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1908 - Swindells, Thomas - Manchester Streets and Manchester Men (1)

Allusion
Date 1908
Author Swindells, Thomas
Title Manchester Streets and Manchester Men. Fifth Series
Mentions Robin Hood (Cheetham Hill, Manchester); Robin Hood
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The former Robin Hood, Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-03-01. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-03-01.

Allusion

James Rawson—The Archer.
 More than a century ago the village of Cheetham Hill was noted for the skill of certain of its natives in archery. The pastime was very popular with the residents, and long years after it had disappeared from all other parts of the Manchester district it was cultivated there. Pilkington's bow and arrow shop and Hyde's smithy at Sandy Lane, where an arrow could be tipped for a penny, were popular institutions, whilst the sign of the Robin Hood served to remind wayfarers and villagers alike of the prowess of Nottingham's famous outlaw.
 The greatest of local bowmen was James Rawson, concerning whom few particulars have survived. Perhaps the best account of him was the one written by R. Wood in the Manchester Guardian in 1874. He says: "I fear I have little information to give concerning James Rawson, except what I have gathered from old people. Although some of them remembered him well, they were not very particular bout telling the same story of his wonderful feats twice over without [p. 20:] some variation. James Rawson was a handloom weaver and lived most of his life in an old house, now in ruins, opposite the Griffin Inn. Weavers were then well off and could afford to indulge in many amusements from which they have been debarred since the invention of patent looms and the introduction of steam power. Archery was then a favourite amusement, not only with the rich but with tradesmen and working people also. James appears to have begun shooting early, and even in boyhood to have acquired extraordinary proficiency, so that, as his grave stone has it, 'from 16 to 60 he never refused a challenge nor ever lost a match.' When he became too old to weave, the gentlemen employed him to attend on shooting days and keep their bows in order, and when they had a friendly match with other villages they would dress him up as a gentleman to take part with them so as to get the benefit of his score; and it is said that in one of these matches held at Prestwich, the affair was so well contested that James and his opponent, the two last playes, were on equal terms, and the two last arrows had to decide the match. When the Prestwich man sent his arrow the game appeared settled, as it had struck within an inch of the centre of the target, and the shaft lay a little obliquely, so as to cross the centre. But James sent his arrow with such truth and force that it split the other one and struck the very place required. This was considered the greatest feat in archery since the time of Robin Hood. When he died the gentlemen archers attended his funeral, and paid all expenses, including that of a gravestone. Rawson was buried in St. Mark's Churchyard, where [p. 21:] his gravestone with the following epitaph may be seen:
"Here were interred the earthly remains of
James Rawson,
who died October 1st, 1795, aged 80 years.
His dexterity as an archer was unrivalled; from the age of
16 to 60 he never refused a challenge, nor lost a match.
Grim death, grown jealous of his art,
His matchless fame to stop,
Relentless aiemd th' unerring dart
And split the vital prop.
This favourite son Apollo eyed,
His virtues to requite,
Conveyed his spirit to reside
In realms of endless light."[1]

Source notes

Italics as in printed source. IRHB's brackets.

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