John Hulley - British Olympic Founder

By Ray Hulley


Press Reports and Comments about the Exposure of The Davenport Brothers

1865 Feb 16  Liverpool Mercury -


The patrons of the Davenport Brothers who were in attendance at the small concert room in St. George’s Hall, last night, were treated to some “manifestations” of a character decidedly more material than spiritual.  There was, in fact, a great row; the mystic “cabinet” was smashed to pieces, and, worse than that for the reputation of the brothers, a thousand people came away from the hall with the impression that the whole thing was very much like a delusion and a cheat.

Last night’s demonstration had its prologue  on the previous evening.  On that occasion, Mr. John Hulley, the well-known gymnasiast, and Mr. Robert B. Cummins were selected by the audience to tie the brothers.  Ira Davenport, however, upon whom Mr. Hulley operated, complained that his wrists were so tightly bound as to stop the circulation of the blood, and, although a medical gentleman present (Dr. Wigglesworth of Brunswick-road) stated that the fastenings did not  interrupt circulation, Ira Davenport, however, refused to be bound by Mr. Hulley at all.   A “scene” ensued; part of the audience left in disgust, and had their money returned, and part remained to see with dissatisfaction a performance in which the brothers produced the usual ,”manifestations” perfectly independent of any committee.

 Last night there was a numerous attendance.  The gallery and back seats were crowded, and even the front seats were for the most part occupied.   Mr. Hulley and Mr. Cummins were seated together in the front row.   Before the hour for commencing the exhibition had arrived, the audience exhibited signs of restlessness, which augured ill for the brothers in case of any miscarriage like that of the previous night; and the spirit of discontented scepticism was not calmed by a perusal of the following rather strongly–worded  notice, which was handed to every person who entered the building:-


Owing to the disorderly interruptions of their public exhibitions at St. George’s Hall last night, the Brothers Davenport are compelled to enforce the following rules and regulations:-

  1. All loud discussions, useless suggestions, and boorish propositions from any of the audience, during the progress of the séance, must be avoided.
  2. All fair and impartial investigation of their entire proceeding is invited; but they reserve to themselves the right to reject the committee when ever they discover a disposition to deal unfairly.
  3. All persons unwilling to accept and abide bt these regulations can have the money paid for their admission refunded by applying before the séance is formally opened.  Afterwards no demand for ticket money will be respected.

These rules will be legally enforced, if occasion require it, in common justice to the public, and our rights as public exhibitors.
H..D. Palmer, Manager.

At eight o’clock, Mr. Andrew Leighton, himself a firm believer in spiritualism, walked unattended on to the platform, and, without introducing himself in any way, began an address to the audience. He was there, he said, to witness these “manifestations” and if there was any trickery to discover it.  Immediately afterwards he impugned his own impartiality by calling into question the accuracy, both as to facts and conclusions, of an article which recently appeared in Once a Week, wherein the performances of the Brothers davenport were ascribed to legerdemain. He had himself investigated these phenomena privately under conditions favourable for the discovery of any trick, but he had never been able to discover any trace of legerdemain whatever.  He had sat between the two brothers, and could assert they did not move while the phenomena were taking place. 

If the object of Mr. Leighton was to obtain for the Davenport Brothers a favourable reception, nothing could have been more injudicious.  He exhausted the patience of the audience, many of whom pretty frequently and very audibly gave him to understand that they had not come there to listen to speeches on spiritualism or to hear quotations from a magazine first read, and then contradicted, but to see the performance of the Davenport Brothers. for  From the beginning to the end of Mr Leighton's remarks there were constant interruptions, but he would not retire.  At last, Dr. Ferguson came forward, and, by the exhibition of great tact, succeeded in obtaining for himself, at least for a time, a quiet hearing.  He stood there, he began, relying confidently upon the exercise of that fairplay, which distinguished Englishmen in all quarters of the globe, and which was justly their pride and boast.  By fairplay, he meant that the Brothers Davenport and himself should have the same rights which were awarded to all public exhibitors.  If they were legerdemain in the performance, nine months of close observation on his part had failed to discover it, and if knowingly he put forward legerdemain as something else, he should deserve the greatest obloquy.  With regard to the disturbance of the previous night, he was willing to allow the fullest honesty of purpose and opinions to those who different from him.  He believed the gentlemen who were upon the platform the night before were honest in their convictions, but at the same time  the gentlemen who came before the public to exhibit certain  phenomena must be allowed to be the judges of whether they were or were not maltreated. 

Up to this point, Dr. Ferguson had got along without much interruption; but now there was a storm of disapprobation, which was repeated with even greater fervour when, after an interval, a doctor announced that the Brothers Davenport had decided that neither Mr Hulley nor Mr Cummins should secure them.  Whether they were right or wrong, said Dr Ferguson, it was not for him to decide, but they having come to that decision all that he could ask them to do was to select two other gentlemen.  This proposition was met with loud cries of "No, no," and the uproar lasted for some time. Dr Ferguson next read, amidst continuous interruption, the "rules and regulations".  given above, omitting, however, the adjective "boorish."  After this he put the question -- "Will you select two gentlemen?".  They were loud cries for Mr Hulley and Mr Cummins, who went on to the platform.  Some conversation took place between these gentlemen and Dr Ferguson, who was apparently endeavouring  to persuade them not to accept the office.  Finding this ineffectual, Dr Ferguson, who amid all the uproar, kept his temper remarkably well, told the audience that there would be no exhibition if Messrs Hulley and Cummins formed the "committee."  A perfect torrent hisses silenced the doctor effectually for a long time, but at last he managed to get another brief hearing.  Surely there were two gentleman in that large and respectable assembly, said he, who could be selected that were not objectionable to either side.  These gentlemen (Messrs Hulley and Cummins)  the Brothers Davenport believed were disposed to treat them cruelly.  This set the audience off again still more vehemently than before, and numbers of amateur crators might be seen in the back seats and gallery going through violent pantomimic gesticulations, though what they said it was impossible to hear amid the hubbub, and whatever eloquence they possessed was completely lost except to the few immediately about them. 

