Tag: Bendigo

A Bendigo Statue?

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.”

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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

https://bendigofunds.co.uk/donate/

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bendigowalk

Find them on Twitter @bendigonotts  or on Facebook @bendigomemorial

LB

Beeston Beats: Bendigo review

Happy New Year Beestonians! Let us hope you have all recovered from the toils of the festive season and the super dry period of abstinence that is now upon us.

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I may be a little late to the party with this one so to speak. January is always quiet, and we are all recovering from the shear indulgence and hedonism of the month prior to that really, aren’t we? I decided to take this one a little more low-key and finally check out the (relatively) new lounger’s venue that has opened in Beeston. The Bendigo Lounge, named after Beeston born, bare knuckle fighter ‘William Abendigo Thompson’ AKA ‘Bendigo’. Bendigo moved to Beeston a little later in his life and lived in a house on Wollaton road until his passing in 1880, where to this day a blue plaque is left in commemoration.

Proudly occupying a prime spot on the High Road, the former McDonald’s site has been re-claimed and put to use. The re-fit has been quoted as costing £580,000. The Bendigo lounge opened its doors to the general public on the 15th November 2017 and I must say, I feel quite proud to live in a town where “trading patterns” were not sufficient to allow the fast food giant to take hold.

The space is an intermediate between coffee shops and pubs and has a welcoming feel

The arrival of the Bendigo lounge has filled a much needed gap in the high street and also within the town’s night-time economy. The venue serves food from the morning right through until the evening and has a menu to cater for all needs and/or preferences, including a separate vegan menu and a comprehensive list of gluten free options.

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Typical fayre on offer comprises of typical British favourites such as; sandwiches, panini, salads, burgers, tapas, curry and steak. Breakfast options (for both veggies and carnivores) and a variety of coffees are also on offer. A trip to the Bendigo lounge won’t be too damaging to the pocket either. Most menu items for mains are priced at around about £10. Brunch options are served all day and are a little less expensive at around the £6- £8 mark.

 

Not forgetting drinks, again we have the typical selection of teas soft drinks, wines, cocktails and draft beers. In addition there is also a variety of smoothies, milkshakes, juices and home-made favourites.

Décor is eclectically quirky. An array of lampshades litter the ceiling, whilst the walls are decorated in colourful wallpapers, set behind a showcase of artworks, mirror’s and portraits. There is even a wall decorated in stylised images of Bendigo adopting a fighting stance. The furniture has an up-cycled feel and the table tops are brightly painted in an array of designs. The space is an intermediate between coffee shops and pubs and has a welcoming feel. At the front of the venue there is outdoor seating. I noticed the presence of bi fold doors. Obviously due to the weather these haven’t been opened yet, but I can imagine this would add a nice airy feel to the place come summer time.

Current offers include the “Cheeky Monday’s” Where you can get a free drink or dessert with any special, burger or main, and “Tapas Tuesdays” (which is when I went) offering 3 tapas and a glass of wine for £9.95. This offer is particularly good when shared. My companion for the evening and I both got this. We made sure to order a different trio of tapas each and found between us we had a lovely mix and match of dishes to enjoy. Service was polite and reasonably quick. The staff were all very friendly and seemingly on point despite the venue not having been open for long. For me this place gets a definitive thumbs up, and I shall most certainly be visiting again.

The Bendigo Lounge is typically open from 9am until 11pm, On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays the hours are extended until midnight. For more information please see the website on http://thelounges.co.uk/bendigo/

DB

Bendigo: Part 2

In our last issue we wrote about Bendigo, the Beeston based boxer and campaigner. Local historian Alan Dance, who has researched Bendigo for a new book (out soon!) contacted us to tell us how some of the things we know of Bendigo might have been the product of some artful image manipulation from the giant pugilist himself. Read on, as Alan explains all…

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I thoroughly enjoyed the article in issue 44 about Bendigo – real name William Thompson – but I’d like to take this opportunity to correct some of the details shown. I have recently been doing some in-depth research into his life in preparation for a forthcoming book – Bendigo, the Right Fist of God – of which more anon. Much has been written about him over the years, most of it, apparently, based on a newspaper article published in 1874. In that year James Greenwood, a London journalist, interviewed Bendigo. Perhaps he was not too clever with dates and numbers and other facts about his life; perhaps he was prone to exaggeration or just liked to spin a good yarn. And he had spent over twenty years in the ring, and had consumed more than his share of Nottingham ale.

