As the countdown begins to the publication of The Real Sherlock Holmes, I have been reflecting on his extraordinary career and, over the next three weeks, I will be blogging and tweeting about his unique achievements.
Jerome Caminada joined the Manchester City Police Force as a constable on 20 February 1868, aged 23. He was attached to A Division, which covered the notorious slums of his own neighbourhood. Proud to be wearing his uniform and keen to solve his first crime, PC Caminada set out on his ‘lively beat’, unaware that, by the end of his first week, he would be insulted, ridiculed and even assaulted.
On his first night on the beat it was freezing cold, with snow on the ground. PC Caminada had barely left the warmth of the police station, when a beerhouse keeper landed him a blow to the face. Caminada lost no time in pursuing his attacker and a fierce struggle ensued with the policeman sustaining a thump on the ear and a bite to his hand. In his memoirs he recalled the incident: ‘Fortunately, he had no teeth, but he worked away so vigorously with his gums that I could feel the pain for weeks after’.
Caminada’s first Saturday night on duty wasn’t much better. The snow was still falling and as he was walking, he heard cries of ‘Murder!’. Rushing to the scene of the crime, he found a woman lying on the pavement, known as ‘Fat Martha’, who had been stabbed. Caminada immediately summoned help with his rattle and eventually he and three other officers lifted the rather stoutly-built victim onto a handheld stretcher and trudged through the blizzard to the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
When the surgeon refused to treat Martha, on account of her being a ‘loose character’, the police were forced to struggle back across the city to the workhouse infirmary, bearing their heavy load. By the time they reached the gates, Martha had come round, and when she realised that she was heading for the workhouse, she insisted that they put her down and slipped off into the night. Caminada remarked that the feelings of the exhausted policemen ‘can be better imagined than described’.
This was a typical Saturday night in Deansgate, in Victorian Manchester but it didn’t deter PC Caminada from his mission. He would go on to police the crime-infested streets of his city for the next three decades.
My blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Real Sherlock Holmes will begin on Monday 10 March, with a commemoration of the centenary of Detective Caminada’s death. Dates and ‘venues’ will be announced in due course. Please see my Facebook page for further information.