Mr Henri Drayton, could scarcely obtain a hearing for the statement that Dr Ferguson was willing that four persons should be upon the platform, and the suggestion that two others should be selected; but this compromise was not to the taste of the audience, who were evidently bent upon having Messrs Hulley and Cummins as their representatives, or nobody.  In the meantime, these latter gentleman, tired of standing like lay figures upon the platform, had, much to the amusement of the audience, taken up their quarters within the cabinet, and employed themselves in carefully examining its structure and the various instruments it contains.  Presently, however, they were brought from their retreat by the declaration of Dr Ferguson that the Davenport Brothers believed them to be their bitter foes, and that, in common justice to the brothers, they ought to decline acting.  To this accusation, Mr Hulley promptly responded.  "Our reverend friend (he said), made a remark last night to the effect that my conduct was rather brutal.  Now, I am quite as much indisposed that you should believe I am brutal as that I should be in favour of humbugs; and I believe the Davenport Brothers to be the greatest humbugs that ever existed.  Therefore, as Dr Ferguson justly remarked, I am their bitter foe."  This speech was received with rounds of applause, and no less hearty were those with which the following  equally pithy address from Mr Cummins was greeted: -- "So far from being a bitter foe of the Brothers Davenport, I can assure you that I shall only be too happy to shake them by the hand after they have had got out of our knots.  The ties of friendship will then, I am sure, be closer than ever."  Both Mr Hulley and Mr Cummings then retired again to their seats in the cabinet, whilst the audience shouted and laughed and hissed down by turns every attempt made by Dr Ferguson to obtain a further hearing.  At one period he was just allowed time to say that it was not usual for an assembly to dictate the mode of exhibition, and that it would be just as rational for the audience at a theatre to demand that “Hamlet” instead of “ Macbeth” should be played, as for them to insist that only two particular gentlemen should bind the Brothers Davenport. 

This attempted evasion of the main point in dispute only served to increase the irritability of the audience, which was still further increased when Mr. Hulley announced, after Dr. Ferguson had been in conference with him, that “our reverend friend” was anxious the performance should take place without a committee.  Dr. Ferguson: “I say that we are willing to give you an exhibition with a committee, but not with this one; or we are willing to give you an exhibition without a committee at all”.   This was the signal for renewed uproar and excited more vociferations.  The next incident ws the appearance upon the platform of Mr. Montague Beale, whose peremptory command to “hold still a moment” only made the storm rage the louder.  Mr. Beale deliberately sat himself down upon a chair, and his manner so tickle the audience that after laughing themselves into good humour they listened to what Mr. Beale had to say. 

His remarks were to the effect that they knew Messrs. Hulley and Cummins, that they didn’t know anything of DR. Ferguson, and that the latter ought to state his objections in detail.  Dr. Ferguson replied that the Brothers Davenport reserved to themselves the right, as public exhibitors, of rejecting any committee that they believed would deal with them  cruelly.    (“Oh, oh,” and uproar.)  Whether justly or unjustly they decided that those gentlemen should not tie them.  (Renewed uproar.)  They alleged as a reason that they believed Messrs Hulley and Cummins would treat them brutally.  Into that question he would not answer.

Nearly an hour had thus been occupied.  There seemed to be no prospect of any exhibition whatever.  Several persons left the hall, and the more demonstrative part of the audience were creating a very Babel of noises, when at this juncture the Brothers Davenport walked on to the platform and seated themselves.  To all outward appearance they  looked calm and collected.  Their appearance quieted the noises, and after some conversation with Dr. Ferguson Mr. Hulley announced that the Brothers Davenport had consented to be tied by himself and Mr. Cummins.  To clear himself from any charge of brutality he should wish that if there were two medical men present would come on to the platform and see that he did not bind the wrists unwarrantably tight.  At the same time he must state that the Brothers Davenport had great power of enlarging and contracting their wrists, and therefore it was absolutely necessary they should be tied tight.  He did not believe that Major Greig had a pair of handcuffs which could hold these two gentlemen. (Loud laughter.)  After this speech Dr. Ferguson seemed to be objecting to or urging the non-necessity for the presence of any medical gentleman and no one proffered himself.   

