The Short Life and Long Death of Jem Haines (Part II)

Chapter III

A content warning – this story includes mentions of, and a newspaper sketch showing, male-on-female violence

Chapters I and II can be read in The Short Life and Long Death of Jem Haines (Part I)

As reported in the London Weekly Dispatch, a constable on duty in Charing Cross heard a woman screaming, and found a drunk Jim Haines seeking to assault her as she “dodged around a lampost”. She said he had been “kicking her and knocking her about”. The constable tried reasoning with both parties, telling Haines to go away and the woman – named as Kate May in the Dispatch but most likely Kate Halpin – to go home. She replied that she was afraid to do so, and the constable offered to accompany her to the address. 

Haines stormed along one side of Westminster Bridge, while Kate and her chaperone went along the other, until he crossed over, got in their faces and said he would kill her and throw her body off the bridge. Haines was promptly arrested and taken into custody after a struggle requiring assistance, and he continued to rage in the prison. Kate told officers that she had been keeping the prisoner for some months with what she earned on the streets but she lived in fear of him.

After sobering up, Haines regretted his actions, stating that he had been “beastly drunk, or I should not have made such a fool of myself”. He tried to defend himself by accusing Kate of drinking as much as he did, and that she had come after him at his club. He needed to follow her to get a key. He was sentenced to a month’s jail time and told to find two sureties to ensure good behaviour for six months.

By July 1892 he was back in court, again charged with attacking Kate Halpin. At the Marlborough Street Police Court, Halpin said that she had been living with Haines for two and a half years and supporting him, the pair at that time residing on Kilmaine Road, Fulham. 

On a Friday evening he came up to her on Bond Street and tried to persuade her to go somewhere with him in a cab. When she refused, Haines punched her in the mouth and loosened several teeth.

After hearing the evidence, a magistrate remarked that Halpin seemed to be making as little of the assault as possible (implying that she was deliberately protecting him, and was fearful for her safety) despite the fact that Haines had been convicted of assaulting her on another occasion. He passed a sentence of six months prison time. 

[A sketch of Jem Haines and Kate Halpin printed in the Illustrated Police News, 30th July 1892]

Across the year between these two convictions, Haines’ boxing career had continued apace. While out ‘on remand’ in April 1891 he entered a four-rounds catch-weight competition at Her Majesty’s Theatre, emerging to hear racist slurs from “the boys above,” as reported in the Sporting Life. In a first round against Jack Patridge he sent his opponent flying across the ring. In the second, Partridge threw in the towel “amid shouts of derision from all parts of the house”.

As the seven day spectacular organised by Frank Hindes continued, audiences said that “better boxing has rarely been seen in London”. The following night, J. Wellend beat Charles Bartlett while Haines sparred a bye with Jack Wannop, setting up Wellend and Haines for the final. “Smart countering prevailed and rapid work ensued from first to last” on  April 5th, with Wellend emerging victor on the judges’ call.

Wannop and Haines ‘headlined’ a grand assault-at-arms at the “cosy little” Wannop’s Gymnasium in New Cross a few months later, in a fundraiser for the widow of a well known wrestler, Jack Moore, to cover his funeral and other expenses. The Sporting Life’s write-up throws some shade on poor Moore, describing him “an unassuming man, he made many friends, and although he was perhaps never in the first flight of wrestlers, he was thoroughly versed in the innumerable intricacies of the science”. As always, they had fond words for Wannop: 

“It is one of the brightest feathers in Jack Wannop’s cap that he is always to the fore when called upon to help a case in need.”

The turn-out was good, the programme “interesting”. Wee ‘Tiger’ Lewis, “a bright eyed lad”, led off with the clubs, followed by Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, and boxing from Lewisham, New Cross and Deptford’s finest. Wannop v Haines “was a treat to witness”, the Sporting Life sparing detail but noting (in what is surely the Victorian newspaper version of a bitchy subtweet): “It is much to Haines’ credit that he travelled some considerable distance to keep the appointment, a laudable example that sundry bright and shining luminaries might imitate with advantage both to themselves and a long suffering and patient public.”

Haines and Wellend had a rematch at the Pelican Club in the second week of May to satisfy those who were certain Haines should have taken Frank Hindes’ prize. Wellend, who looked to be in peak condition, settled the matter once and for all by forcing Haines all over the ring. Haines might have lost but he “hit very hard… and boxed much better in the last bout than in previous ones,” according to the Sporting Life.