Perhaps  the first thing that trainee reporters are told is Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. It certainly seems to have been the case with Greenwood’s article, for this sowed the seeds for the myths that are still being perpetuated. So, let’s look at some of these.

The best known two are that Bendigo was the youngest of 21 children and that he was one of triplets, whose mother gave them the nicknames of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, after the three men thrown in the ‘fiery furnace’ on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar (Book of Daniel, Chapter 3).

Mmm. Really? OK, let’s examine the records. These show that Benjamin Thompson and Mary Levers were married at St. Mary’s Church Nottingham on 12th July 1805. Their first child, Rebecca, was born three months after their wedding and was baptised at St. Mary’s on 11th October 1805. Then came Thomas (baptised 30th May 1807) and John (20th November 1809). Then we come to William. In later life, William appears never to have mentioned the other two of the alleged triplets. Not surprising, since the Parish Registers clearly show that on 16th October 1811, Richard and William, the twin sons of Benjamin & Mary Thompson were baptised. No mention of triplets. Not only that, but just 12 days later, on to the 28th October, Richard was buried. He had perhaps lived for less than 3 weeks.

Bendigo, of course, had a glittering career as a pugilist, but died in his cottage in Beeston in August 1880

Now, triplets are fairly rare, but it is possible that Mary did give birth to three boys. The only possible explanation is that one died at, or very soon after his birth. No record exists of either a baptism or burial, but in 1811 there was no legal requirement to register either. If there was a third child, then it must have been quietly disposed of, possibly by the midwife. Only one child survived, so why would his mother need to think up three nicknames?

So, after six years of marriage, Mary had given birth to 5 children (possibly six). Yet Bendigo claimed to be the youngest of 21. He definitely wasn’t, for on 8th January 1815, another child, Mary, was baptised. However, she too died young, being buried on 3rd July 1818. William was almost seven at the time of his sister’s death, so he ought to have remembered her. But as she was the last child of this marriage, it is true to say that William was the youngest surviving child; but of six, not 21.

Much could be said about Bendigo’s family. His father was reputedly a mechanical genius, but a bit too fond of the ale (he dropped down dead in the Kings Arms in Chapel bar in 1827); Bendigo’s brother John became a respected optician with his own business; his nephew William (son of Thomas), killed his wife in 1876 at their home in Sheffield and was tried at Leeds for her manslaughter (he was found not guilty).

Bendigo, of course, had a glittering career as a pugilist, but died in his cottage in Beeston in August 1880. But even after death the myths continued, for it was soon claimed that he had been buried in his mother’s grave. The truth is, she had died in September 1854 and rests in the General Cemetery, almost a mile from Bendigo’s grave in Sneinton. Ironically, she is the only occupant of the grave, and there would have been room for Bendigo to join her.

So just how do these myths come about? No doubt celebrity status plays its part, the desire to exaggerate, and of course the tendency for newspapers to print what they believe will sell.

I mentioned earlier a forthcoming book. Bendigo – The Right Fist of God will be published later this year. This is a novel based around his astonishing life story, and has been jointly written by myself and David Field, (author of In Ludd’s Name, reviewed in Beestonian Issue 44). You may wonder how we dealt with the truth and fiction surrounding his life. Since we are both keen historians who are reluctant to perpetuate myths, we have not repeated any of the untruths. We think, however, that we have dealt ingeniously with these anomalies, but just how, you will have to wait for the book’s publication to find out!

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