Friday, May 25, 2012
Looking Out for Pedestrians
A Pedestrian was a professional walker. He either competed against other pedestrians for a prize or worked for the winnings from wagers on his/her ability to walk a certain distance in a certain amount of time. A popular feat was to walk 100 miles in less than 24 hours; those who succeeded were called Centurions. Crowds of up to 10,000 people lined the roads to watch, and cheer.
One of the most famous Pedestrians of nineteenth century England was Captain Barclay (Robert Barclay Allardice). In 1809, he set a record that became the one to beat for nearly a century: He walked for 1 mile an hour for 1,000 hours without stopping, starting on June 1 and ending on July 12. And all this dressed like a gentleman in top hat, cravat, and wool suit!
But it wasn’t just the men who got into the act. As a young girl, Mary Wilkinson of Yorkshire walked 250 miles to London in less than four days. She repeated the feat at age 90 with a keg of gin and provisions strapped on her back, but in five days and three hours. (Must have been the gin.) In 1823, at only 8 years of age, Emma Matilda Freeman walked 30 miles in 7 hours and 57 minutes through pouring rain. Her feat was reported as far away as America. Now there’s a determined young lady!
And speaking of determined young ladies, many of you will remember Mary Quinn, the intrepid heroine of Y.S. Lee’s historical mystery series, The Agency. The Young Bluestockings read the first book, A Spy in the House, in January. Well, make sure to come back next week when none other than Y.S. Lee herself will be guest blogging with us!
I’d walk 30 miles in the rain for that!