TALES FROM THE PAST: Dashing Dan and Maggie May.
IN the 1890s, an eccentric but well-intentioned character named Danby Gifford cut a well-known figure on the streets of Liverpool.
An insomniac, Danby, or ``Dashing Dan'' as he was known, would leave the North Western hotel in Lime Street each night and patrol the streets. He took with him a silver gilt-handled malacca sword stick and . 22-calibre two-shot Derringer -- said to be the very same pistol that John Wilkes Booth shot president Abraham Lincoln with -- won from a riverboat gambler in the American South.
At midnight on August 16, 1894, a full moon hung over Lime Street as Dan Gifford strolled out of the hotel in search of adventure.
With his silk top hat, flowing satin-lined cape and twirling swordstick, Gifford presented an impressive sight. His white, waxed moustache, turned up and twisted into finely tapered ends, and his silver be jewelled tie-pin, gave him the air of someone of importance; perhaps a retired brigadier or judge.
Outside the Legs of Man pub, a lady of the night propositioned Mr Gifford and he became incensed at her audacity. Waving his swords tick aloft, Gifford's face turned purple. ``How dare you!''
he growled, but the petite blonde streetwalker folded her arms defiantly and grinned mockingly at him.
``All right grandpa, I never asked for your hand in marriage, '' she said, then walked towards a staggering sailor in London Road.
``The wages of sin is death!'' Gifford ranted at her, then crossed over to St George's Plateau, feeling highly offended. He wanted damsels in distress, not some brazen scarlet woman.
Two young, shabbily dressed men in flat caps suddenly emerged from behind the base of one of the four lion statues. One had a cosh.
``If you shout I'll break your skull, old man, '' said one of the delinquents, while the other took hold of Gifford's arm. The old man drew his sword from the stick in an instant and swung its blade at the cosh-wielding youth.
The other youth received a kick to his groin, but at the same moment, the cosh-weilding mugger hit Gifford on the head.
``Curse you, you blackguard!'' said Gifford as he staggered in a daze. He walked backwards up the steps as the two thugs closed in.
The blow to his head had affected his balance. He fumbled in his coat for the Derringer pistol, but couldn't find it. The two young ruffians rushed him and Gifford fell. He saw one of them raise the cosh, but then the assailant hesitated and turned.
The blonde streetwalker who had approached Gifford earlier was rushing up the steps. She screamed a string of profanities at the men, and one of them darted away. The remaining attacker was floored by an uppercut to his chin from the woman.
The prostitute knelt besides Gifford, and, after telling him he shouldn't have been walking about so late, she produced a handkerchief and dabbed his grazed forehead. She accompanied him to the hotel before vanishing into the night.
Dashing Dan's attitude towards the street women changed. He made enquiries about the woman's identity and learned that her name was Maggie May and that she lived in Mann Street. He visited the hovel where she existed, and found her with two ragged young children. Gifford gave her money and flowers for saving his life, and Maggie was tearfully thankful.
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|Publication:||Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Oct 9, 2004|
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