Finding Feargus …

Feargus O’Connor, the most famous Chartist of them all … the most-travelled across the British Isles, for sure … tour after tour, speech after speech, lionized wherever he went, children named Feargus held aloft at his meetings …thousands upon thousands of working people inspired by his defiance, by his optimism, singing his song ‘The Lion of Freedom’ … Chartists gathered in the open air or in pubs to hear his weekly letter from the famous Star read aloud … working men and women in their cottages, no longer framework knitters or woolcombers but independent pig owners instead, at Heronsgate or Snig’s End … Feargus O’Connor, the most famous Chartist of them all …

Today Feargus can be found at Kensal Green, his inscription on his headstone now needing to be peered at.  He’s been a resident there since 1855.  It’s been 162 years since 50,000 people watched his funeral procession.  Feargus can also be found gazing from his plinth across the Arboretum in Nottingham, clutching the People’s Charter.  It’s a short cut across that park, many people have walked past that statue a hundred or more times and have never looked up at the figure standing there, waiting for them to say, “Well done, Feargus, you were some guy”.  Search for Feargus’ statue in the Arboretum on Trip Adviser and you’ll search in vain.

Is that all that’s left of the most famous Chartist of them all … a fading headstone and a statue no one takes any notice of?   There aren’t many surviving letters.  Why is bit of a mystery.  When the police arrested Thomas Cooper in Leicester, who was at the time Feargus fan no. 1, they searched his shop and house for incriminating letters.  And they carried off hundreds and hundreds of them.  But not a single letter from Feargus.  Clearly Cooper must have kept them separately.  Up the chimney or somewhere.

It seems you can buy almost anything on the internet these days.  I wanted a storage box for my DVDs … I was spoilt for choice.  A washing bag for socks?  There it was.  A gardening apron this morning?  Yes, I chose the third one I read about … couldn’t be bothered to look at the other two dozen options.  A letter from Feargus O’Connor to Thomas Cooper?  Fat chance.  A letter from Feargus O’Connor to anyone, even to Rebecca the famous Chartist cow?  Nope, none to be found.

And then, it happened .., the great discovery.  I  could become the owner of Feargus O’Connor’s signature!  Now I know Feargus could be boastful and ungracious, but, all in all, he was a good chap.  I had to have that autograph.  Feargus picked up that actual piece of paper and actually signed it. And now I own it.  Reader, how much do you think I had to pay to own the signature of the most famous Chartist of them all?  A ton?  A grand?  Rather less in fact … just £1.80!  So Feargus’  signature is worth less than the price of an ice cream.  But, of the two, I know what I’d rather have, even on this sweltering afternoon …

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