Messrs. Hulley and Cummins then proceeded to the task of securing the brothers in a very methodical and workmanlike manner, as though determined that it should be no fault of theirs if the Davenports were not fast bound.  They first felt the brothers all over to make certain that they had no expansive material beneath their clothes, and with this examination, they appeared to be satisfied. Then they took the ropes, stretched them out “taut”, and began the process of binding, Mr. Hulley operating upon  Ira and Mr. Cummins upon Wm.  During these proceedings Dr. Ferguson aroused still further the indignation of the audience by hovering about the front of the cabinet, impeding the view.  At last he retired and the audience was satisfied.  On this occasion Ira Davenport did not appear to flinch from the tightness of the bondage imposed upon him by Mr. Hulley, but his brother William soon displayed symptoms of dissatisfaction, and was evidently protesting that the cords hurt his wrists.  Dr Ferguson immediately stepped forward and, amidst great uproar, severed the rope with a knife.  He then turned round to the audience and said that the rope was cutting Davenport's wrist.  In confirmation of this, William Davenport himself stepped forward and exhibited one hand, down the back of which will all will  a perfect fluid state was running, immediately afterwards walking off the stage with his brother.  The blood did not look like that which would flow from a wound caused by a tightly-bound rope, and the suspicion that there was some trickery in the matter immediately received confirmation from Mr Cummins, who exclaimed, "That blood was from a wound made by Dr Ferguson in cutting the rope."  -- Dr Ferguson: If it be so, I did not know it.  -- Mr Cummings: If there is a medical man in this room, and he will state or that it is not as I say, I will give £5 to any charity in Liverpool.  They complain that the tying is painful, but I will allow Dr Ferguson or Mr Palmer to tie me as tight as ever they please, and I will stand it for an hour.

The excitement now became fast and furious.  The greater part of the audience joined in hissing and groaning at the unfortunate doctor, who through it all, to all appearance, kept his temper.  After a display of lung power unexampled perhaps in Liverpool, a few of the more young and active spirits became tired of mere shouting, and made their way on to the platform, some scrambling up the front and some letting themselves down from the gallery, to the great detriment of paint and ornament.  They first amused themselves by examining the cabinet, ringing the bells, beating the tambourine, and blowing the trumpet.  As the spirit of mischief increased, they gradually hemmed in Dr Ferguson, and after hustling him about a little, finally thrust him into the cabinet, which they then turned bodily over.  The doctor was seen no more; and it was unquestionably prudent policy on his part to make his escape as speedily as he could.  Shortly before this, Inspector Bibby, with four policemen, who had been in readiness in expectation of a row, came on to the platform, but they were powerless in the crowd which had by this time collected on the platform,.  The moment the cabinet was overturned it was attacked by scores of willing hands and fists, and in a few minutes was in pieces.  The larger fragments were then taken and split up almost into matchwood, large numbers being seemingly desirous to secure a piece as a memento of the Davenport Brothers. 

The appearance of Inspectors Valentine and Southwell, with a force of 30 men, did not stop the process of demolition.  The police, indeed, did not attempt to interfere so long as only the property of the Davenport threatened.  One young fellow was taken into custody of breaking an arm off one of the figures in coming down by the pillars from the gallery, but on giving his name and address -- Herbert Brookfield, of Aigburth -- and stating that it was done accidentally, and that he was willing to pay for the damage, he was released on bail by direction of Mr Alderman Woodcroft, who happened to be present, and whose advice at an earlier period of the evening that a larger number of police should be sent for, it is to be regretted was not followed.  After making a vain attempt to break up some boxes in which the cabinet was stowed, the police succeeded in clearing the platform, but an exciting multitude of 300 or 400 persons remained for a considerable time in the entrance hall, discussing with much animation the events of the evening.

At an early period of the disturbance Mr Hulley and Mr Cummins left the hall, the former being carried in triumph upon the shoulders of his admirers.  They went to the Union Hotel, at which the brother's Davenport were staying, and thither repaired a large number of the audience, "mine host", driving a good trade.  Outside the house a large mob was also collected up to a late hour, but the Brothers Davenport did not put in an appearance, and it was rumoured that rumoured that they had "skedaddled" to the neighbourhood of St Helens.

It may be concluded that the career of the Davenport Brothers in Liverpool, at any rate, has ended.  The violent proceedings of last evening, of course, cannot be justified; but if there were to be any conditions such as those stated by Dr Ferguson, it ought to have been mentioned in the advertisements.  The public had a right to complain that faith had not been kept with them when the representatives they have chosen to see as far as they could that all was fair were not allowed to act.

1865 Feb16 – The Times



The performance of the Davenport Brothers at St George’s-hall, Liverpool, came to an abrupt termination this evening.   On Tuesday night two gentlemen – Hulley and Cummins – were selected by the audience to step upon the stage and bind the performers.   The process of binding was proceeding when one of the Davenports objected to the tightness of the rope and declined to go on with the performance.  A disturbance ensued, and the performance came to an end.  Many persons obtained their money back.  This evening a large audience was present.  Dr. Ferguson opened the proceeding by reading three conditions, by which the Davenports reserved to them selves the right of rejecting any particular gentleman in whom they might discover a disposition to deal unfairly with them. 

During his address the greatest uproar prevailed.  Messrs. Hulley and Cummins were again selected by the audience, and on mounting the stage Dr. Ferguson announced that the Brothers objected to these two gentlemen  on account of the brutal manner in which they had previously bound them.  The uproar continued, the audience insisting on the performance proceeding.  After very considerable delay the Davenports presented themselves, and the binding process commenced.  One of them, however, immediately protested against the tightness of the cord, and was immediately released by Dr. Ferguson, both of them loudly expressing their indignation, and Davenport showing his bleeding wrist.  The audience, however, and those on the stage asserted that Ferguson intentionally inflicted the injury whilst removing the cord. 

The Davenports then retired which was the signal for the audience to take possession of the stage.  Dr. Ferguson was hustled; the cabinet upset, jumped upon, and utterly demolished; fragments of it were strongly contested for, and even, indeed, sold at a shilling a piece;  the ropes ere cut up and divided, and the musical instruments, trumpets and bells disappeared in the general scramble.

