April 20, 2024

Bendy’s Sermon Poem by poem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about Bendigo, the well-known Nottingham bare-knuckle boxer and gangster that went on to convert to Christianity and become a preacher:

You didn’t know of Bendigo! Well, that knocks me out!
Who’s your board school teacher? What’s he been about?

Chock-a-block with fairy-tales full of useless cram,
And never heard o’ Bendigo, the pride of Nottingham!

Bendy’s short for Bendigo. You should see him peel!
Half of him was whalebone, half of him was steel,

Fightin’ weight eleven ten, five foot nine in height,
Always ready to oblige if you want a fight.

I could talk of Bendigo from here to kingdom come,
I guess before I ended you would wish your dad was dumb.

I’d tell you how he fought Ben Caunt, and how the deaf ‘un fell,
But the game is done, and the men are gone and maybe it’s as well.

Bendy he turned Methodist—he said he felt a call,
He stumped the country preachin’ and you bet he filled the hall,

If you seed him in the pulpit, a-bleatin’like a lamb,
You’d never know bold Bendigo, the pride of Nottingham.

His hat was like a funeral, he’d got a waiter’s coat,
With a hallelujah collar and a choker round his throat,

His pals would laugh and say in chaff that Bendigo was right,
In takin’ on the devil, since he’d no one else to fight.

But he was very earnest, improvin’ day by day,
A-workin’ and a-preachin’ just as his duty lay,

But the devil he was waitin’, and in the final bout,
He hit him hard below his guard and knocked poor Bendy out.

Now I’ll tell you how it happened. He was preachin’ down at Brum,
He was billed just like a circus, you should see the people come,

The chapel it was crowded, and in the foremost row,
There was half a dozen bruisers who’d a grudge at Bendigo.

There was Tommy Piatt of Bradford, Solly Jones of Perry Bar,
Long Connor from the Bull Ring, the same wot drew with Carr,

Jack Ball the fightin gunsmith, Joe Murühy from the Mews,
And Iky Moss, the bettin’ boss, the Champion of the Jews.

A very pretty handful a-sittin’ in a string,
Full of beer and impudence, ripe for any- thing,

Sittin’ in a string there, right under Bendy’s nose,
If his message was for sinners, he could make a start on those.

Soon he heard them chaflin’; “Hi, Bendy! Here’s a go!”
“How much are you coppin’ by this Jump to Glory show?”

“Stow it, Bendy! Left the ring! Mighty spry of you!
Didn’t everybody know the ring was leavin’ you.”

Bendy fairly sweated as he stood above and prayed,
“Look down, O Lord, and grip me with a strangle hold!” he said.

“Fix me with a strangle hold! Put a stop on me!
I’m slippin’, Lord, I’m slippin’ and I’m clingin’ hard to Thee!”

But the roughs they kept on chaffin’ and the uproar it was such
That the preacher in the pulpit might be talkin’ double Dutch,

Till a workin’ man he shouted out, a-jumpin’ to his feet,
“Give us a lead, your reverence, and heave ’em in the street.”

Then Bendy said, “Good Lord, since first I left my sinful ways,
Thou knowest that to Thee alone I’ve given up my days,

But now, dear Lord”—and here he laid his Bible on the shelf –
“I’ll take, with your permission, just five minutes for myself.”

He vaulted from the pulpit like a tiger from a den,
They say it was a lovely sight to see him floor his men;

Right and left, and left and right, straight and true and hard,
Till the Ebenezer Chapel looked more like a knacker’s yard.

Platt was standin’ on his back and lookup at his toes,
Solly Jones of Perry Bar was feelin’ for his nose,

Connor of the Bull Ring had all that he could do
Rakin’ for his ivories that lay about the pew.

Jack Ball the fightin’ gunsmith was in a peaceful sleep,
Joe Murphy lay across him, all tied up in a heap,

Five of them was twisted in a tangle on the floor,
And Iky Moss, the bettin’ boss, had sprinted for the door.

