindill, a well-known local baseball player were at the bar together when the following was witnessed by a bystander:
“Dillon wantonly and without provocation addressed Tindill in insulting language. Tindill resented the insult, and words were quickly followed by blows. Dillon was knocked down; but, springing to his feet, he drew his pocket-knife and made a thrust at Tindill. The blade passed through Tindill’s cheek, inflicting a painful wound.
“A young man named Thos. Wood, in attempting to separate the combatants was also stabbed by Dillon. His nose was pierced through and he got a gash in the right side of his face near the mouth. Another young man named Penfold, who attempted to quell the row, was also stabbed by Dillon in the hand, and still a fourth party whose name could not be learned had a taste of the knife.”2
The police were hurriedly summoned. Detective Campbell and Constable Limin managed to subdue and arrest Dillon, who was taken away to the police cells downtown.
As evening arrived, it was decided that extra policemen would be required at Dundurn. In total, there were 14 constables on the grounds, but still many fights broke out before the police could intervene:
“A few non-union cigar makers foolishly attended the picnic, and inflamed the passions of the union men by their presence. They were chased, and at least two of them were badly beaten. Emile Smith managed to escape from his assailants, but John Minkler was less fortunate. He was found between 7 and 8 o’clock, by Chief Stewart and a constable, lying insensible alongside the road, near the toll-gate, literally bathed in blood, his head and face cut and swollen, and his body covered with bruises. The poor fellow was resuscitated and carried to his boarding house. He could give little information as to his assailants, but was certain that union cigar makers were among them.”2
As part of the evening arrangements for the cigar makers’ picnic, the Independent band was hired to provide a concert, and the Nelligan’s string band was hired to provide music for dancing later. Given the atmosphere of the picnic in the evening, very few listened to the concert or patronized the dancing platform.