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November 13th

Born: St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, and father of the Church, 354, Tagaste, Nunaidia; Pelagius, celebrated antagonist of St. Augustine, 354; Edward III, king of England, 1312, Windsor; Philip Beroaldus, the Elder, scholar and critic, 1450, Bologna.

Died: Justinian, Roman emperor, 565; Malcolm Canmore, king of Scotland, 1093, Alnwick, Northumberland; Thomas Erpenius, celebrated orientalist, 1624, Leyden; William Etty, painter, 1849, York; Sir John Forbes, eminent physician and medical writer, 1861, Whitchurch, near Reading.

Feast Day: St. Mitrius, martyr, beginning of 4th century. St. Brice, bishop and confessor, 444. St. Chillen or Killian, priest, 7th century. St. Constant, 777. St. Homobonus, merchant, confessor, 1197. St. Didacus, confessor, 1463. St. Stanislas Kostka, confessor, 1568.

THE STAMFORD BULL-RUNNING

From time immemorial down to a late period, the 13th of November was annually celebrated, at the town of Stamford, in Lincolnshire, by a public amusement termed a Bull-running. The sport was latterly conducted in the following manner:

About a quarter to eleven o'clock, on the festal-day, the bell of St. Mary's commenced to toll as a warning for the thoroughfares to be cleared of infirm persons and children; and precisely at eleven, the bull was turned into a street, blocked up at each end by a barricade of carts and wagons. At this moment, every post, pump, and 'coigne of vantage' was occupied, and those happy enough to have such protections, could grin at their less fortunate friends, who were compelled to have recourse to flight; the barricades, windows, and house-tops being crowded with spectators. The bull, irritated by hats being thrown at him, and other means of annoyance, soon became ready to run; and then, the barricades being removed, the whole crowd, bull, men, boys, and dogs, rushed helter-skelter through the streets.

One great object being to 'bridge the bull,' the animal was, if possible, compelled to run upon the bridge that spans the Welland. The crowd then closing in, with audacious courage surrounded and seized the animal; and, in spite of its size and strength, by main force tumbled it over the parapet into the river. The bull then swimming ashore, would land in the meadows, where the run was continued; the miry, marshy state of the fields at that season of the year, and the falls and other disasters consequent thereon, adding greatly to the amusement of the mob. The sport was carried on till all were tired; the animal was then killed, and its flesh sold at a low rate to the people, who finished the day's amusement with a supper of bull-beef.

A local historian thus informs us how the sport was conducted in the seventeenth century. 'The butchers provide the bull, and place him over-night in a stable belonging to the alderman; the next morning, proclamation is made by the bell-man that each one shut up his shop-door and gate, and none, under pain of imprisonment, do any violence to strangers; for the preventing whereof (the town being a great thoroughfare), a guard is appointed for the passing of travellers through the same without hurt. None to have any iron upon their bull-clubs, or other staves, which they pursue the bull with; which proclamation being made, and the gates all shut up, the bull is turned out of the alderman's house, and then hivie-skivy, tag-rag, men, women, and children of all sorts and sizes, with all the dogs in the town, running after him, spattering dirt in each others' faces, that one would think them to be so many furies started out of the infernal regions for the punishment of Cerberus, as when Theseus and Perillus conquered the place, as Ovid describes it:

'A ragged troop of boys and girls
Do follow him with stones,
With clubs, with whips, and many nips,
They part his skin from bones.'

According to tradition, the origin of the custom dates from the time of King John when, one day, William, Earl of Warren, standing on the battlements of the castle, saw two bulls fighting in the meadow beneath. Some butchers coming to part the combatants, one of the bulls ran into the town, causing a great uproar. The earl, mounting his horse, rode after the animal, and enjoyed the sport so much, that he gave the meadow, in which the fight began, to the butchers of Stamford, on condition that they should provide a bull, to be run in that town annually, on the 13th of November, for ever after. There is no documentary evidence on the subject, but the town of Stamford undoubtedly holds certain common rights in the meadow specified, which is still termed the Bull-meadow.

