Tom Sayers
 
Lion the Hound


'Give ear you gallant heros,

Of high and low degree;

Tom Sayers is gone to his last home,

No more we shall him see.'

Tom Sayers




Thomas Sayers was born in the tiny bedroom of a little brick-floored, one up one down cottage in Tichbourne Street, Brighton, on 15th May 1826. His father James, was a 48 year old itinerant shoemaker, and his mother Maria was 44, and relieved that he was the last of their five children.

The first inkling that Tom was destined for something out of the ordinary came when as a boy he taught the local coal merchant's donkey to box. At the age of thirteen, eager to leave the poverty of his childhood and intent on learning a trade, Tom set off on foot to London. His apprenticeship as a bricklayer was served working on the new London and North Western Stations of King's Cross and St. Pancras, and he became known for his speed and dexterity. He didn't take too long to fall foul of a fellow worker, a 6ft 3in Irish labourer who took exception to some of his jokes. Tom, the Irishman, and their supporters, met on Wandsworth Common that night to settle the argument.
The ground being muddy Tom took off his boots and fought barefoot, and for the first half hour he took a beating. Then the Irishman's boots became so heavy with the mud clinging at his soles that he slowed down and Tom came into his own and slipped in under the big man's guard. Though his hands were small, honest labour had made Tom's fists hard and his naturally large knuckles had become unnaturally sharp. After two hours and twenty minutes, he delivered a classic uppercut to the Irishman's chin who went down pole-axed. Carried to nearby lodgings, the Irishman's injuries were so grievous that a doctor took one look at him and informed the police. A warrant was immediately issued for Tom's arrest and to escape the hue and cry, he set off hot foot back home to Sussex.
It was the start of a career as a bare-fist fighter which made Sayer's fortune and ensured his place in the annals of boxing history: A career in the prize-ring which culminating in the first ever World Middleweight Championship fight -'The Clash of the Titans'.

A week after the fight, Sayers was awarded the enormous sum of 3000, all of it raised by public subscription, with the proviso that he never fight again. He never did. He invested the money and spent the rest of his days as a man of leisure. Sayers quietly faded from public life, though he enjoyed driving his carriage through the city with his dog Lion - a gift from Lord Derby - sitting at his side. He was only 39 when he died of tuberculosis.
A statue of the faithful hound was placed at the foot of Sayer's grave by loyal fans - and there they both lie to this day.




Here the tale of pugilism and bravado in Episode III of Series II
The Sexton's Tales.

'FLIT LIKE A BUTTERFLY'