Pugilist dies after a fight

1880 – William Brown, a 29-year-old Englishman,  was a well-known pugilist around Charters Towers.

William Brown is buried in the Charters Towers Pioneer Cemetery. Image Sharyn Moodie 2021

In the days before the Marquess of Queensberry rules were enforced by the legalization of boxing in the various colonies,  watching and betting on illegal bare-knuckle fighting was a popular pastime.

Brown and another fighter were arrested about four miles from Charters Towers about 7.30 one morning in June, as the crowd of 50-100 onlookers scattered. He faced court, was ordered to keep the peace for six months, and fined 20 pounds.

By October, he had died, following an epilepsy attack – which often develops after brain injuries such as those one could suffer boxing. An information sign at the historic cemetery says Brown’s attack could have been treated had a doctor been available.

The sign also says Brown fought many prize fights, including one which lasted two hours with 52 rounds.

His brother George made sure he was marked by a substantial headstone, but died himself three years later of typhoid.

“Remember man, thou must die” is  a memento mori meant to inspire a humble attitude – in this case hopefully in the reader, rather than the man beneath the gravestone.

Source: The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), Tuesday 22 June 1880, p2

Charters Towers, QLD

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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