The Russian Guns: The Story of Walsall’s War Trophies Part 1

Posted: December 10, 2015 in General War, Social History

The Russian Guns, plinth, clock, fountain and the George Hotel c1870. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The Russian Guns, plinth, clock, fountain and the George Hotel c1870. (Walsall Local History Centre)

This article seeks to link into the first of the Walsall Local History Centre exhibitions by telling the stories of the fate of the two sets of war trophies that were acquired by the old Borough of Walsall (in essence, Walsall and Bloxwich). The first war trophies, which forms part 1 of the article and takes in a piece written by Meikle, were the Crimean cannon that were once located on the Bridge in Walsall; the second set of trophies, which forms part 2, were gifted to the people of Walsall after the Great War some 60 years later. 60 years may have elapsed between the two conflicts, but as I investigated the stories behind the trophies it seemed to me that their fates were very similar…

  1. Pedro says:

    Walsall Local History Centre describe Duignan as “one of the most remarkable and interesting personalities in the Victorian Midlands, who at the time of his death in 1914 had been solicitor in Walsall for more than seventy years. Certainly, the history of Walsall and Rushall in particular owes him a great debt….”

    But they do add at the end of the description…”The later years of his life were, sadly, overshadowed by the collapse of the ill-fated Staffordshire Financial Company.”

    Brian Rollins in the book “Coal Mining in the north east section of the Walsall Metropolitan Borough,” tells that Duignan was suspected by Lord Hatherton to be laundering money, and was also suspected of opening a bank with little or no collateral.

    Looking in the Newspaper Archives revealed more information about this extraordinary chap, and perhaps some practice of the financial dark arts?

    The Staffordshire Financial Company was set up in 1864 and was most favourably received in the district with numerous share applications. The capital was £100K at £10 shares, Duignan was one of the Directors, and solicitors to the firm were Messrs Duignan, Lewis and Lewis.

    The bankers to the Company were the Staffs Joint Stock Bank which had been set up in 1863. Duignan was a shareholder and WB Harrison a director. It is interesting to note that on the first meeting 30 guineas were given to charities, and at the second it was proposed to do the same. Duignan opposed the motion saying that they may do as individuals, but not to vote away money from the shareholders. He was defeated.

    January 1911… The Staffordshire Financial Sensation (Staffs Sentinel)

    “The SFC administration had been in very capable hands, and the present situation has arisen through circumstances over which the management has no control”….it was certain that depositors would not suffer.

    More interesting info found…

    Duignan was also said to be genial, vivacious, charming and with freshness of mind. To have apparent eternal youth and be a delightful companion for a walk on the Chase.

    His first association with criminal law was when engaged in the prosecution of the murderer in the “Delves Murder”, but in later times he took exception to the remarks made by a judge and stormed out of Court saying he would never return.

    Coming from Irish decent he was in favour of Home Rule and he travelled extensively in Ireland to see for himself the conditions; he journeyed by tricycle and became known as “the man on a tricycle.” He became known nationally when the letters he had written to Chamberlain were mentioned in Parliament, much to Chamberlain’s embarrassment.

  2. Pedro says:

    Two cannons made their way to Calthorpe Park in Birmingham, and seem to have lasted until 1929 when sold by the Council for scrap. Around the time Duignan succeeded, the Birmingham Council had rejected, by a good majority, a bid to get them removed.

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