If Belfast Can Do It Then Nottingham Should Too.

When our campaign started in 2016, former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan wished us luck. He also mentioned a similar campaign, for a statue to Rinty Monaghan in Belfast.

In 2015, a statue of the former world champion boxer, John ‘Rinty’ Monaghan was unveiled close to his birthplace in Belfast. Monaghan was the first boxer from the city to win a world title, becoming flyweight champion in 1948.  

We have recently discovered that, long before our campaign started, McGuigan had even celebrated the contribution of Bendigo to the sport.

In September 1991, he spoke about Bendigo in a BBC Radio 4 programme. The programme was mentioned in The Reading Evening Post as a Radio Highlight.

Similarities In The Two Campaigns

Having looked at the news reports about the Rinty Monaghan statue, we have identified a number of similarities to the campaign here in Nottingham. The two cities even have a similar population. Belfast 280,000 and Nottingham weighing in at 330,000.

BBC News in Northern Ireland reported:

‘He wasn’t just a fighter, he was an entertainer’

This was the description of Monaghan by the sculptor Alan Beattie Herriot. The same has been said of Bendigo.

Photo by Albert Bridge ©

Monaghan was the first boxer from the Belfast to win a world title, becoming flyweight champion in 1948.

Bendigo was the first boxer from Nottingham to win the All England title in 1839 and again in 1845.

The 3m bronze statue of Monaghan was erected in Cathedral Gardens Belfast, close to where he grew up.

The statue of Bendigo will (most likely) be erected in Trinity Square Nottingham, close to his birthplace.

Monaghan’s family attended the ceremony, and were joined by well-known boxers, Belfast councillors and crowds of boxing fans.

The ceremony in Nottingham will welcome the many people who have helped us and who have a connection with Bendigo’s story.

The website for Irish Boxing reported that ‘the unveiling of the Rinty Monaghan statue in Belfast this year was one of the biggest occasions in Belfast Boxing.

We know that when Nottingham’s statue to Bendigo is unveiled, it will be one of the biggest occasions in Nottingham Boxing.

Five Year Campaign

In the BBC article, Rinty Monaghan’s great-nephew Eamon McAuley said that the statue was ‘absolutely beautiful’. He described his great-uncle as a ‘working-class hero. He also said that after a five-year campaign to erect the statue, his family were going to celebrate ‘a wonderful day’.

We expect that our statue to Bendigo will also be a beautiful work of art to honour Nottingham’s ‘working class hero’.

Our campaign is now five years old.

Maybe it’s time that we celebrated with a beautiful day too?

The Bendigo Story (Guided Walk)

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Guided Walk, starting on April 17th.

The Bendigo Story is a guided walk that celebrates the life and times of William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson, Nottingham’s legendary Prize-Fighter and All England Champion.

The guided tour will be led by a trustee of the Bendigo Memorial Fund, who will take you to a number of significant and historic locations, where, you will learn not just about his life, but also what Nottingham was like during his time.

The tour lasts approximately two hours and is along pavements and involves no steps. It is a walking tour that is suitable for wheelchair access

Total walking time is an hour (talking time 2 hrs) and we have chosen a route that will include some interesting features and buildings too. The walk will finish up at St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market, where you will receive a complimentary copy of the Heritage Book and the opportunity to seek refreshment at a local pub

The Bendigo Story is registered with Visit Britain, the corporate website of the UK Tourism Industry. We have the Industry Standard mark meaning we follow government and industry COVID-19 guidelines. A Risk Assessment is in place and a process to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing.

Whilst The Bendigo Story is an outdoor activity, we assess all of the locations and premises that may be visited. This might be in relation to the measures they have in place for social distancing and sanitising.

Our booking system is to encourage pre-booked so that we know the numbers involved will be manageable

Booking is via this link

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-bendigo-story-tickets-127381011033

A Year to Forget

2020 was a year to forget wasn’t it?

As we all tried to cope with the COVID19 pandemic, all non-essential activity was put on hold. This included our events and fundraising ideas. Let’s hope that 2021 is a year to remember.

Now that things seem to be improving, we are pleased to announce that in the near future, we will be launching The Bendigo Story. A guided heritage walk in Bendigo’s old ‘stomping ground’ of Nottingham’s city centre.

We are excited about this as it will allow us to meet visitors to Nottingham, and show them around. The timing of it will also coincide with the long awaited re-opening of Nottingham Castle as a major tourist attraction.

The 68 years of Bendigo’s life were during the most turbulent period in Nottingham’s history. On his 20th birthday, Nottingham Castle was destroyed by fire (1831) and it remained a ruin until two years before his death. Nottingham Castle became a museum in 1978, having been purchased by the Nottingham Corporation in 1875.