Five repentant fightin’ men, sitting in a row,
Listenin’ to words of grace from Mister Bendigo,

Listenin’ to his reverence all as good as gold,
Pretty little baa-lambs, gathered to the fold.

So that’s the way that Bendy ran his mission in the slum,
And preached the Holy Gospel to the fightin’ men of Brum,

“The Lord,” said he, “has given me His message from on high,
And if you interrupt Him, I will know the reason why.”

But to think of all your schooling clean wasted, thrown away,
Darned if I can make out what you’re learnin’ all the day,

Grubbin’ up old fairy-tales, fillin’ up with cram,
And didn’t know of Bendigo, the pride of Nottingham.

Ishikawa Goemon

March 23, 2024

Ishikawa Goemon (1558 –1594) was a ninja from Iga in Japan and is seen as a Robin Hood-type figure and legendary Japanese outlaw (who at least probably existed) and is said to have stolen from daimyo, wealthy merchants, and rich temples and given the proceeds to the poor. In 1594, Goemon tried to assassinate the Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi but when this failed, he was boiled alive. In some versions of the tale, his five-year-old son was also thrown into the cauldron, but he held him above his head until Hideyoshi took pity on the child and removed him from the cauldron.

Tyson, Ali & Jackson

February 17, 2024

Michael Jackson with Mike Tyson (top) and Muhammad Ali (bottom).

Film Scenes

Richard Bong

February 10, 2024

Richard "Dick" Ira Bong (1920 – 1945) was a United States Army Air Forces major who won the Medal of Honour for his aviation exploits in World War Two. He was America’s top fighter pilot during the war, with forty confirmed Japanese aircraft down by his Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter.

Bong considered himself to be a poor shot so to compensate, he would get very close to his target, sometimes even flying through the debris of exploding planes. His exploits include:

He was once caught alone by nine Japanese zeros. He turned to face them, took out three and managed to send the rest into retreat.

When escorting a small boat over the pacific, he noticed a large crocodile following it. He promptly dropped down to sea level and blew the creature out of the water with his 20mm autocannon.

In 1942, he was temporarily grounded along with three other pilots for looping over the Golden Gate Bridge and flying so low down a street in San Francisco that he blew the clothes off a woman’s clothesline. When reprimanding him, his commanding officer General George C. Kenney said:

“If you didn't want to fly down Market Street, I wouldn't have you in my Air Force, but you are not to do it anymore and I mean what I say.” Kenney later wrote, “We needed kids like this lad.”

Lady Archers

February 3, 2024

"In 1787, “several young ladies” who shot with the Royal British Bowmen – the first British sporting society to admit women – were said to have “added to their conquests the hearts of young gentlemen of honour and fortune”, with the society responsible for the marriage of “not a few happy couples”, according to a newspaper report ...The more spectacular archery tournaments were usually held on private grounds of the landed gentry and were seen very much as a wider opportunity for socialising and courtship. Large tournaments invariably ended with a full-dress ball.

In other words, the sport had become something not followed for its own sake, but as an excuse for a large party and a respectable arena where men and women could meet. The novel Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, written in 1857, describes a country house fete with romance against the backdrop of an archery tournament."

The Monkey Stick

January 28, 2024

Shaolin apprentice demonstrates the monkey stick as a part of his eleven year training to become a Shaolin warrior monk.

Sacred Wonders - BBC

Indian Suffragettes

December 18, 2023

Top - Lolita Roy who worked tirelessly to help education Indian women and to gain them the vote in India.
Middle - Princess Sophia Duleep Singh who used her privileged position to help the suffrage cause.
Bottom - Both women pictured together (centre of the picture).

Sakujiro Yokoyama's Account of a Samurai Duel

October 14, 2023

The following quote was recorded by the early Western judoka E. J. Harrison in his book The Fighting Spirit of Japan (1913). It is an account from a fellow judoka, Sakujiro Yokoyama (pictured above) of a samurai duel that he witnessed as a child in Japan.