Note: This event was also reported in the following newspapers – Pall Mall Gazette Feb 16; Belfast News-Letter Feb 17; Birmingham Daily Post Feb 17; Caledonian Mercury Feb 17; Glasgow Herald Feb 17; Leeds Mercury Feb 17; North Wales Chronicle Feb 18; Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper Feb 19; The Era Feb 19; Reynolds’s Newspaper Feb 19; Derby Mercury Feb 22.

1865 Feb 16  Liverpool Mercury – The “Cummins and Hulley Knot.”
- which  so effectually baffled the Davenport Brothers at Liverpool and Huddersfield, has been manufactured in gold into breastpins, rings, brooches, &c., by an enterprising local firm, whose advertisement will be found in another column.

1865 18 Feb  Porcupine

The Hulley-Cummins Testimonial -
We are glad to hear that the friends of Messrs. Hulley and Cummins intend to invite them to a complimentary dinner to be given in a restaurant in the Old Ropery.

1865 18 Feb Porcupine


Oh ! list to what we now write,
Oh! list to what we say
On ‘‘strurturecide,” and more beside,
And of last Wednesday.
That day did both “the Brothers,”
Like Wolsey, have a fall,
And Ferguson the clever
Fled from St. George’s Hall.
Two knights, not robed in purple,
Nor with the olive crowned,
Pursued the Brothers Davenport
And brought them to the ground.
While flows the river Mersey,
While stands the Shaw his hill*
Each knight that fought upon this day
Shall have of praise his fill.
Gay are the knights just mentioned,—
The gayest of the gay,—
At Ira’s fall and the plaintive call
Of wrist-bound Mister Fay.

There, in the Hall of George’s,
The “structure’ ‘ is seen,—
That den of noise, that nest of cheats,
That oft assailed has been.
Ferguson gave his lecture,
And asked the people all
Two to elect and to select
From out St. George’s Hall.
“Hulleius and Cumminius!”
With one loud voice was cried
And the people’s choice, brought by their voice,
Stood ready side by side.
Then they mounted on the platform,
And cheered they were and well;
But the Doctor said they should not tie,
But why he did not tell.
Then burst from that great concourse
A shout that shook the towers,
And Ferguson got ‘‘ hoots and jeers’
And good abuse in showers.

Then did the knights thus chosen
Disport them for a while,
And, seated in the ‘‘structure,”
Their time they did beguile.
Then after Mister Drayton
Had had his little say,
And Mister Beale had also
Indulged in good word play,
It was stated by the Doctor
That the two Brothers P.
Had stated that they would be tied,
And that, too, instantly.
Then in they came like sparrows
A-going in a trap,
While there stood by the snarers
Awaiting each his chap.

Now while the two were tightening
The ropes upon those wrists,
William to be released from his
Immediately insists;
And then the rope is taken off,
And blood is seen to flow,
And now the fickle audience
Disapprobation show.
Cumminius then advances
And says that ‘twas not he,
That Ferguson he cut the rope,
And it was surely he.
And also did he then remark,
That anybody there
Might tie him tight, and for an hour,
The tying he would bear.
Plucky it is if this young knight,
This young knight of renown,
Will stand rope-tying for an hour
Before he is cut down.

Then rose an awful clamour,
And heedless of their clothes,
Men clambered up the platform
And dealt the “structure’ blows.
Fathers of families and sons,
Without the aid of crow,
All smote upon the planks above
And loosed the props below.
Then mailéd heels and stout boot toes
With manly strength soon fell
Upon the ‘‘structure’’ that till now
Had done its work so well.
The Doctor he stood silent,
And gazed upon his foes,
And calmly took the wild abuse
That from the vanguard rose.
Pushed was he ‘gainst his own machine
Then calmly made his way
From off the platform as if he
Would look for Mr. Fay.

Then wilder grew the public,
And wilder grew the fray,
In splinters soon the “structure’’
Lay scattered in the way I
And all the people trembled,
And pale grew every check,
And one who was in liquor
Alone found voice to speak.
He sought to tell the people
That they had all been sold,
But all the people seemed to think
The information old.

All honour to Cumminius
And Hulleius the bold,
Who smashed the great Twin Brothers,—
The spirits and their hold.
All honour to Cumminius,
And Hulleius, to thee
Would you could tie up all the cheats
That round about we see:
The cheats we meet in business,
The cheats we meet at sports,
That scarcely are as clever
As the two Davenports.
May you learn knots for years to come,
And always have the pluck
To tie up every clever scamp
That’s “down upon his luck.’’
*Spoken of in Liverpool as Shaw’s Brow..

1865 Feb 18 Porcupine -

POSITIVELY Liverpool has done it!  The big bubble has burst.   We do not suppose that even a spiritualist here will believe anymore in the Davenport Brothers after the exposure of the past week.  Truly we wish, for the sake of law and order, that only the bubble had been burst and not the “structure”.  We did not want to see poor Ferguson rolled about, Regulus-fashion, (happily without  the nails and with the eyelids,)  by a too-impatient Liverpool public.  But we own to a feeling of great satisfaction that the impudent piece of humbug which deceived and delighted West End audiences was despised and exposed in Liverpool.  Ira brevis furor - Ira was for a very short time the rage among us.  The stupid buffoonery which  passed off for magic in the Hanover-square Rooms was treated as dull jugglery in St. George’s Hall. 

