Reported On This Day 280 years ago (April 7 1739): We strongly deny any cheating in Randalstown Cockfight

The Belfast News Letter of March 27 1739 (which is April 7 1739 in the modern calendar)
The Belfast News Letter of March 27 1739 (which is April 7 1739 in the modern calendar)

From Belfast News Letter of March 27 1739, April 7 in the new calendar. This is the ‘first’ News Letter of 1739 according to the then calendar, because the new year was on March 25. The previous edition, March 23, was dated 1738 as it was thought part of the preceding year. March 23 and 27 are now in the same year:

BELFAST

Whereas Mr. Randal Mc.Donald, in the Belfast News-Letter of the 13th Instant [see bottom of story for link to this report], hath in a very disingenuous Manner, as we conceive, publish’d the Victory he obtain’d in the Cockmatch fought at Randalstown, and, with an Ostentation intirely unworthy a generous Sportsman, boasted of his superior Knowledge, Skill and Strength of Poultry: We who were concern’d against him in said Match, think it our Duty to set that Matter in a fair Light, both in Justice to ourselves and to prevent the Publick from being impos’d on in an Affair of such Consequence.

We utterly deny we fought any of his own Blood against him. ‘Tis a Method we would scorn to take with any Gentleman; did we stand in need of it, as it’s well known we do not: And, under Favour, we think he ought to have irrefragable [sic] Proof for so high a Charge before he brought it against us in Print.

We are loth to put him in Mind that the very best Cock he was once Master of, was sent him from the Parish of Dunean; and he can’t but remember that without the Assistance of Mollybane he could not at that Time, have kept himself in any tolerable Breed.

We know none of his Cocks except Bulfus and Oranootan, which, if we were in true flying Order, we are not more than Matches for; nor would we fear to bring down the Heads of the highest of them at the first or second Catch, if they should, by Miracle, escape the Sparring Blows.

Bulfus or, which is the same Thing, Oranootan are we confess extraordinary in their Kind, and may not perhaps be match’d in an Age. But this possibly proceeds not from any higher Degree of Excellence in the Creatures, but rather a surprizing jumbling together of Oddities, rarely, if ever, to be met with in any other of the same Species.

But ‘tis well known both in and about Randalstown, that neither Kennedy, Savoy Joe, Mc.Diermot or Highlandman are any more than of the Half Strain; if that.

He’s very sensible he’s far from being the first that cut their Heckles, and tho’ he says they came off dryheaded, we can prove by several Gentlemen of Worth and Honour, they were so severely cut and hew’d that they were look’d on as unfit ever to appear again on the Clod; particularly Kennedy who was so miserably hack’d that he hadn’t a whole Feather left on him: And if we may believe a Gentleman who is not given to bouncing, Mr. Mc.Donald was heard to say, he had lost so much Blood that he must venture to breed no more out of him.

We are now assured he had his Fowl in good Order in his Pens when ours were feeding with the Hens at their several Walks; tho’ he positively denied this to us on the Word of a Sportsman.

Beside we gave him Leave to chuse his Clod, which he did at his own Dunghill. This should prevent his Crowing after the Manner he does, since any one, with half the Skill he pretends to, may easily perceive, that no Want of true Courage or Thorough Breeding was the Cause of our Loss (all that lost their Matches dying in the Pit) but meer Feebleness, occasioned by the Shortness of the Time allow’d for Feeding, being no more than a Fortnight, which we thought equal, if his Cocks had been, as he aver’d to us, in the same Condition with our when the Betts were made.

Didn’t Pepper and Salt demolish his best Ginger at the second Sparring Blow; didn’t Spitfire rise thrice at the first Catch, and difflect Chucklehead’s Jugular as curiously as the nicest Anatomist?

What need we mention the Behaviour of our Cockatrice and Fireball, who bored more Holes in the Coats of their Opposites, Slowfoot and Dry-heels, than you’ll find in the largest Cullinder; and that in less Time than an ordinary Cock would peck up three Grains of Barley: We say these are Things we need’nt talk of, because they are Facts known to a Multitude; but they should teach Mr. Mc.Donald to be more modest and throw about his Gasconade with more Caution,

Here we can’t avoid stopping the Reader to sprinkle his Tears with ours over the Ashes of poor Cadwalader.