Bull-running was, for a long period, a recognised institution at Stamford. A mayor of the town, who died in 1756, left a sum of money to encourage the practice; and, as appears by the vestry accounts, the church-wardens annually gave money to aid the bull-running. In 1788, the first attempt was made by the local authorities to stop the custom, the mayor issuing a curious proclamation, stating that bull-running was contrary to religion, law, and nature, and punishable with the penalty of death. The Earl of Exeter, who lived - 'At Burleigh House, by Stamford town, lent his personal influence to the mayor on this occasion; but the bull was run, and both the earl and mayor were insulted by the mob. In 1789, the mayor having obtained the aid of a troop of dragoons, met the bull at St. George's Gate, as it was being driven into the town by the bull-woman —a virago dressed in blue ribbons, who officiated on these occasions, and followed by the bullards, a name given to the admirers and supporters of bull-running. On the mayor appealing to the officer of dragoons to stop the procession, the latter refused to interfere, alleging that the people were peaceably walking on the highway. 'In that case,' replied the mayor, 'your men are of no use here.' Very well,' said the officer, 'I shall dismiss them.' The dismissed dragoons, to their great glee, joined the bullards, and the bull was run as usual. For a long time afterwards, the bullards received no opposition. The towns-people, delighted with the sport, subscribed for a second annual bull-running, which took place on the Monday after Christmas Day; and there were several occasional bull-runnings every year, the candidates for representing Stamford in parliament being always found willing to give a bull for the purpose.

In 1831, the Conservative party canvassed the borough under a flag bearing the representation of a bull. Several clergymen and others remonstrated against this mode of obtaining popular support, distinctly declaring they would not vote, if the obnoxious banner were not laid aside. But many persons of station, and well-known humanity, defended the practice of bull-running, alleging that it was an old-fashioned, manly, English sport; inspiring courage, agility, and presence of mind under danger; and, as regards inhumanity, it was not by any means so cruel to the brute creation, nor so perilous to the life and limb of man, as fox-hunting.

In 1833, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made its first public appearance as an opponent of the practice. One of its officers was sent to Stamford on bull-running day, and, being more bold than prudent, was roughly hustled by the crowd. This interference of the society, however well-meant, had a very different effect to that desired; instead of discountenancing the practice, the people of Stamford were thereby stimulated to support it. ' Who or what is this London Society,' they asked, 'that, usurping the place of constituted authorities, presumes to interfere with our ancient amusement?'

In 1836, the society sent several of its officers and agents to Stamford. The 13th falling that year on Sunday, the bull was run on the following day; in the evening, the populace resented the interference of the society's officers, by assaulting them, and breaking some windows. At the following Lent Assizes for Lincolnshire, the society preferred bills of indictment before the Grand Jury, against eight persons, for conspiring to disturb the peace by riotously assembling to run and torment a bull' at Stamford, on the 14th of November previous. True bills being found against the men, bench-warrants were obtained, and they were arrested to take their trials at the ensuing mid-summer assizes. As is well known, this mode of proceeding behind a man's back, as it were, which deprives the accused of the fair advantage allowed by law, in giving him a copy of the depositions of the witnesses against him, is looked upon with deserved disfavour by both the judges and people of England. Moreover, the conduct of the society in putting the expensive machinery of the higher courts of law in operation against poor labouring-men, for a trumpery street squabble, created a strong feeling in Stamford and its neighbourhood. A subscription was immediately opened, to raise a defence-fund for the prisoners, many subscribing who utterly detested bull-running, but considered the society's proceedings to be over-officious, unjust, and arbitrary. The manager of Stamford theatre, to his immense popularity, gave a benefit in aid of the defence-fund, the piece selected being Colman's comedy of John Bull; and altogether, a consider-able sum was collected. At the trial, Sergeant Goulbourn, and the leading barristers on the circuit, were retained for the prosecution. The council for the defence could not deny the riot, but pleaded use and custom, and the ignorance of the prisoners, who believed that valuable common rights were preserved to the town by the act of bull-running. Judge Park, when summing up, told the jury that no use or custom could justify a riot. Five of the prisoners were acquitted, three only being found guilty; these last were discharged on giving hail to appear to receive judgment, at the Court of Queen's Bench, when called upon.