The obvious truth is, that Messrs. Ferguson, Fay, and Davenport depend altogether for their success upon a sympathetic audience.  Give them their own conditions and a circle of people anxious to be gulled, and of course they will fool all of us to the top of our bent.    But cross them in their demands, oppose their conditions, insist on examining really into the mechanism of their dodges, and then you have – just what took place in Liverpool.    The Reverend Doctor becomes indignant; Fay has his feelings; William’s wrist are hurt, and Ira grows fearfully irate.  We wished that the matter had stopped there.  The Davenports exposed themselves on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to the full satisfaction of the severest  sceptics.  They ought to have been left to the punishment  which their  shame and the public ridicule inflicted on them. They ought to have been allowed to sneak away  from Liverpool, morally drummed out by the laughter and hisses of the public.   It was bad to give these fellows any of the honours of  martyrdom.   They did not deserve anything of the sort.  Allowance, of course, must be made for the feelings of a popular audience, excited by the impudent attempts of a gang of charlatans  to  brazen out the exposure so unmistakenly  inflicted upon them.   Allowance most be made for the temper of those who heard the Rev. Dr. Ferguson comparing himself with the Redeemer of the world – talking of his taking up his cross to further a new revelation!  It was rash of Ferguson to suppose that a miscellaneous audience could always control itself so far as to bear patiently this sort of blasphemous  buffoonery.  But we do wish, for all that, that the audience had been satisfied with the “new revelation” undoubtedly made by Ferguson and his gang, and had abstained from any physical manifestations of disgust more forcible than hisses and derision.

The Liverpool  public owe no inconsiderable debt of gratitude to Messrs. Cummins and Hulley for the pertinacious way in which they kept to their honest task in exposing humbug.  The attempt made by Mr. or Dr. Ferguson to play off the old bleeding wrist trick was rather too ridiculous this time.  If we are not to disbelieve the accounts published in all the London papers, this dodge was frequently resorted to in the metropolis.  Indeed, whenever anybody attempts to tie one of the gang who makes it evident that he understands the trick recourse is immediately had to the appeal about the stopped circulation and the bleeding wrists.  We observe that in one of the reports of Tuesdays’ séances Ferguson is represented as having said that during his association with the Brothers he had never yet found the manifestations to fail.  Well, if Ferguson said this, he has the worst memory of any man we ever knew,.  Does he mean to deny that at the very first “press séance” given in London the company had to be dismissed because, in the dark sitting, tried twice over, no manifestation whatever could be induced to take place?    Does he mean to deny that at a subsequent “press séance” also in London,  half the company (including one or two unmanageable sceptics) had to be dismissed in a like manner because the dark séance proved at total failure until the room had been, as it were, expurgated of the most  dangerous unbelievers?

If Ferguson denies these facts we can only say that the London papers which made the statements were very audacious in their assertions, and that Ferguson evinced a wonderful weakness in never offering to contradict them.  The plain truth is, that ordinary, inexpert rope-tying is worth nothing.  Anybody with a little practice can get out of it.  We have seen men literally swathed in cords which, to the ordinary eye, seemed inextricable bonds, just shake them off and step out of them as a woman might do out of a loosened petticoat.   It gives the Davenports no trouble to get out of any bonds an inexperienced hand can tie, and when a hand which is experienced attempts to tie them, then comes the intervention of Ferguson and the story of the bleeding wrist.

One is ashamed to think that this sort of thing should have created the sensation it did in London; that high-class papers should have puffed it and entered into solemn argument about it; that weak-minded scholars and feeble gentlemen should have allowed themselves to be made its champions and its tools.  It is satisfactory that the Liverpool press have had an opportunity, as mere chroniclers of events, to retrieve this disgrace.  They, as well as the public, owe a debt of gratitude to those who have been the instruments in exposing the Davenports’ spiritual pretences, and we can all afford to smile at any childish little display of vanity into which the heroes of the exposé may have been betrayed since the occurrence.  They were undoubtedly well chosen for the task, and although they were under the guidance of others, and used no original faculty except that of knotting a rope tightly in a form prescribed for them, Messrs. Hulley and Cummins certainly deserve high praise for coolness and determination, especially considering the almost incredible readiness and ability displayed in such critical circumstances by the Davenports’ friend, Dr. Ferguson.  If we add a regret that the two gentlemen were betrayed into a few faults of taste, it is that we may not be supposed unconscious of the only drawbacks in the service which they rendered.

We can now only recommend the Davenports and their showman to go back to America or to London, or to go to Jericho, if they prefer it.  Liverpool is not the place for them.  We, too, are Arcadians here; we are quite wide-awake; we live next door to America, and American dodges fail to take us in.   Perhaps there are still some West End people who, having been out of town in the autumn, had no opportunity of seeing the marvellous sights. Among these Ferguson may find sympathy, and the Davenport wrists meet with gentler bondage.  There lies the way to money and plaudits; here there are only jeers and hisses; and, if not actually kicks, certainly not many half-pence.

1865 Feb 18 - Porcupine -


So, Harry, the séance is ended,
And the “Mystical Cabinet” split,
Beyond hope that it e’er can be mended,
Or for future inspection made fit;

And the “Brothers” been cruelly treated
By “boors” with whom no one could cope,
And the manifestations defeated
By—giving them plenty of rope!

Such conduct—so “brutal “—unfeeling! –
From all meets with just reprehension;
But when was there ever fair dealing
From people who lack comprehension?

For, the moment we entered the meeting,
The evidence seemed very clear
That all patience was rapidly fleeting,
And “Ferguson couldn’t lodge here”!

No harmony could be expected
From persons with manners so free;
For the fiddles were closely inspected,
And at once pronounced ‘“fiddle-de-dee”!

