lest you think it was only the nineteenth century irish boxing each other’s ears, check out the pugilistic tendencies of english victorian miners (these are some of john derbyshire’s folks, don’t ya know! (~_^) ).

from Leisure And Recreation In A Victorian Mining Community: The Social Economy of Leisure in North-East England, 1820-1914 [pgs. 111-112]:

“Fighting and boxing

“It is critically important to emphasize how important fighting was in mining society. It was fundamental to life itself — miners always fought, down the mine, in the street and, in particular, on Friday and Saturday nights. It was deeply engrained in the very fabric of mining life. It was one of the most visible elements of the whole concept of masculinity. Life down the mine was dangerous and brutal — only the fittest survived. A ‘man’ was one who could stand up for himself and was always willing to test himself against anyone else. It is important to emphasize the pervasiveness and importance of fighting in the mining villages. More than anything else fighting spoke to questions of manhood. Physical prowess defined who a man was and fighting was a manifestation of manhood.

“Evidence as to the popularity of fighting flowed through the nineteenth century. The Commission on Mining Districts in 1842 reported on the prevalence on fighting. In the first half of the century some colliery owners place a prohibition of fighting within the bond. Several court cases were brought against miners for fighting in the mine. Comments were made as to the frequency of ‘pitman fights’ in the 1860s. Without exception these took place on pay Fridays or pay Saturdays. The pay weekends became the times when grudges were worked out and money was bet. This remained the same throughout the century. Jimmy Tabarar, a miner from New Hartley, commenting on the second decade of the twentieth century, stated that there ‘always was a battle on Saturday afternoon. Bare fist. Strip to waist.’ Talking about the same time, James Wilson, from Ashington, commented that there were ‘rough nights on pay weekends…Fights were frequent. Used to lay into one another, stripped to the buff, bare knuckled — until the police intervened.’ That these were, in some sense, organized affairs is implicit in a comment made about the 1850s. ‘I once heard of a pitman who always gave himself an extra clean wash on pay Friday, because he wanted to look “decent” when he put his shirt off to fight.’ It was this semi-organized fighting that provided the foundations of the organized boxing that developed in the 1890s.”

notice, though, the key difference between the faction fighting in 1800s ireland and the fist fights in 1800s england: in ireland you had literally hundreds of men involved in these fights, and the “factions” typically revolved around families or sets of families (the connors, the delahantys, the maddens) — in england, it was one man vs. one other man. two individuals duking it out for their individual honor, not great hordes fighting for their families’ honors.

and the women waiting at home for the pay packet (which was spent in the pub!) in order to buy milk for the kids. men! (~_^)

(p.s. – if anyone can give me any example of “faction fighting” in england, please lemme know!)

previously: english individualism and english individualism ii and english individualism iii

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