I had met Johnny C. on a few occasions down the pit. We tolerated each other but we could never be friends. I had been instructed by the safety officer that any accumulation of coal dust that collected regularly under the return belt of a conveyor should be cleaned up. It was the job of the conveyor attendant to ensure all areas within his boundary was clean. I was told to remind conveyor attendants this; Johnny C. was a conveyor attendant.
One day when I was dust sampling in his area I remarked that there was a pile of coal dust that needed cleaning up. I thought I had been quite polite in reminding him of the task. I obviously had not been because John immediately took offence at my suggestion. He really lost his temper, who was I to tell him what to do, I was not his gaffer. If I wanted it cleaned up I could do it myself. Perhaps I said too much, perhaps he did but the outcome was that we would meet at the pit top to sort it out.
The news of the coming fight spread like wildfire throughout the pit. John C. and Galey are at it again. Again I was not looking forwards to the coming fight. I knew that if I was slightly unlucky or off my guard Johnny would wipe the floor with me. A rather large crowd gathered just beyond the lamp house, outside of the pit property.
The upshot of the fight was like the first one with him. Again we shook hands, we both respected each other. As we shook hands he remarked within all earshot, that the result would have been different had the fight taken place within a ring, under proper rules. I was certain I could beat him under any circumstances and I took him up on the offer if he could fix it up. He said he could.
A week later I got a message that Johnny had indeed fixed a boxing match up at a local Sea Scouts Gymnasium of which he had been a member in the past. I took up his challenge and a fight was arranged. We met, along with a few of our mutual friends at the Sea Scouts hall in Cookridge Street, Leeds. A proper referee was in attendance. The boxing match turned out exactly like the previous two fights. I easily out pointed him.
Back at the pit later the next week I’m afraid I was in a boasting mood, telling all who would listen how easy John C. was. Word must have got back to him, because I was told that he had said that I had not really won all the previous fights and he wanted another decider. What I realise now is that a lot of people were mixing things between us. Things were reported that had not really been said.
Another fight was arranged. This time I intended that I would demand that he would confirm to all spectators that he had indeed lost, and that I was the once and for all winner. The fight began. This time he managed to come close to grips with me and we ended up wrestling on the floor, each punching at the other. At one point during the floor punching, he suddenly grabbed hold of my testicles to stop me from hitting him. Such dirty fighting at the time was just not done. Even as he did it, he realised the ‘foul.’ He immediately let go and apologised. We both stood up and he said “enough?” He held out his hand. I took it but said. “You concede that I won then?”
“Yeah” was the reply.
I somehow did not feel that I had been vindicated; a single “yeah” did not seem to be enough. I wanted all around to know and recognise that I was the winner. Then I would never have to prove the point again. Just as Johnny turned his back to me he said something to one of his mates who was holding his coat. I mistakenly heard him say “Ah! But he didn’t beat me fair and square”
I was so mad at this statement that I, without warning, grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him round to face me. I let go a full blooded punch directly to his chin. It was delivered with all my strength. It knocked him down.
“What’s that for.” He wailed
“I did beat you fair and square.” said I.
“I already said you did.” accepted Johnny
“Why did you say to your mate about my not beating you then.” I retorted.
“I didn’t,” replied Johnny, “all I said to him was give me a hand to put my coat on”
I then realised I had dropped a ‘goolie’. I had acted with undue haste. He had indeed made the request about his coat. I felt the lowest of the low, hitting a defenceless man; an unpardonable sin when participating in an arranged fight. I had to apologise and helped him to his feet.
I had won the fight but lost a battle.