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Prizefighter Paddy ended up in Hatton; NOSTALGIA: TIMETUNNEL.

Byline: DAVID McGRORY

HISTORIAN DAVID McGRORY LOOKS AT SOME OLD COVENTRY PUGILISTS AND THEIR CELEBRATED VICTORIES

ALL towns once boasted their own prizefighters who were matched for purses against local opponents.

Some became national fighters travelling the land to face their foes. One such man was Paddy Gill of Coventry.

Gill was born in Dublin in 1819 but came to Coventry at the age of five. He became a ribbon weaver and was sworn in as a freeman in St. Mary's Hall.

He was 19 when his first fight took place in 1838 on Radford Common. It was for pounds 5-a-side against local fighter Bill Heap. Heap fought well but Gill proved the victor after an incredibile 55 rounds.

Gill continued to fight and win and as his reputation grew so did the purse. He fought Hubbard of Nuneaton in November 1842 for pounds 25-a-side. This match was a draw but Gill won the rematch after finishing Hubbard in 42 rounds.

Gill went big-time taking on national fighter Norley of Manchester for a purse of pounds 50-a- side on October 17, 1843. The hard-fought battle lasted one hour and 55 minutes but Gill was outmatched and lost.

Despite this setback, he won his next three fights quickly finding himself back in the big league matched up against Londoner Reed the Invincible.

Gill won the day and the pounds 200 purse. He then took on Norley again this time for a purse of pounds 500. The contest was fought near Whitney in Oxfordshire and lasted an extraordinary four hours and 15 minutes.

The fight lasted 160 rounds, meaning that either man or both men were beaten to the ground 160 times. The victor of this amazing contest was Coventry's Paddy Gill. Gill, like many prizefighters of his day had extraordinary stamina and strength such as few modern boxers could match.

Around this time Paddy invested some of his winnings in buying the Lamp Tavern in Market Street, Coventry, where he was landlord.

He fought the notorious Tom Maley of the London ring in 1848 and once again walked off with the winnings.

Paddy Gill was now seen as a national champion and in July 1850 he fought Tom Griffiths at Frimley Green, London.

The fight, however, went disastrously wrong ending when Gill killed his opponent. He was brought before the assizes in April the following year charged with manslaughter.

At the trial the witnesses protected Gill by claiming they were unable to identify him as the man in the fight, a not guilty verdict had to be brought.

He retired to life as landlord of the Lamp but he wasn't to die peacefully for it is said he went insane and died at the age of 50 in Hatton Asylum in 1869. His "insanity" was no doubt caused by the many violent blows he had taken to the head.

COVENTRY'S TOUGH MEN AND THE PUBS THEY USED TO DRINK IN JACK (John) "Fatty" Adrian, was a descendant of Walsgrave vicar Richard Adrian. He fought Bob Randall in a field near Kenilworth in 1829 for pounds 50-a-side.

The Coventry Herald and Observer reported the event, which was watched by thousands. Fatty lasted until round 25 before throwing in the sponge. Fatty recovered enough to make an appearance at the White Lion in Smithford Street that very evening.

Fatty Adrian wasn't fat as his nickname implied. He got the title as a young man because he was expert at climbing the grease (goose- fatted) pole to win a pig at local fairs. He also used his boxing money to buy a pub. His first was the Leopard Inn in Smithford Street, then the Pitts Head in Gosford Street and lastly the Windmill in Spon Street. Fatty died aged 50 in 1856 as a result of his pugilistic art through damage caused to his rib cage and bronchitis.

IN DECEMBER 1836 "Game-one Shilton" and "Whopper Flint" fought in a roped ring, "near where the malefactors are hanged" on Whitley Common.

GINGER BERRY fought Harry Hodson in the same place in 1831. Hodson was felled by a single blow. The next fight wouldn't be so easy for it was against Bill Betteridge and his "vice".

OTHER Coventry prizefighters include Bill Hayfield the "Flash Barber", Jack Hammerton the "Chicken Butcher", Bacon Smith, , Bill Crump, Bill Hayfield, William Tew, "Tookey" Hughes, "Sackey" Smith, Tom Pritchard and Bob Smith. Most fighters acted as seconds to other fighters.

COVENTRY had its own prizefighters' pubs. The main ones were the Windmill, the Lamp Tavern, the Leopard, the Golden Cup, the Pitts Head and the Hand in Heart.

CAPTION(S):

EXTRAORDINARY STRENGTH... A picture of two early 19th-century prizefighters slugging it out in a field watched by a cheering crowd.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 22, 2005
Words:789
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