'Give ear you gallant heros,
Of high and low degree;
Tom Sayers is gone to his last home,
No more we shall him see.'
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.
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.
Here the tale of pugilism and bravado in Episode III of Series II 'FLIT LIKE A BUTTERFLY'
'FLIT LIKE A BUTTERFLY'