"I can carry my memory back to the days when all samurai wore the two swords and used them as well when necessity arose. When quite a boy I accidentally witnessed an exciting duel to the death between a ronin [an unattached samurai] and three samurai. The struggle took place in the Kojimachi ward, in the neighbourhood of Kudan, where the Shokonsha now stands.

Before proceeding with my narrative, I ought to explain for the benefit of my foreign listeners [there were two of us present besides another Japanese gentleman] the usage that was commonly observed by the two-sworded men of the old feudal days, in order that the incident I am about to describe may be better understood.

The sword of the samurai, as you know, was a possession valued higher than life itself, and if you touched a samurai's sword you touched his dignity. It was deemed an act of unpardonable rudeness in those days for one samurai to allow the tip of his scabbard to come into contact with the scabbard of another samurai as the men passed each other in the street; such an act was styled saya-ate {saya = scabbard, ate = to strike against}, and in the absence of a prompt apology from the offender a fight almost always ensued.

The samurai carried two swords, the long and the short, which were thrust into the obi, or sash, on the left-hand side, in such a manner that the sheath of the longer weapon stuck out behind the owner's back. This being the case, it frequently happened, especially in a crowd, that two scabbards would touch each other without deliberate intent on either side, although samurai who were not looking for trouble of this kind always took the precaution to hold the swords with the point downward and as close to their sides as possible.

But should a collision of this description occur, the parties could on no account allow it to pass unnoticed. One or both would at once demand satisfaction, and the challenge was rarely refused. The high sense of honour which prevailed among men of this class forbade them to shrink from the consequences of such an encounter. So much by way of introduction. The episode I am going to describe arose in precisely this fashion.

The parties to the duel were a ronin and three samurai, as I have already said. The ronin was rather shabbily dressed and was evidently very poor. The sheath of his long sword was covered with cracks where the lacquer had been worn away through long use. He was a man of middle age. The three samurai were all stalwart men and appeared to be under the influence of sake.

They were the challengers. At first the ronin apologized, but the samurai insisted on a duel, and the ronin eventually accepted the challenge. By this time a large crowd had gathered, among which were many samurai, none of whom, however, ventured to interfere. In accordance with custom, the combatants exchanged names and swords were unsheathed, the three samurai on one side facing their solitary opponent, with whom the sympathies of the onlookers evidently lay.

The keen blades of the duellists glittered in the sun. The ronin, seemingly as calm as though engaged merely in a friendly fencing bout, advanced steadily with the point of his weapon directed against the samurai in the centre of the trio, and apparently indifferent to an attack on either flank. The samurai in the middle gave ground inch by inch and the ronin as surely stepped forward.

Then the right-hand samurai, who thought he saw an opening, rushed to the attack, but the ronin, who had clearly anticipated this move, parried and with lightning rapidity cut his enemy down with a mortal blow. The left-hand samurai came on in his turn, but was treated in similar fashion, a single stroke felling him' to the ground bathed in blood. All this took almost less time than it takes to tell.

The samurai in the centre, seeing the fate of his comrades, thought better of his first intention and took to his heels. The victorious ronin wiped his blood-stained sword in the coolest manner imaginable and returned it to its sheath. His feat was loudly applauded by the other samurai who had witnessed it. The ronin then repaired to the neighbouring magistrate's office to report the occurrence, as the law required."

Corinthian Helmet

June 28, 2023

A Corinthian helmet that was found in Greece in 1834 still containing the scull of its wearer. It's believed to date from the Battle of Marathon which was fought between Greek and Persian forces in 490 BCE. This battle gave rise to the legend of Pheidippides, the Athenian messenger who ran throughout Greece to warn of the impending battle, a feat that the modern marathon is based on.


Tametomo and the Wolf Pups

June 25, 2023

Tametomo and the Wolf Pups by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (797–1861).
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