Haines and Charles Bartlett (also known as Charley Bartley, another black boxer from the east end, who worked as a meat porter and butcher by day) “both looked very smart on entering the ring” at a Frank Hindes promotion at the end of May. Showing “capital form for big men” Haines took the “well-earned” victory thanks to his “superior reach and cleverness”. A couple of days later he beat Alf Bowman of Mile End and in July “made the wool fly” against Lambeth Walk’s Denny Raisbrook at the Lambeth School of Arms. This event also saw the introduction of “Jem Haines’ midgets” – references to midgets in boxing coverage at this time quite often, I believe, referring to very small slim boys or teenagers. That summer, Haines took over management of the boxing pavilion or booth at the fairground off Deptford High Street, which had previously been managed by the boxer (and future moving-picture pioneer Alf Ball).

On Monday 16th November 1891 Haines was returned to Marlborough Street Police Court, charged with making a great drunken disturbance on Dean Street in Soho at 3am on a Sunday morning. Carlo Gevelli, a waiter, and Haines were “unsteady in their gait from a superfluity of drink”. Gevelli, who was a little man, tried to punch Haines in the face but his blows fell wildy about. A police constable intervened to save Gevelli from himself. Gevelli claimed that Haines had whacked him on the hand with his stick as he left the club, for no cause whatsoever, but when asked by the magistrate whether he had been drunk, Gevelli admitted he might have had a bit too much.

Haines had nothing to say to explain his conduct, except that he was “muddy” and “didn’t know anything about it”. The pair were fined five shillings each. 

London’s boxers, including Ching Hook, Haines, and Jem Ball’s ‘midgets’ Snowball and Figg, decamped to the Theatre Royal, Colchester, in December 1891, for a three hour boxing showcase that left a “well behaved and very critical body of spectators” very satisfied. Haines “pleased spectators immensely” according to the Sportsman, the paper also observing, however, that Haines was not in the best of trim.

Frank Hindes’ work as a promoter “known in all quarters of the globe” (so said the Sporting Life) saw Haines launch into 1892 in the final match of an event for Hindes’ pals in west London. Matched with the “tastefully tattooed” Charley Davis of Bristol, the Sporting Life reported that “both men have graduated in boxing booths much in the same way as Ted Pritchard” (Pritchard was a big name at this point, having beaten the heavyweight champion of England Jem Smith at Wannop’s Gymnasium the year before). Haines had not returned to form, and admitted defeat three rounds into the six round contest.

Facing the Australian boxer Jim Hall in May 1892, Haines dropped to the ground in the second round, and did not move until he was counted out. He left the stage to howls of anger from the crowd. 

Two months later he was convicted of the previously mentioned attack on Kate, and spent the rest of 1892 locked up. When he emerged, Haines returned to pugilism but appears to have worked mostly as a boxing instructor, giving private lessons to five or six young gentlemen. He is absent from boxing match listings but medical notes compiled the following year suggest that during this time period he was victim of an attack with a bottle or other glassware that resulted in a serious injury to the jaw. I’m yet to determine whether Kate had anything to do with it.

[Transcript of Haynes v Fendick, published in the Westminster and Pimlico News, 18th August 1893]

If Haines’ short string of disappointing matches, his conviction, and the time away from the ring hadn’t contributed to the end of his career, what happened next certainly did.

On the second Friday of August 1893, Haines returned to court, this time not as a witness or defendant. Hobbling in on crutches, Haines explained that on the 14th June he had been walking through Piccadilly Circus, having emerged (“sober”) from the Criterion with a group of friends, when he was run over by a horse-drawn cab being driven at a furious rate. It was owned by a Mrs Fendwick, proprietress of a cab-yard at 7 Warwick Place, Paddington.

Haines suffered a compound fracture to his left leg – a break in which the bone may have pierced right through the skin, which as anyone who has read Dr Lindsey Fitzharris’s history of Victorian surgery and antiseptic, The Butchering Art, knows, could often be fatal in the 19th century.

