Tuesday, 10 July 2012

10th July 1812: The spies McDonald & Gossling meet the old man John Baines in Halifax again

The spies John McDonald & John Gossling were milling around Halifax after McDonald had been 'twisted-in' by the old hatter John Baines the elder two nights before. They decided to pay him another visit and see what further conversation could reveal.

They went to Baines' shop and asked him if he would join them for a pot or two of ale at a local Inn. Baines agreed, and the three men went to the George Inn, where they were joined once again by Charles Milnes and William Blakeborough, as well as another hatter who worked in Baines' shop whom Baines said they could trust. They had a room to themselves and before long, McDonald pointed to Baines and announced to Gossling, "this is the old man that twisted me in": Baines was alarmed and put up his hands, warning McDonald to be cautious where and to whom he said this. He told the two men that he generally had nothing to do with people who were not acquainted with the words 'aristocracy' and 'democracy' and asked them if they knew what this meant? They gave their explanation, and Baines must have been satisfied, as the conversation continued.

A long conversation ensued over a few drinks, during which Baines unwittingly revealed his radical pedigree to the spies, commenting that "(his) eyes had been opened a great while, a matter of three and twenty years".

This is from Howell (1823, pp.1081-1083). We can't be precisely certain of the date, as both McDonald and Gossling later deputed that they had met Baines again 'in a day or two' after their first meeting.

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