I recently went for a canalside walk with my friend Jim Brann, one of the unsung heroes from the time I worked at Stop the War Coalition. He is a walking encyclopedia on London history and there is nothing I don’t know about the Regent’s canal in the time it took us to reach London Zoo from Kings Cross.
When I turned talk to the present political situation and expressed my pessimism at the continued ascendancy of reaction and the Right, Jim had a London story with which to cheer me up. This time set beside the waters of the Thames.
Julius Jakob Freiherr von Haynau was an Austrian general who suppressed the 1848 insurrectionary movements in Italy and Hungary. He was a ruthless commander. His soldiers called him the "Habsburg Tiger" and his victims referred to him as “hangman” and “hyena”. He was notorious for hanging male prisoners and flogging females.
When he came to London in 1850, word spread that he was visiting the Barclay & Perkins brewery in Park Street. He was attacked by draymen who threw mud and horse shit at him and chased him down the street with brooms and stones, shouting “down with the butcher".
Taking refuge in The George pub in Borough High Street, he was rescued by the police and spirited away by boat on the Thames.
When Giuseppe Garibaldi visited England in 1864, he insisted on visiting the brewery to thank “the men who flogged Haynau”. You can still see this plaque in Park Street.
I think my next Jim walk has to be to Park Street ending with a pint or two at The George. We will drink to the memory of those draymen.