Heenan and Sayers [Laws H20]
DESCRIPTION: Heenan travels from America to fight the British boxers. Sayers draws first blood, but Heenan is ahead after thirty-seven rounds, and the British stop the fight
EARLIEST DATE: 1870 (Journal of the Pacific)
KEYWORDS: fight injury
April 17, 1860 - Boxing match between John C. Heenan and Tom Sayers
Events mentioned in some versions of the song:
c. 1541-1596 - Life of Sir Francis Drake
June 17, 1775 - Battle of Bunker Hill (fought on Breed's Hill, and won by the British, though at heavy cost)
Oct 19, 1781 - Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown
Sapt 10, 1813 - Perry defeats the British at the Battle of Lake Erie
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,NE,Ro) Ireland Australia
REFERENCES (17 citations):
Laws H20, "Heenan and Sayers"
Rickaby-BalladsAndSongsOfTheShantyBoy 49, "Heenan and Sayers" (2 texts)
Rickaby/Dykstra/Leary-PineryBoys-SongsSongcatchingInLumberjackEra 49, "Heenan and Sayers" (2 texts)
Dean-FlyingCloud, pp. 24-25, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 9, "The British-American Fight" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck-FolkloreOfMaine, "Heenan and Sayers (The Bold Benicia Boy)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #189, "Johnny Bull" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Finger-FrontierBallads, pp. 48-49, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text)
O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland, pp. 76-77, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 214-215, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text, 1 tune, "reconstructed" by the collector)
Fahey-Joe-Watson-AustralianTraditionalFolkSinger, [p. 8, page headed "HEENAN AND SAYERS"], "(Heenan and Sayers)" (1 text)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 321, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text, 1 tune)
OLochlainn-MoreIrishStreetBallads, pp. 253-255, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text, tune referenced; OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 26)
Huntington-TheGam-MoreSongsWhalemenSang, pp. 205-206, "Uncle Sam and Johnny Bull" (1 text, badly jumbled, 1 tune)
Huntington-FolksongsFromMarthasVineyard, pp. 25-26, "Uncle Sam and Johnny Bull" (1 text, 1 tune, containing the fight but no mention of Heenan or Sayers)
Shay-BarroomBallads/PiousFriendsDrunkenCompanions, pp. 136-137, "Heenan and Sayers" (1 text)
DT 679, HEENSAYR
cf. "The Whole Hog or None" (subject)
cf. "Donnelly and Cooper" (subject, tune)
cf. "Morrissey and the Black" (subject)
cf. "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (tune, subject)
cf. "Morrissey and the Benicia Boy" (subject)
cf. "The Great Fight Between Tom Sayers and Bob Brettie" (subject: Tom Sayers)
The Bold Benicia Boy
NOTES [764 words]: John C. Heenan (Johnny Morrissey's last opponent) was born in New York but was called "the Benicia Boy" after Benicia, California, where he lived during his late teens. His match with Tom Sayers, which was stopped after more than three dozen rounds (different sources say 37 or 42), is said to have been the last of the (official) bare-knuckle boxing matches.
Tom Sayers was so successful as a boxer that his ability to land a blow had already entered the realm of proverb at the time of the Crimean War.
According to Roger Ellis, Who's Who in Victorian Britain, 1997 (I use the 2001 Stackpole Books edition), p. 207, "TOM SAYERS (1826-1865), prize fighter, was the last famous figure in the old bare-fisted ring; two years after his death the Marquess of Queensberry devised rules which transformed boxing."
Elllis adds that "Sayers, at between 10.2 and 10.12 stone, was a middleweight, and, measuring only 5' 8½", was normally outreached. But he carried much of his weight around his shoulders and neck" and had persistence and was hard to batter. He once fought a bout that lasted 109 rounds!
The weight difference in the Heenan and Sayers fight was substantial; Ellis says Heenan was 6'2" and weighed 14 stone.
If you are wondering about all those historical references which appear to have nothing to do with the Heenan/Sayers fight, they are all appropriate to the Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl text, sung by "Yankee" John Galusha. This text is so distinct from all other "Heenan and Sayers" versions I've seen that I am tempted to list it as its own song. But it does have some common lyrics; it probably doesn't deserve a separate listing.
At least one other fight involving Tom Sayers produced a broadside. See "Lines on the Great Fight between TOM SAYERS, Champion of England, and BOB BRETTLE, of Birmingham," found in Jon Raven, The Urban and Industrial Songs of the Black Country and Birmingham, Broadside, 1977, pp. 209-210. - RBW
[Abraham Lincoln Papers] at the Library of Congress American Memory site: "Outside of the politicians there is in this city very little care or talk about party or candidates. Heenan & Sayers eclipsed the Charleston Convention ..." Letter from Orville H. Browning to Abraham Lincoln, June 29, 1860, re prospects in Pennsylvania.
America Singing at the Library of Congress American Memory site does not have this ballad but has eight other distinct ballads about Heenan and Sayers:
LOCSinging, as201320, "Heenan the Champion of the World," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878; also sb20189b, "Heenan, Champion of the World"
LOCSinging, as201310, "Heenan the Champion of the World," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878; also sb20189a, "Heenan the Champion of the World"
LOCSinging, as100200, "The American Eagle and British Lion" or "Yankee Heenan and English Sayers," unknown, n.d.
LOCSinging, sb20171a, "Happy Land of Canaan," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878; also cw102250, "Happy Land of Canaan"
LOCSinging, sb20170a, "Happy Land of Canaan," H. De Marsan (New York), 1861-1864; also cw102250, "Happy Land of Canaan"
LOCSinging, sb10143b, "Great Champion Prize Fight," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878
LOCSinging, sb20190b, "Heenan the Pride of America," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878
LOCSinging, sb10021a, "Ballad in Answer to Sayers, England's Pride," H. De Marsan (New York), [imprint: 1860] [before the fight]
Bodleian Library site Ballads Catalogue does not have this ballad but has six others about Heenan:
Bodleian, Firth b.25(587/588)[could not be downloaded], "A New Song on Heenan and King," J.F. Nugent & Co. (Dublin), 1850-1899
Bodleian, Harding B 18(234),"Heenan the Champion of the World" (New York), H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878
Bodleian, Harding B 18(235),"Heenan the Pride of America," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878 attributed to A. Scott
Bodleian, Firth c.19(19),"The English Prize-Fighter and the American Champion," J.F. Nugent & Co. (Dublin), 1850-1899 about the fight with Sayers
Bodleian, Harding B 26(247),"Heenan's Arrival in England," unknown, n.d. before the fight with Jem Mace
Bodleian, Harding B 19(62),"Heenan's Challenge to Mace," unknown, n.d.; 2806 c.15(229),"Heenan's Challenge to Mace" before the fight with Jem Mace
Broadside H. De Marsan dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site.
Broadsides LOCSinging as201320 and Bodleian Harding B 18(234) are duplicates, [as are] broadsides LOCSinging sb20190b and Bodleian Harding B 18(235). - BS
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