Bendigo eh? Beeston’s legendary bare-knuckled boxer may have thrown in the towel when he died 138 years ago, but his legacy looks like it will never be counted out.
He has books about him, a graphic novel, a blue plaque on Wollaton Road, and a couple of articles in past issues of this magazine. He also is now immortalised on the High Road with a bar named after him – despite being a teetotaller, he’d probably still be chuffed.
Bendigo was not just a decent boxer, but a celebrity and showman. He created a whole mythology about him, from being a triplet (he wasn’t) and the youngest of 21 kids (he wasn’t). However, he could lob a brick from one bank of the Trent to the other, and he was an utter mountain of a man, so we won’t quibble. It’s impossible to overstate his fame: shortly after his death, a town in Australia had a poll to name their town: Bendigo was the overwhelming victor (it’s still there, and apparently a lovely place with a population that cheerfully call themselves ‘Bendigonians’. The guy was MASSIVE, and not just in stature.
However, he doesn’t have a proper statue to mark his fame. There is a rather weathered and battered ceramic above a pub in Sneinton, but considering that he was the Victorian Muhammed Ali this is a poor show.
Step in the Bendigo Memorial Fund (BMF), a group of fans of the late pugilist, who have devoted themselves to raising cash to fund a statue to be stuck in a prominent part of Nottingham. “In Nottingham there are a number of things we need to improve,” BMF spokesman Alan Dawson told us. “The grave itself is not well advertised and the information recorded about him is incorrect. A statue in Trinity Square will put this right.”
So, on the 29th April, the BMF will stage a sponsored walk following the route of William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson’s funeral cortege in 1880. This will be from the site of his former home on the site of Beeston’s Anglo Scotian Mills to his grave at Bath Street in Nottingham City Centre, a distance of 5.7 miles. There will be twenty one people doing the walk, representing Bendigo’s 21 fights. I’ll be one of them (and weather permitting I’ll strap my 16 month old son on my back and bring the number up to 21) At the graveside there will be reading from the book about Bendigo written by Beeston writer, publisher and historian Alan Dance. Local actor Peter Radford will also recite Bendigo’s Sermon, a poem written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You’re welcome to tag along.
However, what we’d REALLY like is your money. Statues, at least good statues, don’t come cheap so anything you can do to help nudge the fund towards its target is hugely welcome. It will also mean that you will be part of Bendigo’s legacy long into the future: this is a statue that WE own, that WE make. Worth a few quid, innit?
Donations can be made directly to the Bendigo Memorial Fund via