The bullards, accepting the result of the trial as a victory, determined to have a grand run in 1837. Influence, however, had been brought to bear on the Home Secretary, who wrote to the mayor of Stamford, impressing upon him the necessity of taking active measures to prevent a proceeding so illegal and disgraceful as bull-running. The mayor, accordingly, swore in more than two hundred special constables to his assistance; but their opposition being lukewarm, the bull was run with greater excitement than ever. In 1838, the Home Secretary determined to put down the custom. Several days before the 13th, a troop of the 14th Dragoons, and a strong force of metropolitan police, were sent to Stamford, and a considerable body of special constables were sworn in. The commanders of the military and police, having viewed the field of action, consulted with the mayor. As prevention was better than cure, and there could be no bull-run without a bull, measures were taken accordingly. The town was strictly searched, and two bulls being found, the animals were taken and confined in an inn-yard, under a picket of dragoons. Sentries were then placed on all the outlets of the town, and parties patrolled the roads night and day, to prevent a bull from being brought in.

The eventful 13th arrived, and though the streets were crowded with bullards, the authorities were perfectly at their ease. They even heard with complacency the bell of St. Mary's toll the time-honoured bull-warning. But at the last stroke of the bell, their fancied security was rudely dissipated by the well-known shouts of 'Hoy! bull! hoy! from a thousand voices; a noble bull having appeared, as if by magic, in the principal street. There never was such a run! The wild excitement of the scene was enhanced by the bewildered dragoons galloping thither and hither, in vain attempts to secure the animal. The metropolitan police, with greater valour than discretion, formed in a compact phalanx on the bridge; but the bull, followed by the bullards, dashed through them as an eagle might through a cobweb. After a run of some hours, the bull came to bay in the river, and was then captured by the authorities. An attempt was then made to rescue one of the bulls confined in the inn-yard. This led to a collision between the military and the people, stones and brickbats were thrown, and sabre cuts returned in exchange; but, on the dragoons being ordered to load with ball-cartridge, the mob dispersed. Where did the strange bull, a very valuable animal, so miraculously spring from? This enigma was soon solved by its being claimed by a certain noble lord. He had been sending it, in a covered wagon, from one of his estates to another, and, by a 'curious coincidence,' it happened to pass through Stamford on the very day and hour its presence was required by the bullards, who, seizing the wagon, released the animal. Whether the coincidence were accidental or designed, the preceding explanation, if not quite satisfactory, produced a great deal of good-humoured laughter.

In 1839, a stronger force of military and police was sent to Stamford; every precaution was taken, yet some treacherous special constables smuggled a bull into the town, and the bullards had their last run. The animal, however, being young and docile, did not afford much sport, being soon captured by the authorities. In the following year, as bull-running day drew near, the people of Stamford began to count the cost of their amusement. The military, metropolitan police, and special constables of the two previous years, had cost them more than £600—a sum which might, with greater fitness, have been laid out on certain town improvements, then much wanted. So the townsmen forwarded a memorial to the mayor, to be laid before the Home Secretary, pledging themselves that, if no extraneous force of military or police were brought into the town, nor expense incurred by appointing special constables, they, the subscribers, would prevent bull-running from taking place in Stamford during that year. The townsmen were wisely taken at their word, and there never has been a bull-run in Stamford since that time.

The highly-exciting nature of the amusement gave bull-running a charm to vulgar minds, that can scarcely now be understood or appreciated. For weeks before and after the 13th of November, the bullard's song might be heard re-echoing through all parts of Stamford. As a curious and almost forgotten relic of an ancient sport, it cannot be entirely unworthy of a place in these columns.

THE BULLARD'S SONG

'Come all you bonny boys,
    Who love to bait the bonny bull,
Who take delight in noise,
    And you shall have your bellyful.
On Stamford's town Bull-running Day,
We'll; show you such right gallant play,
You never saw the like, you'll say,
    As you shall see at Stamford.

