William Abednego Thompson (18 October 1811 – 23 August 1880) was a bare-knuckle boxer from Sneinton who featured in Issue 9 Bendigo versus Nottingham. To celebrate his birthday, Wayne Burrows, a very unreliable narrator, imagines what happened to Bendigo during the Reform Riots of 1831.
William Abednego Thompson, the noted boxer better known by the name Bendigo, would have been a young man of barely twenty years old when he was rumoured to have been in the crowd that burned the Ducal Palace on Castle Rock, the Nottingham residence of Henry Pelham-Clinton, the Fourth Duke of Newcastle, during the Reform Act riots of 1831. Whether Bendigo was an onlooker or instigator in the crowd that night is not recorded. What is known is that, whether guilty or innocent, he found it necessary to evade the militias who arrived in Nottingham in the name of the Duke of Wellington after the riots subsided, a feat achieved by the simple act of leading a cohort of his fellows deep into the caves, where they hid out, surviving on supplies gifted by allies above ground, for several weeks, thus escaping retribution for their part in the disturbances. In his later years, while preaching in the aftermath of his own salvation, Bendigo loved to tell the story of the day he met the Devil, who, tricked by the heat of the blaze on Castle Rock, had taken a wrong turn in Hell and found himself face to face with Bendigo and his fellows. During his sermons, to the crowds’ delight, Bendigo would re-enact the bout that followed, blow by blow, as he landed the Devil with a left hook only to be caught himself by a right and knocked against the wall of the cave: the outline of his own shoulders could still be seen impressed upon the stone there, he claimed. The bout went on, round after round, with neither the Devil nor Bendigo ever quite winning a decisive advantage, until the Devil himself had lowered his fists, taken a bow, thanked Bendigo for his sport and turned back into the tunnel from which he’d first emerged, never to be seen again.
This piece was originally commissioned by Sidelong in collaboration with New Art Exchange.
Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.
- Sidelong website
- City of Caves
- Wayne Burrows website
- New Art Exchange website
- Issue 9: Bendigo versus Nottingham
- People’s Histreh website