While more than one horrid Bœotian
His ignorant prejudice showed
By saying—with sceptical motion—
Oh, gammon! that trumpet be blowed!

But we really supposed Mr. Hulley
Might have found something better to do
Than to go there to hector and bully
And create such a Hulley-ba-loo.

We trust that, for mystical reasons,
For the future he may keep aloof
From the “Brothers” who’ve proved there are seasons
When the “spirits are far above proof”!

Now, for tying poor “Ira” so tightly
There certainly was no excuse,
Or for fettering a spirit, who nightly
So easily played “ fast and loose.’’

Alas! then, for progress or science,
Or communion with classical shade,
And the tragical tricks of clairvoyance,
Mr. Hulley has quite spoiled the trade.

He believes it a snare and delusion,
And most of folks think it a sham;
But scant knowledge produces confusion
In that practical soul, “Dicky Sam.”

So, ’Harry, dear, heed what I’m saying,
As I’m anxious to save you from grief,
Leave the “suit,” and for once don’t mind paying
For those (K)notable Tickets of Leave!

1865 Feb 18  - Porcupine

PORCUPINE is overwhelmed this week with letters about the Davenports. At least twenty correspondents claim to have taught Mr. Cummins the “Tom-fool Knot,” but we are not Tom-fools enough to believe them. The communications are as varied as ever were rapped out on a spiritualist’s table, and too lengthy by far for insertion in our columns. We can only make brief extracts from such of them as will bear dissection. The extracts will be found below:—

“If the Davenport Brothers are not spiritualists, what are they? I for one cannot answer the question. When we see the manifestations that occur daily, what are we to believe? Anything. When we see a gentleman possessing a little table that flies to the door like a wife to meet him when he returns from the toils of the day, and follows him like a dog when ho walks out, only stopping at running water, what are we to believe? Nothing !“

“A great deal has been said and written respecting the Davenport Brothers, and nobody read with greater pleasure than I did the account of their discomfiture at St. George’s Hall, though I must confess that I was not quite satisfied with the means adopted nor the result arrived at. I would suggest that the Davenports hold another séance, and that I be allowed to fasten them in the way that I shall now attempt to describe.

I should commence by covering the whole of their bodies with a black paste that I would provide; then I should place down each of their throats a steel bar half-an-inch in thickness and seventeen inches in length. After placing their wrists and ankles in steel handcuffs, I should place them on the seats of the cabinet, previously placing on the seats two half-pound of an explosive compound that I would also provide. I should then place the opposite poles of a battery in either ear, and by the aid of an intense light (say the magnesium lamp) see what they would do.’

“Well, how any great brute of a whiskered man could go and tie up either of those dear, charmingly-romantic-looking brothers I am at a loss to imagine. What harm were they doing, Mr. Porcupine, to receive such harsh treatment? They were dear, clever fellows and though I don’t know either of the brutes that tied them up and cut their wrists, I hate them!”

“I may, Mr. Porcupine, be thought impertinent and perhaps intrusive, but I must ask the question, who is Mr. Hulley and who is Mr. Cummins? It’s all very well to speak of ‘the well-known gymnast’ and the ‘renowned cotton broker;’ but how am I or the general public to know that they are not confederates of these paltry jugglers? How am to know that the Davenports ever were tied up by these two persons? We must not be too confident in these days of belief, and I must again be allowed to ask the question, who are the gentlemen who tied up the Brothers Davenport? I pause for a reply.”

“ Can you describe the peculiar knot used to tie the Brothers Davenport, and who is the gentleman hinted at in one of the local papers as the originator of it? Pardon my thus troubling you, and do not deem me tiresome if, at the same time, you would inform me on what day of the week William Rufus was shot in the New Forest?”

“Never for a moment did I expect to see my friend Cummins’ name in the Times! It was a disgrace to any Liverpool gentleman to have his name hawked about in the papers like a common felon; especially in the paper just mentioned—a broadsheet devoted to Southern sympathies. But, as the name was there, it was a great injustice that the military rank of Mr. Cummins was not given; that proper eulogiums were not inserted on his faultless demeanour; and that a just estimate was not given of an exposure of humbug unprecedented in modern times.”

One gentleman writes:—” Is the Mr. Hulley mentioned as the ‘noted gymnast’ the person who has on more than one occasion gone up a rope feet first? Or was it the party that used to exhibit his strength in Williamson-square by rolling a cannon-ball up his left arm, round the back of his neck, and down his right ?“

“What odd fellows you fluffy Liverpool birds are ! You’re always doing something. Sometimes you’re snowballing each other; sometimes you’re writing in quartetts to the Emperor;—sometimes you’re smashing the apparatus of a lot of poor conjurors. Indeed, I’ve been told that, when you’ve nothing else to amuse you, you get a swell girl to run away with an omnibus cad, pour passer le temps.. Hanged if I can understand you a bit.”

Which of Lever’s novels describes the late Davenport fiasco?— Davenport Dunn (done.) [Since the above was written, we have learnt that the Davenports actually became le(a)vers before nine o’clock on Thursday morning.]

1865 Feb 25 - Porcupine


It was the Brothers Davenport,
Who hail from Yankee Doodle,
Who to pocket some share of John Bull’s wealth sought
Unblushingly, for they had the thought
They were sure to grow rich, and would never be caught
For that John was a wealthy old noodle.
A clever new cheat he admires as a treat,
And their praises loudly rang;
Folk wondered and stared and gaped (half scared)
At the “ manifestations” that were prepared
By the Davenport Brothers’ gang.
But the Brothers are merely cat’s-paws
(Porcupine dares to say)
Of that solemn humbug, Ferguson,
And the artful dodger, Fay.