Was Bendigo one of the first visitors? We don’t know, but the sight of the burnt out ducal palace on Castle Rock would have been a permanent reminder to Bendigo of the political unrest in Nottingham.

The Bendigo Story is a guided walk that celebrates the life and times of William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson, Nottingham’s legendary Prize-Fighter and All England Champion. It will take you to a number of locations where you will learn not just about his life, but also what Nottingham was like during his time.

Image from nottinghamcastle.org.uk

Without giving everything away, the walk will last about two hours and we have decided it will finish up at St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market. At the end of the walk, each guest will receive a complimentary copy of our heritage booklet ‘10 Bells For Bendigo’.

Watch this space for more details.

Many thanks for your continued support, in particular those of you that follow our social media pages. We are all learning as we go along.

We will end with a recent image sent to us via our Twitter account @bendigonotts.

Emile Degand pays his respects to Bendigo

It is an image from a book that shows a Belgian flyweight boxer visiting Bendigo’s grave. His name was Emile Degand and he was in Nottingham for a bout with George ‘Tish’ Marsden. It gives the year as 1953. We have checked this and for some reason the date is wrong (by almost 20 years).

George Marsden fought 372 times between 1927 and 1946. He beat Emile Degand on 5th March 1934. We also noticed that Marsden’s birth (1911) and death (1980) were exactly 100 years on from Bendigo. Some coincidence eh?

Thanks for reading and maybe we will see you on the guided walk soon.

Memorial Walk – 140 Years On

Supporters of the legendary prize-fighter ‘Bendigo’ will walk the route of his funeral, 140 years to the day.

On Sunday 23rd August 2020, supporters of the Bendigo Memorial Fund will walk the route of Bendigo’s funeral cortege in 1880.

The walk will go from the site of his former home at Wollaton Road, Beeston to his grave at Bath Street in Nottingham City Centre, a distance of 5.7 miles.

Here’s what the Nottinghamshire Guardian reported on 3rd September 1880.

The funeral of William Thompson, better known to the public as ‘Bendigo’, the ex prize-fighter, whose death occurred at his residence at Beeston on Monday last, took place on Friday afternoon in St Mary’s burying ground, St Ann’s Well Road Nottingham. 
The circumstances attending the death of this Nottingham celebrity are already well known, and it is unnecessary here to recount them further than to say that death took place in consequence of injuries received by a fall downstairs some little time ago. 
The funeral procession, which consisted of a hearse and several carriages conveying the relatives and friends of the deceased, left Beeston at one o’clock for Nottingham, the departure being witnessed by an immense number of residents. 
On the journey considerable interest was taken in the cortege, which moved at a very slow pace, and on arriving in Nottingham shortly after two o’clock, by the Derby Road, several hundreds of spectators had assembled to follow the remains to the grave. These were quickly augmented as the procession reached the Market-place, and on arriving at the gate of the burying ground – several thousands of persons were waiting to witness the funeral ceremony. 
Arrived at the door of the chapel the coffin was borne by some of Bendigo’s old friends into the building, where the service of the Church of England appointed for the burial of the dead was solemnly performed by the Rev. William Murray, curate of St Stephen’s Church, Nottingham, in the presence of a few who had been fortunate enough to gain admission. Outside a scene of a very different character was witnessed. As it was impossible for the immense concourse of people to gain admission to the chapel, a sort of religious service was conducted by several revivalists with whom Bendigo when alive was identified. Mr Richard Weaver, a well-known revivalist, through whose instrumentality the deceased prize-fighter is said to have ben brought under religious influence, mounted on of the mourning coaches, and gave out the hymn Welcome Home, which was loudly sung by the crowd, composed to a great extent of the lower classes. After this Mr Weaver delivered an address, in the course of which he said he was glad to see they had met to witness the burial of the ‘rags of Old Bendy’, for in the chapel close by were only the ‘rags’ of their old friend; he himself had gone above. The speaker then went on to give an account of his meeting with Bendigo some years since in the Mechanics Hall, Nottingham, by which led the deceased’s subsequent conversion. 
By this time the first part of the service in the chapel was concluded, and as soon as the coffin and the procession appeared from the building a rush was made towards them, and it was with great difficulty that the grave was reached. Fortunately a strong posse of police was present to keep order, so that there was no disturbance save what was necessarily caused by such a large assembly. The officers, however, were successful in keeping the people so far from the grave as to prevent annoyance, and the concluding part of the funeral service was gone through by Mr Murray. The coffin, which was covered with a number of immortelles, was then lowered into the grave. It bore the following inscription: William Thompson, alias Bendigo, born 11th October 1811 aged 68 years.
Next followed an impressive address by the officiating clergyman, who spoke of the deceased’s life, which had been brought under the influence of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. After the Rev gentleman had finished his observations, which were eagerly listened to, Mr J Dupe gave put a hymn, followed by an address, in which the speaker said that Bendigo’s last words were, ‘Harry, meet me in heaven’. Mr Weaver and other speakers followed, while the spectators pressed forward to take a view of the coffin in the grave, which is situated near to where the deceased’s mother is laid.
The people however, throwing off the restraint under which, for a short time they had been placed, commenced to joke and jeer and to talk of the early life of the deceased. The principal battles in which he had engaged were discussed freely, and such names as ‘Ben Caunt’, and ‘Jem Ward’ were constantly heard. Others directed their conversation to the deceased’s after life, and his appearance upon the platform as a revivalist. This kind of thing continued for some time, after which the multitude quietly dispersed.
Nottinghamshire Guardian article from Friday 3rd September 1880

