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Pistols at Dawn

Barwicker No.120

On the 10th June 1807, The Derby Mercury carried an intriguing little article, it read: 'On Monday (Monday Ist June 1807 a duel took place near Tadcaster, between Mr Mellish and The Hon. Martin Hawke in which Mr Mellish was wounded in the wrist. They were both in the interest of Lord Milton. Sir Thomas Gascoigne's son was second to Mr Hawke, and Mr Lee to Mr Mellish.' Featured in the cast of this little drama, which was probably staged at Scarthingwell (Hawke was probably living at Scarthingwell Hall), were two members of our local gentry, and a house guest at Parlington.

1807 was an election year. Thomas Gascoigne and Martin Hawke, along with Parlington guest Captain Henry Francis Mellish and a Mr Lee, were returning home on Sunday evening the 31st May after campaigning on behalf of Lord Milton, who was standing alongside William Wilberforce and Henry Lascelles as the candidates for Yorkshire (Milton and Wilberforce were duly elected). Mellish and Hawke who were travelling in the same carriage started to quarrel: a quarrel that led to pistols at dawn. Hawke nominated Gascoigne to act as his second, Mellish appointed Lee.

What happened on the morning of the duel is a matter of some conjecture; the Morning Chronicle reported it as follows (the language to modern ears is rather whimsical):-

Mr Mellish - "Take care of yourself Hawke for by God I shall hit you."
Mr Hawke - "I will my lad, and let me recommend you to take care of your own canister".

The seconds on hearing this agreed they should not take aim, but fire by signal, which was done: when Mellish missed and Mr Hawke's shot took effect by passing round the rim of his opponents belly and then shattering his left arm, on which Mr Mellish exclaimed, "Mr Hawke you have winged me; lend me your neck cloth to tie up the broken pinion" which was immediately complied with and the arm being. bound up. They both returned in the same chaise as good friends as ever.

Henry Mellish disputed The Chronicle's account or the duel, leading him to dash off the following letter to the editor.

Parlington Park near Ferrybridge June 13/11 1807
Observing in your paper of the 11th of this month an account of the affair between The Hon. Martin Hawke and myself, I have to inform you that on coming to the ground, I certainly called to Mr Hawke that I did not intend our meeting to end in child's play, but should hit him if I could. The remainder however, not being correct, I shall beg the favour of you to insert this in your next. I remain Sir your obedient servant.

Henry Francis Mellish Capt. 10th Light Dragoons
So which account is correct? Is the paper subscribing to the notion of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story? Or is Mellish to be believed? Take your pick.

What caused the quarrel that led to two obvious friends embarking on a course of ad ion. that for one of them the outcome could have proved fatal? Was it drink related') Perhaps it was a political disagreement (after a series of duels during the 1807 campaign. one paper called for calm and less bad blood during electioneering). Alas. without any contemporary account of what was said in that carriage: we shall never know.

Of the four principal players in our local drama. Henry Mellish is without doubt the most interesting character: he was educated at Trinity College Cambridge: he joined the army rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During the Peninsular War he acted as aide-de- camp to The Duke of Wellington and General Ferguson, He was also at one time equerry to the Prince Regent. 0n the death of his father in 1797, he inherited the Blythe Estate and Hodstock Priory near Worksop (it was not, and never had been a priory) instead of his older brother Joseph, who had been disinherited because of his extravagance. By 1806 Henry had sold the Blythe Estate to payoff his own gambling debts. He died from dropsy in 1817 aged 36.

Thomas Gascoigne, whilst out riding with the Worksop Hunt, with Martin Hawke who was the brother or Edward the 3rd Baron of Towton, grandson of Admiral Hawke. His son Edward Henry Julius, became the 6th Baron.

Hawke was the grandfather of the famous Yorkshire and England cricketer, Lord Hawke. Unlike Mellish, Hawke had no military background but despite this he seemed a pretty good shot. He died in 1837 aged 62.

In October 1809 (was he slaying with Mellish at Hodstock?) Thomas was thrown from his horse and tragically died from his injuries. He was only 24. His father never got over the loss of his only son and died the following year.

A dinner held at The Music Hall in Albion Street on the 27th June 1807 to celebrate the election of Lord Milton as one of the members of parliament for Yorkshire, may hold a clue to the identity of the enigmatic Mr Lee. After the assemblage of gentlemen had sat down for a sumptuous meal, Henry Mellish congratulated the company and the county on the return of Lord Milton. In the chair that evening was Richard Lee esquire: is he the other member of the quartet?

Ray Medd

Sources: - The Morning Chronicle June 12th 1807 The Times June 18th 1807 The Leeds Mercury June 27th 1807

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