First the metropolis, then Cottonopolis, they had essayed, and found
What, doubtless, they’d often thought, read, and been told,
That they were the true Tom Tidier’s ground for picking up silver and gold;
And next to bamboozle Dicky Sam with their Spirits they made bold,
So obtained Saint George’s Hall wherein their poor feats to unfold;
But the Liver proved not a foolish gull, nor was Dicky Sam to be sold.

In that beautiful Grecian Chamber Upon the platform stood
The “structure” called a “cabinet,” Of India teak wood:
‘Twas a box of tricks and legerdemain
To charm the wealthy green—
A shabby brown trap that, if placed upon wheels,
Might have passed for a bathing-machine.
It contained a paltry fiddle and a dirty tambourine,
A battered old bugle, a whistle, a bell, and resembled a bathing-machine.

On Tuesday, the great “Gymnasiarch,” Was seated in the ball,
With Captain Cummins—” Handsome Bob,” The red-coats do him call—
They received commands to tie up hands,
Which caused the Brothers chagrin
When they found their snig-like wrists and fists
Secured in the bathing-machine.
Ira cried out irate, “I guess you think I’m green;
Hulley will spile the show, and so I’ll quit the bathing-machine.”

Wednesday came : ‘twas half-past eight when Ferguson did commence
A speech that oddly was composed of soft-soap and insolence,
How that Britons say they love fair play, so must show it to false pretence.
“Now, choose a committee to tie ‘em up pretty,”
Cried Doctor F, “you Britons.
But Robert Bruce Cummins and Hulley are rum ‘uns,
And the Davenports say aint fit ‘uns,
For they know the ropes, and will play the deuce
With our little game, which is fast and loose.
Name a committee, gentles, please! On whom do you fix your choice?”
“Hulley and Cummins,” they replied, as with one stentorian voice.
Then the reverend gent. tried to wheedle the pair, saying,
“Take your hooks, my rum ‘uns;
You’re not the men to knot these men, so don’t regard the summons.
Vamoose! you are brutal, the Davenports say,
And boorish these people who ask for fair play.”
And this dispute wiled an hour away.

At length two down-looking lads stepped forth, got up like gentlemen—
You see, they’d rather not refund, so they. cried, “Wal, tie us, then!”
When the tying began, and they really looked like two culprits being prepared
To dance upon nothing at Kirkdale drop, as they shambled and scowled and glared;
And we don’t think Hulley was very far wrong when he seemed to revile and scold ‘em:
Their expansive wrists and mobile fists—why, handcuffs couldn’t hold ‘em!
Soon William, in Captain Cummins’ hands, cried out “Too tight!— 0, thunder!”
When the Reverend Ferguson drew a knife, and cut the cords asunder.
Frolicsome mischief grew rampant now, and every gentleman rioter
Viewed the affair as a juggling spec, and Ferguson as its proprietor.
The Brothers skedaddled, the audience cheered, the stalls filled the platform, yet
The Reverend Ferguson would remain, so into the cabinet,
With fiddle and trumpet and tambourine, and all his stock-in-trade,
They bundled the Doctor. The cabinet lurched on its trestles and backward swayed,
Then over it went with a terrible crash—wasn’t Ferguson dismayed?
Had he vanished? Most sudden his exit was, but the very reverse of dull, for
‘Tis said as ho went a terrible scent was perceived,—it might have been sulphur.

Loud cheers arose like thunder,
As strong blows fell in showers;
The “structure” came asunder,
‘Neath blows and wrenching powers.
Then many a fast young spark
Exclaimed “0, here’s a lark,
If we can lay our hands on Fay,
We will make him frisky, 0!”

Like the Cyclops’ hammers, with deafening clang,
Kicks and blows on the cabinet rang,—
‘Twas soon in ten thousand particles;
The fiddle got into a terrible scrape,
So the tambourine; but no ghostly shape—
Nay, not a ghostly finger—rose,
To save from these strong but good-humoured foes
Even one of their shabby articles.

“Whar’s the back door? Our way lies thar. 0, for three winged steeds
Let each one lacerate his wrist and tear it till it bleeds
We’ll threaten a score of cusses with law for these owdacious deeds,
And then we’ll whine for another chance; perhaps we may get it— at Leeds.”
Ferguson wildly rolled his eyes, and wildly smote his brow,
And the Brothers whimpered, wretched boys, “Boo boo! whar are we now?”
When Fay, their good fairy, arrived in haste; he’d only just heard of the row.
“What shall we do?” they asked of him; perplexed he scratched his head,
Then spake their great Sir Oracle, and this is what he said—
“ Yankee doodle, cut your stick!
Yankee doodle dandy.
Blow your spirits! hook it quick!
I’ll take a nip of brandy.”
The shades of night had fallen long:
They sneak off, muffled, through the throng.
“ Third class to Leeds !“ The porters wink,
And thus they utter what they think:— “Skedaddlers !‘
The station-master shook his head.
“Four showmen out of luck,” he said.
Anon the starting bell he rang
As quite a crowd this farewell sang— Skedaddlers!”

Now, Porcupine thinks his townsmen went beyond propriety’s border,
But “brutal” and “ boorish” are not the terms that charm to patience and order;
And oh, it was a crying shame to see that beauteous hall,
Worthy to grace for earth’s worthiest sons some grand high festival,
Let out for such exhibitions as these to Englishman or Yankee,
To desecrate its beauty and state with doings hanky-panky;
And to those who’re to blame for the scandal and shame, Porcupine doesn’t say thankye.   