Heritage Trail Booklet Published

We recently commissioned Porchester Press to publish a Heritage Trail Booklet for us.

The booklet is a fantastic way to advance the culture, heritage and social history of his legacy. We now have a short guide about the story of William Thompson, that will be accessible to visitors to Nottingham and its tourism.

Most of the locations in the booklet are in the commercial area of the city centre. People visiting Nottingham for the first time will be able to get to know something about it’s history whilst enjoying the shops, restaurants and attractions.

The Nottingham of Bendigo’s time could not have been more different. The slums were rife with disease. Life expectancy was 22, less than half the national average. One government official even labelled Nottingham as the ‘Worst town in England’. The people of Bendigo’s childhood home were said to ‘be the poorest of all Queen Victoria’s children’.

The booklet is titled ‘Ten Bells For Bendigo’. This is taken from the tradition of the Ten-Bell Salute, given to honour a boxer or wrestler who has died.

It contains 28 pages of interesting facts, quotes and photographs.

It can be ordered from Porchester Press for £4.50 plus £1.00 postage

Bendigo Memorial is Cleaned and Restored.

On Friday 13th September 2019, the grave of William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson was cleaned and restored by specialists from AW Lymn The Craftsmen in Stone. The memorial over Bendigo’s grave is approximately 130 years old and has weathered, meaning some of the lettering on the inscription is missing. It has an impressive stone lion which lies prone over the top of the rectangular plinth.

The grave is at St Marys Rest Garden on Bath Street, and is very close to where AW Lymn Funeral Service are situated, The Bendigo Memorial Fund were very grateful for their offer to clean and restore it.

Set in a quiet park with a bench nearby, Bendigo’s grave is a well-respected local landmark. The grave is not visible from the road and is often ‘discovered’ by people using the path through the park.

In 2013, Bendigo was featured in a publication by the Loudspeaker Project. The project encouraged vulnerable women to write letters about things that helped them and gave them comfort. A series of these letters were published by www.changing-lives.org.uk. Here is the letter about Bendigo.

Dear Bendigo,  I first met you, Bendigo the Lion, when I was 7 years old. I have been visiting your grave ever since, I am now 42. Whenever I felt sad and lonely I would talk to you about all my problems. Whenever I was with you, you gave me strength and love and safeness. In life always brave, fighting like a lion… In death like a lamb, tranquil in Zion. I never knew you were a famous bare knuckle fighter born in 1811. You fought to take care of your family but fell into drinking and came out of that seeing the light, becoming a tee-total priest of Nottingham. Subconsciously Bendigo, I choose you, the strongest and nicest guy of Nottingham, to talk to.                                                                                                            Maxine x

Ben Percival, General Manager at AW Lymn The Craftsmen in Stone said,

“As always it is a pleasure to get involved with local projects and give something back to the community”.

Alan Dawson of the Bendigo Memorial Fund said:

“It has been great to get to know and speak to the staff at AW Lymn about Bendigo. We share a lot of history in the area. Lymns started out in 1907, and this was the time that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his famous poem Bendigo’s Sermon. Their offer to maintain his grave is a fantastic gesture.” 

The missing letters on the grave cannot be renewed due to the stone having worn down. In conjunction with Ben from The Craftsmen in Stone and the Conservation Officer at Nottingham City Council, the next discussion will be whether to add a new slate bearing the full inscription.

We are also making enquiries with the company that created the original memorial on Bendigo’s grave. They are still trading under the original name of GH Linnell in Grantham, having started out in 1860.

Thanks for reading this update and best wishes.

The Trustees ( Alan and Ryan)

Lots been happening in 2019

Hello everyone.

Thanks for you continued support.

We have been busy behind the scenes and also attending events.

The Heritage Trail booklet is not quite ready for publication. Maybe this was lucky as one of the locations on the trail has ceased trading recently. The Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road opened in around 1832 and is where Bendigo reportedly trained before his fights. Unfortunately it has recently closed its doors. Hopefully it will re-open quickly and who knows, the owners may want to take advantage of its Bendigo status. Even the BBC Flog It program recorded an episode there.

