Friday, 20 April 2012

20th April 1812: A young Mancunian man is 'twisted-in '

On Monday 20th April 1812, a young man - whom we only know by the letters MI - met a man called Whittingham in Manchester. Whittingham told him that if he was interested he would be able to arrange for him to be twisted-in (i.e. be administered an illegal oath) - MI agreed, and later went with 5 others to a field near a church called St George's. We do not know the time of day, but it likely to have taken place at night.

MI was blindfolded, to ensure that he would not be able to tell who it was that had administered the following oath:
I AB do of my own free will and accord declare an solemnly swear that I will not reveal to any person or persons the name or names of the persons who comprise the secret committee, the place of abode, dress, features connections or anything else that may lead to a discovery of the same, under penalty of being sent out of the world by the first brother that may meet me, my name and character blotted out of existence, never more to be remembered but with contempt & abhorrence — I furthermore do swear, that I will do my endeavour to punish by death any traitor or traitors, let them be who they will & what they will, without favor or affection to friend or relation — should any rise up amongst us & attempt to fly even to the verge of nature I will pursue with unceasing vengeance — so help me God to keep my oath inviolable

MI stood as he took the oath, and at the end kissed a book, which he assumed was the Bible, and the blindfold was removed. MI was told that the organisation to which he now belonged stretched across the country, with 'some gentlemen' in London at the head of it, but their names were known only to a Secret Committee. Manchester was said to be a central location for the whole North West region, which delegates from different parts of the country always passed through, and the delegate system was used because the post could not be trusted. MI was then made aware of 2 signs and counter-signs which could be used to ensure that the people he met were also twisted-in:
The right thumb in the right waistcoat armhole – the Right heel in the Centre of the left foot with the toe turned square — the countersign is the reverse of this — i.e. the left thumb in the left armhole

The right-hand little finger in the mouth with the thumb pointed out, the fingers doubled. The answer is a left-hand rubbing the chin between the from & two first fingers

A day later, MI asked Whittingham for a copy of the oath, and he copied down what the man read out to him.

In 9 days time, MI would tell all of this to a local magistrate, the Reverend William Hay.

As recorded in a letter from William Hay to the Home Office of 1st May 1812.

There are/were several churches called St George's in the Manchester area, and it is not clear which one MI is referring to.

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