by jdurney on November 1, 2013

DAN DONNELLY v GEORGE COOPER – 13th December 1815 – OR NOT?

Follow Up Investigations

By Chris Holzgräwe

In my recent article, published on e-history on 25 October 2013, I reported on my research into the actual date on which the famous fight between Dan Donnelly and George Cooper took place on the Curragh in 1815.
As stated, prior to my research, all previously referenced sources specified that the date of the fight was the 13th December 1815. As I was able to show through my discovery of previously overlooked newspaper articles from the Freeman’s Journal of the time, the fight actually took place one whole month earlier, on 13th November 1815.
In light of my findings, I proposed that the date in December had been “handed down” over the years, and had come from an original incorrect source. This source, I suggested, could well have come from the publications of Pierce Egan entitled “Boxiana; or, Sketches of Modern Pugilism”, which date from the first quarter of the 19th century.
In all, Egan published four volumes of his collected articles on the sport of boxing. I have found in volume two, published in 1824 and sub-titled “From the Championship of Cribb to the Present Time”, the following lines, which appear in his section concerning “Dan Donnelly, The Champion of Ireland” starting on page 388 – “On Monday, the 13th December, 1815, they met in the ring, on the Curragh of Kildare, at a few minutes after ten o’clock in the morning.”
As if to point to the incorrect nature of this statement from Egan, and to reinforce the accuracy of the Freeman’s Journal reports which I had discovered, the 13th of December 1815 did not fall on a Monday, as he writes, it was a Wednesday. However, the 13th of November 1815 indeed fell on a Monday.
As the “Boxiana” volumes are collections of Egan’s previous writings, I am assuming that the section in volume two, about Donnelly and his fights, formed the basis of one of these earlier articles. Whether he wrote this particular article using accounts of Donnelly’s fights written by others, or he was actually present at the events, which seems unlikely, is at present unknown, but it must be assumed that the incorrect date of 13th December stems from this article.
Egan’s dedication at the start of volume two is dated April 5th 1818. Although the title page gives a printing date of 1824, it would appear the articles were written well before 1824, as Egan refers to “the present day” as 1818, and in his section on Dan Donnelly he makes no reference to Donnelly’s fight against Oliver which took place in July 1819.


Follow up investigations by Chris Holzgräwe confirm that the actual date for the Donnelly-Cooper fight was 13 November 1815

Previous post:

Next post: