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Blind Jack from Knaresborough

Tales from Knaresborough of the '45

The Knaresborough Post reported June 6th details of the statue of Blind Jack that has been erected in their town. It's of interest to all afficionados of the '45 and is republished here:

"Blind Jack was much in demand for musical performances at Harrogate and Ripon but eventually found this an uncertain income, particularly with a wife as well as himself to maintain. So he set up a four-wheeled and one-horse chaise for hire in Harrogate, but was copied by the innkeepers who took most of his business. He next took to buying fish at the coast which he carried to Leeds and other towns for sale but this gave an insufficient return. At the outbreak of the Rebellion of 1745 he was again playing his violin at Harrogate.

Following the rout of the Royal army at Prestonpans and the anticipated march of the Highlanders southwards, one William Thornton of Thornville Royal raised a company of volunteers at his own expense to join the Royal army.

Sending for Jack, Mr Thornton told him of the state of affairs - that the French were coming to join the rebels - and that if the country were allowed to fall into their hands no man's wife, daughter, nor sister would be safe. With such an emotional appeal 64 men were recruited within two days, and after some drilling, off they marched with Jack playing a march at their head, resplendent in blue and buff, with a gold-laced hat.

He took a full part in the Royal campaign against the Highland rebels. In an episode which rather stretches the imagination (in which Blind Jack was not lacking), Captain Thornton had been trapped in a cupboard at Linlithgow in a house full of rebels. Jack does not relate how Thornton escaped, but Jack’s loyalty was such that he set out for the rebel camp, pretending that he wished to be engaged as a musician in Prince Charles’ army. Unfortunately he was recognised as ‘a suspicious character from Harrogate’ and imprisoned for three days before being tried by court-martial at which he was acquitted since nothing could be alleged or proved against him. On reaching Edinburgh, very much to his delight he found Captain Thornton had arrived there before him.

He later became a favourite of the Duke of Cumberland playing his fiddle at a ball at Aberdeen, and next morning the Duke sent him two guineas which provided a merry party with ‘great plenty of liquor’ for himself and two of the Duke’s servants.

The battle of Culloden shortly followed after which Captain Thornton, Blind Jack and the Yorkshire Volunteer Company proceeded homewards. His ‘Scotch’ expedition was far from wasted – having become acquainted with the various articles manufactured in that country, and judging that some of these might answer for him to traffic with in England, he decided to engage in this trade – not always legally".

Donations to the Blind Jack Statue Appeal may be made to the Treasurer, Mike Boddington, 4 Castle Mills, Waterside, Knaresborough HG5 8DE.

Published Date: June 9th 2008

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