A more generous Bird ne’er saluted the early Sun or cheer’d his ravish’d Hen.

‘Tis suppos’d he despis’d his Adversary too much, and therefore receiv’d his Flight; but a random Rustle of the Wing Feathers depriv’d him of both his Eyes, unfortunate Soldier!

He’s now forc’d to grope about for an Enemy whose Safety depends on his shunning him, and whole Fierceness is increas’d by a Knowledge of his Advantge.

Loaded with Wounds and tir’d with a fruitless Search, he pecks up a Straw from the Pit, and rising at it, he cleves it in twain with his unerring Hells; a most astonishing Proof of the Closeness of his Flight!

We know the Reader is impatient to know the Issue, wherefore we must inform him, that rising at one of his Adversary’s Catches, he both gave and received Death: The other outliv’d him near three Minutes and a Half.

An ingenious Gentleman then present, was so mov’d that he has promis’d to write a Pindarick on Cadwalador; and from a Knowledge of his great Abilities, we have no Reason to question but the Success will be equal to the Grandeur of the Subject.

If Mr. Mc.Donald is not by this time convinc’d of his Error, we take this Opportunity of acquainting him he needn’t be at the Pains of sending his Challenges to the County of Derry.

The Gentlemen of Dunean will meet this fair and bold Invited half Way, and shew any Number of Cocks he pleases, for five Guineas the Battle, and fifty Guineas the Main.

For his further Encouragement, they propose to fight a Staff of Stags against old Cocks, Steel to Steel, and as many of their old Cocks as fall in Match with his, they’ll fight Silver to Steel, giving and taking two Ounces thro’ and thro’.

Bulfus and Oranootan are excepted for the Reasons above mentioned. We are told he has a celebrated Shakebag out of Kennedy: We’ll fight him with a Harvest Bird for twenty Guineas.

We must take Notice he’s a little too pompous in celebrating his great Decorum and Regularity at the Cockfight. For our Parts, we cannot, on the strictest Recollection, affirm we saw any Thing in his Behaviour worthy of Remark, except an Indecency when either won or lost; which he express’d by an Impatience or Giddiness equally unfitting the Gravity of a Sportsman. We could wish he had handled the Subject in a more serious Way than he seems to have done, for we are humbly of Opinion a Science so much countenanced by no less Persons than the great King of Bantam and his Sultanick Majesty of Achan, not to mention that our own bold Britons have made it their darling Pastime for Time immemorial, should not be treated in a such a ludicrous Manner.

When the East India Ships were fitting out, about three Years ago, we had the Honour of sending six Pair of our best Cocks (they were indeed the true Pepper and Salt.) to each of the aforementioned Monarchs; and if it woudn’t favour of too much Vanity, we would entertain the Reader with a Transcript of the gracious Letters which, at the Return of the Fleet, we receiv’d from their own Royal Hands.

But this we chuse to omit as well on Account of the Presents we got, which he may easily guess were worthy of the greatest Personages who sent them.

However a Part of the Sultan of Achan’s Letter will, we presumes give no offence. After some political Remark, not unworthy of the Cardinal de Fleury himself, he says;

‘We are told the English have always encourag’d Cock fighting, for which we highly commend them. It shews not only the native Courage of that invincible People, but serves to keep up and cherish that martial Spirit for which they are so justly esteem’d and fear’d Abroad; which might otherwise without some such Helps, in Times of long Peace and Rest be too much soften’d and impaird.’

We hope this laudible Art will receive no Disgrace thro’ the Imprudence of one of its Professors.

‘Twould be unjust to condemn Ptolomy or Sir Isaac Netown because Partridge and Whaley pretended to Astronomy and made Almanacks; or because Burgess acted the Buffoon, as does now the Infidel in the Pulpit, to reject South and Atterbury.

Dated at Dunean 19th March. 1738-9.

[This rebuttal is to a report, that we reproduced on March 25 which can be seen by clicking here, in which McDonald, spelt McDonnell then, had his own blood “surreptitiously” used against him by Dunean men]