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    Cockfight draws big crowd but police chief too busy curling

    Illegal cock-fighting reportedly flourished in Lindsay, Ontario in 1899 under the blind eye of the chief of police.

    ckfight at little Lindsay, Ontario, drew a big crowd from as far as Buffalo, Windsor, Toronto and elsewhere, but the police chief was too busy curling. Wikimedia Commons.

    A cockfight at little Lindsay, Ontario, drew a big crowd from as far as Buffalo, Windsor, Toronto and elsewhere, but the police chief was too busy curling. Wikimedia Commons.

    While hundreds of gamblers from Peterborough, Kingston, Toronto, Windsor, Buffalo gathered in a barn to wager large sums on the fighting birds, the chief was too busy finishing a curling game to pay attention to yet another telegram warning about such sporting events, as reported in this excerpted item from Lindsay Weekly Post, March 10, 1899.

    According to the ethics of the dead game sports, Lindsay is a “bally” town. Here the cockfighter is unmolested and sharpers may ply their trade with impunity; here operations may be conducted without resorting to troublesome methods for ensuring secrecy…

    The first few cocking matches held in Lindsay and vicinity were conducted in guarded fashion; the attendance was confined mainly to the principals. This was because the outsiders were somewhat timid—they feared a descent by the police. But with immunity came growing boldness; when a fight had been pulled off within a stone’s throw of Chief Bell’s dwelling, caution was cast to the winds and another, was held in the Canoe Club boathouse. The attendance was very large, betting was brisk, and whiskey, beer and light refreshments were dispensed over a well appointed bar, to the tune it is said of over $100.

    At that meeting it was reported that over $ 1,200 [more than $50,000 in today’s money] changed hands. Recently another took place in Bethany town hall and aroused a wave of indignation that will probably sweep away half of the township council at the next election, and as the losers were anxious for another go in the hope of winning back their money a return match was arranged for and held near town [Lindsay] on Thursday night last.

    It was a great battle and was attended by the very cream of the cock-fighting aristocracy of Toronto, Peterboro, Kingston and Lindsay, and representatives of the elite of St. Catharines, Windsor, Buffalo and other places. The event took place in Mr. R. Dark’s barn about four miles from town and some 300 persons were present. Town liveries did a rushing business. Some little concern was aroused before the sports left town by the news that Chief Bell had received instructions from Mayor Walters to stop the match at all hazards and the rumour was confirmed by that officer’s appearance on Kent St. dressed as if determined to remain out all night. It was at first proposed to send a messenger to transfer the birds and outfit to another barn, but knowing devotees of the sport winked the other eye, gave word to their followers and all gathered in due time at the first mentioned rendezvous. Lindsay and Peterboro defeated Toronto and Kingston and while straggling spectators returned early the visiting sports scorned all the subterfuge and marched boldly to the station with their birds in crates on a sleigh close behind.



    We understand that a previous warning given by Inspector Short was taken to heart and that a bar was not conducted. This is further borne out by the remark of a farmer the next day who said anyone could locate the scene of battle by means of the empty flasks and bottles dotting the clean snow on the sides of the roadway.


    How came Chief Bell to manifest spasmodic interest in the affair? Because a telegram from Peterboro warning Mayor Walters of the pending fight was delivered to that gentleman while presiding at a committee meeting and he notified the Chief, who was curling at the rink apparently oblivious that a serious infraction of the law was being meditated. He might as well have remained at the rink and finished his game as he displayed not an atom of the fine detective skill his friends claim he possesses. The greenest boy attending the public schools could have done better.

    We understand the telegram was sent because a notice sent on a previous occasion to Chief Bell was not acted upon. “Otium sine dig” is his motto.


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    TAGS: Cocking fighting, Gambling, Police, Law enforcement, Lindsay Ontario, Toronto, Buffalo, Windsor, Kingston, Peterborough

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