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An interesting anniversary this week: 175 years since one of Sheffield’s more controversial - and tragic - working class heroes died.

John Blackwell, known as Jackey Blackey, became famous while a young man as perhaps the city’s best loved stage actor. He was nicknamed the King of the Gallery for his ability to make people laugh.

But his downfall occurred after he became a central figure in the city’s 1816 bread riots. Outraged that poor Sheffielders were being starved by rising prices, he joined the protesting crowd carrying a loaf stained with blood on a pole above the swelling numbers.

For this - an apparent incitement to riot - he was jailed for two years. He never recovered from the ignominy and, after his release, was arrested a second time for attempting to incite a further riot - this time while armed.

After his second release he was a broken man, living the last eight years of his life in Sheffield’s poorhouse near West Bar. When he died on April 14, 1839, the Sheffield Mercury reported it wasn’t even known how old this once famous city star was.


And another anniversary? It’s 115 years this week since what must surely be one of the more unusual attractions ever seen in the city went on display: a 14 ft whale.

The massive animal - displayed in the yard of the Green Dragon pub in Attercliffe - had been captured in the mouth of the River Idle, in Nottinghamshire. It was the biggest sea creature ever caught inland.

After the monster was hooked on March 27, it was briefly toured across the north, amazing onlookers.