Earl Warren was the man,
    That first began this gallant sport;
In the castle he did stand,
    And saw the bonny bulls that fought.
The butchers with their bull-dogs came,
These sturdy stubborn bulls to tame,
But more with madness did inflame,
    Enraged, they ran through Stamford.

Delighted with the sport,
    The meadows there he freely gave,
Where these bonny bulls had fought,
    The butchers now do hold and have;
By charter they are strictly bound,
That every year a bull be found;
Come, dight your face, you dirty clown,
    And stump away to Stamford!

Come, take him by the tail, boys—
    Bridge, bridge him if you can;
Prog him with a stick, boys;
    Never let him quiet stand;
Through every street and lane in town,
We'll Chevy-chase him up and down,
You sturdy bung-straws ten miles round,
    Come, stump away to Stamford.'

The old bullards are now nearly all dead; but the song, with various additions and variations, may still be occasionally heard. Mr. Burton, writing in 1846, says:

'Every incident that calls to the mind of the lower classes their ancient holiday, is seized with enthusiasm, and the old bull-tune is invariably demanded, when anything in the shape of music attracts the attention. At the theatre, whenever there is a full house, "Bull! bull!" is invariably pealed from some corner of the gallery. The magic word immediately fills the mouth of every occupant of that part of the building; it is echoed from the pit, and order and quiet is out of the question till the favourite tune has been played.'

SHOOTING-STARS

During three successive years, from 1831 to 1833, the 13th of November was marked by a magnificent display of shooting or falling stars, those mysterious visitants to our globe respecting whose real nature and origin science is still so perplexed. The first of these brilliant exhibitions was witnessed off the coasts of Spain, and in the country bordering on the Ohio. The second is thus described by Captain Hammond of H.M.S. Restitution, who beheld it in the Red Sea, off Mocha.

 'From one o'clock A. M. till after daylight, there was a very unusual phenomenon in the heavens. It appeared like meteors bursting in every direction. The sky at the time was clear, the stars and moon bright, with streaks of light, and thin white clouds interspersed in the sky. On landing in the morning, I inquired of the Arabs if they had noticed the above. They said they had been observing it most of the night. I asked them if ever the like had appeared before. The oldest of them replied that it had not.'

The area over which this phenomenon was seen extended from the Red Sea west-wards to the Atlantic, and from Switzerland to the Mauritius.

But the most imposing display of shooting stars on record occurred on the third of these occasions —that is, on 13th November 1833. It extended chiefly over the limits comprised between longitude 61° in the Atlantic, and 100° in Central Mexico, and from the latitude of the great lakes of North America, to the West Indies. From the appearance presented, it might be regarded as a grand and portentous display of nature's fireworks. Seldom has a scene of greater or more awful sublimity been exhibited than at the Falls of Niagara on this memorable occasion, the two leading powers in nature, water and fire, engaging, as it were, in an emulative display of their grandeur. The awful roar of the cataract filled the mind of the spectator with an infinitely heightened sense of sublimity, when its waters were lightened up by the glare of the meteoric torrent in the sky. In many parts of the country, the people were terror-struck, imagining that the end of the world was come; whilst those whose education and vigour of mind prevented them from yielding to such terrors, were, nevertheless, vividly reminded of the grand description in the Apocalypse,

'The stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.'

The most probable theory as to the nature of shooting-stars is, that they form part of the solar system, revolving round the sun in the same manner as the planetoids, but both infinitely smaller in size, and subject to great and irregular perturbations. The latter cause brings them not unfrequently within the limits of the earth's atmosphere, on entering which they become luminous from the great heat produced by the sudden and violent compression which their transit occasions. Having thus approached the earth with great velocity, they are as rapidly again withdrawn from it into the realms of space. It is very possible, moreover, that the fiery showers which we have just described, may be the result of a multitude of these meteors encountering each other, whilst the aërolites, or actual meteoric substances, which occasionally fall to the surface of the earth, may be such of those bodies as have been brought so far within the influence of terrestrial gravity as to be rendered subject to its effects.

Shower of falling stars at Niagara in November 1833
Shower of falling stars at Niagara in November 1833

November 14th

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