We have been doing more presentations to various groups. The next one is for Age Concern in Nottingham where we will reminisce about peoples memories of Nottingham and what Bendigo means to them guests. If you have a group that would like to book us to talk about Bendigo, get in touch.

Our next Memorial Walk will be on Sunday 18th August. This event will be an annual walk from Beeston to Bath Street, following the route of his funeral in August 1880.

Keep spreading the word about our cause.

One day we will bring him home

Best wishes Alan and Ryan

The Forest Tavern
195 Mansfield Road
Nottingham

 

Bendigo Heritage

Bendigo Memorial Fund is working across a number of areas to raise the awareness of the man who has so much to offer Nottingham and its heritage. We would like to highlight these areas and the people who have helped us.

Boxing will always be at the heart of the campaign. After all it was through prize-fighting that Bendigo made his reputation. We have established good connections with the boxing community, and we have made some friends along the way.

Marcellus Baz BEM has been supporting us from the start. He runs the Nottingham School of Boxing and other organisations that seek to support young people by giving them opportunities through the discipline and team work that boxing brings. Through him we have established links with national and local boxers. In January we took part in a fundraising skipathon to support local boxing legend Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham through a period of illness.

Jake Meskell is a local television producer with Notts TV. Jake has shown a particular interest in boxing and martial arts. So much so that he produces a boxing show for Notts TV called Fight Night.

Peter Radford is an aspiring actor and works in the tourism area as Little John, the famous character linked to Robin Hood. Peter is also a boxer within the Bare Knuckle Boxing community.

Alan Dance is a historian and author, specialising in the 19th century. He has written a novel about Bendigo  together with David Field. Alan has supplied us with several copies of the Bendigo – Right Fist of God, which we sell at events, the proceeds going to the fund.

Andrew Edwards is a renowned sculptor who has supported us from the start. He is based in Liverpool and heard about us through his interest in the sport of boxing. Andrew has created a small prototype statue (maquette) of Bendigo at no cost. This maquette has been on the road with us and always draws attention.

Andrew Edwards presents the maquette to us.

We have also been invited to join a group called Nottingham Heritage Professionals. We hope that our involvement with this group will help us in getting the most out of the Bendigo Story and in ways to raise funds. We will soon be meeting with one of this group, Rehannah Mian a historian and author who has produced a guide to Nottingham. Hopefully this will help us to put Bendigo on the map and in a heritage booklet of his own.

Thanks for reading

Alan and Ryan

 

Making Progress

This year we have made good progress. We have been holding events of our own such as the Sponsored Walk and an event at the former Bendigo Public House in Nottingham.

Local and national boxing promoters have also invited us along to their shows. It is pleasing that many people in the boxing world know already knew about Bendigo’s importance to the sport.

We have also done presentations to various local history groups who are always interested in our campaign, aswell as speaking to teachers with a view to prepare a teaching pack so that schools can tell the story of Bendigo to future generations.

We have also been developing a Heritage Trail so that future visitors to Nottingham will be able to discover the Bendigo story.

The Heritage Trail will be titled Ten Bells For Bendigo, in recognition of the boxing custom of ringing the bell ten times when the sport mourns the passing of someone.

Ten Bells For Bendigo will focus on ten locations that are important to the Bendigo story.

We will publish more about this in the near future.

Thanks for your continued support and get in touch if you want to hold an event.

Trinity Square Nottingham in 1853. The Mechanics Institute where Bendigo attended in 1872 is the central building. All were demolished in the 1960s.

 

 

Bendigo Community Event – 14th July

With thanks to the Sneinton Festival Events committee, we are pleased to announce this family friendly event to celebrate Bendigo at the former Bendigo Pub in Sneinton, Nottingham

The pub is currently closed but the iconic concrete statue of Bendigo still stands above the entrance.

This is a community get together with a 1950s theme, to acknowledge the pub’s opening in 1957.

Music from the 1950s and a free buffet will be provided.

The former Bendigo Public House is certainly the most well-known of Nottingham’s landmarks that celebrate Bendigo. The pub was built and opened in 1957, replacing a nearby pub called The Wrestlers Arms. The reason for naming the pub after Bendigo is unclear, although he had been entered into The Boxing Hall of Fame (UK) two years earlier. This may have brought his name back into public consciousness, almost 80 years since his death.

It was run by Nottingham’s Home Ales Brewery and is situated at the end of Meadow Lane, a short walk to the home of Notts County Football Club.

We hope that Nottinghamians join us and bring their relatives who remember this famous pub during its heyday in the 1950s and 60s.

The event will be on the paved area on Hermitage Square between the pub and Sneinton Hermitage Community Centre