He was then an outpatient at Charing Cross Hospital and recovering remarkably quickly, reckoned that it would just be a few more weeks until he could get back to teaching and active competition, but he had lost a large sum of money by being out of action. The resulting enquiry by Fendick’s lawyer into Haines’ typical income resulted in several newspapers covering the case under the headline ‘A Pugilist’s Earnings’.

Haines, who had supposedly been living off Kate’s wages from the street for several years, was allegedly making a good £10 or so a week, each gentleman trainee paying a guinea a session. The pair may have parted company by this time, with Haines’ address given as Denyer’s Street, Chelsea. Mrs Fendwick was ordered to pay him £50 damages – a year’s salary for a labourer. 

In December he was arrested again for attacking his sister in law, the Bolton Evening News reporting a three month sentence and he would then be bound over for three months to keep the peace. A Sergeant Brewer informed the magistrate of Haines’ earlier six month sentence for the attack on the woman he lived with at the time, Kate Halpin.  

Chapter IV

Haines entered Middlesex Hospital in central London on the 5th March 1894 with symptoms of influenza. He was admitted as James Haynes, aged 30, married, a pugilist living on “Gracy?” [Gresse] Street, Tottenham Court Road.

The wife is a mystery, and it also emerges she, or they, had a child. I am yet to find marriage or birth records, or anything on the 1891 census (at which point he was likely living with Kate) which could suggest one of several things, such as an ‘unofficial’ wedding, ie. they lived together but were not formally married, very bad mis-transcriptions on Ancestry that have caused us to keep missing them, or he married under another name.

Family history notes on his medical records state:

“The patients’ family seem to be a very strong and healthy one, his father and mother being alive and well, and also his brothers and sisters. Live in Maryland, USA. One sister died at 18 years of age but patient cannot say from what cause.”

“Patient never was ill before. Four or five years ago he broke his knuckles following his occupation. A year ago his left lower jaw was broken and a piece of bone cut clean out by a piece of glass. Soon after he was run over by a cart, sustaining a compound fracture of the lower left leg.”

Haines took to his bed with flu at the end of January 1894 and stayed there for five weeks, which implies that he may not have served the sentence for assault against a woman which was given to him in December, unless the bed referred to was in fact a prison bunk.

He was eventually seen by a doctor, who told him he had pleurisy – inflammation of the lining separating the lungs from the chest cavity. After a couple more days at home, he was admitted to the Middlesex with an active and very advanced case of tuberculosis, his lungs inflamed and with fluid around them, both lungs scattered through with tuberculosis nodules.

Under anaesthesia he underwent a laparotomy – the opening of the abdomen – which found an abdomen and liver filled with pus and enormous tuberculosis nodules – some the size of hen eggs – matting his bowel loops together. A glass tube was inserted so doctors could watch fluids drain out. Manipulation of the inflamed abdomen caused chronic “hiccoughs”.

Evidently tough as nails, Haines responded well at first, the wound from the glass pipe inserted into his body healing nicely. His pulse and breathing were monitored and charted, soaked dressings changed, his discharges and the wasting away of his chest observed and noted. His temperature fell, and by April 1st vomiting had set in. 

James Haynes died on the Hatfield Ward of the Middlesex Hospital on the 16th May 1894, aged 30 or thereabouts, victim of what was one of the world’s biggest killers – general tuberculosis or ‘consumption’.

On the 18th, a number of newspapers, including the Yorkshire Evening Post, reported his death being a result of cancer:

“… after a lingering and painful illness… deceased was in hospital 11 weeks and underwent several operations for cancer. Haines won several boxing matches and competitions, and beat Alf Bowman in the final of a catch-weight competition at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The last man he boxed was Jem Hall, the Australian, at the novelty theatre.”

The Sporting Life covered ‘The Funeral of Jem Haines (The Black)’ at Kensal Green Cemetery. Describing him as about 28 years old and a “well-proportioned young fellow who first came to notice at Lambeth School of Arms about five years ago”. His match with Bowman, which opened the Goodwin Gymnasium, was mentioned as a career highlight.

“A funeral cortege, which consisted of an open hearse and one mourning coach, followed by several vehicles, left 22 Gresse Street shortly after two o’clock, the chief mourners being the widow and her son.”

A large crowd gathered at the graveside, “all of whom took a look at the coffin when lowered in its last resting place”. The list of attendees was published in the Sporting Life, a Mrs – and a Mr – Halpin among them.


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