1865 Feb 25   Penny Illustrated Paper
So those humbugging Brothers Davenport have come to grief at Liverpool.  I'm glad of it!  It was a very shabby, though, of the spirits to leave them in the lurch in their hour of need, and not help them to unfasten the "Tom-fool’s knot in which they were tied by Messrs. Hulley and Cummins, at St.  Georges Hall.  Their absence, however, may be accounted for, when it is known that escape from the said knot is impossible.

1865 Mar 4 -  Liverpool Mercury – Mr Hulley’s Reply to the Davenport Brothers’ Challenge – 
To the Editors of the Liverpool Mercury.
Gentleman, The Davenport Brothers challenge Mr Cummins and myself to tie them with the so-called Tom Fool’s  Knot, "in the presence of a jury of 12 gentlemen of position and character in London, instead of an excited and prejudiced mob – the knot to be applied so as not to subject the brothers to needless pain, of which two respectable surgeons shall be judges, and the jury of 12 report to the public the result."  I do not know that a man who, casually attending an exhibition of spiritualistic imposture, makes it his business to expose it, pledges himself  thereby to devote the remainder of his days to take the exhilarating occupation of following about a couple of  conjurers who ridiculously pretend to be the passive instruments of an incomprehensible power. But as my name has become identified with this business, I once frankly declare that I have no objection to again attempted to baulk the Davenports of their prey - the money of a swindled public - but if they will permit the trial to take place on terms that may benefit society; but before specifying those terms I must make a few comments on the particularly modest and accurate account of which they have published of the treatment to which they have been subjected. 

Once for all, neither Mr Colin Cummins nor I have had anything to do with smashing cabinets.  I am under the impression that in Liverpool  the onslaught on that precious piece of furniture was instigated by the confederates of the brothers (and it is a remarkable circumstance that about one-half of those present paid no admission money, but entered with orders). Certain it is that we did our best to keep the invaders off the platform, and had left the hall before the cabinet was touched.  At Huddersfield, where we are represented to have delivered stimulating addresses, we did our best to prevent any display of violence.  I have as little sympathy with ruthless destruction, as I have with personal cruelty; but, on the other hand, it is not for dishonest and convicted pretenders to preternatural power to complain of even the roughest displays of popular aversion and contempt as if they had done nothing to provoke indignation.                                                     

The narrative given of our proceedings under the signatures of the Davenports is worthy of the pen of the sensation dramatist from whom it probably emanate it.  The appeal to Sir George Gray, with which it opens, is conceived in the most "highfalutin" style of boncombe, and is particularly racy as coming from persons who, whether as dealers in the supernatural or as obtaining money on false pretences that they are so, at probably within the scope of the law and could be punished if anyone chose to prosecute them. The accuracy of these brothers in narrating facts may be judged of by a few errors, which, though not material in themselves, show how little reliance can be placed on their testimony.  The brothers did not give a private press séance on the 13th of February; Mr Fay gave it alone on the 12th.  The press said nothing about the "satisfactory character of the exhibition."  The "two public séances." (that is, the cabinet séance and the dark séance)  which they describe to have taken place on the 14th  took place on the 13th.  These mistakes suffice to show that at any rate the Davenports are not to be trusted in minutiae.

My connection with this affair arose by the merest accident.  I met Mr Cummins, about half past six on the evening of Tuesday, and he showed me a knot which he had been taught, and which he firmly believed the Davenports could not get out of, proposing that I should accompany him and tie up one of the brothers.  I agreed, and, from my position, being well known in the town, it happened that I was called on by the audience to act as one of the committee whom Dr Ferguson invited them to nominate.  I consented on condition that Mr Cummins should be the other.  In this   capacity, we proceeded to tie the brothers, and the one who was consigned to me soon complained that I was not only hurting him, but stopping the circulation.  The brothers say we refused to retire; the fact is, the audience loudly called upon us to remain.  They say the audience were made to believe that they objected to the particular form of the knot, and not to the severity of the tying.  Not a word was said to the audience on the subject; but a well-known Liverpool surgeon testified that there was no cruelty in the manner of tying, and upon this the audience naturally redoubled their manifestations in our favour.  The fact is that the form of knot, which is the simplest thing in the world, enables it to be applied effectively without pain if the person tied will only remain passive.  But William Davenport persisted in wrenching his hands out of the position in which I placed them -- a remarkable thing for a man to do who says his power depends on his passivity -- and the consequence was that it needed determination, though not the least roughness, to give the knot a fair trial. Observe that the brothers say that at Leeds they "exposed their livid wrists, in which every strand of the cord was visibly imprinted, to the audience, who, to their credit of their humanity, cried out ‘Shame!’"  Let me add, although I was not at Leeds, and am not answerable for anything that occurred, a morsel from the account of the scene given by the Leeds Mercury

The Mr Smith referred to as a surgeon of the Leeds Infirmary: -- Mr Smith's, who had examined the brothers, stated that both of them were, to use his own words, "kindly tied," that there was no violence, that he could place his finger between the cord and the wrist, and that if the Davenports were injured  it would be their own fault.  This statement was received with loud cheering, followed by great uproar, during which frequent consultations took place between Dr Ferguson, the Davenports, and their confederates.  At length, both the brothers having been released, during a momentary pause in the noise, William admitted that the tying was not painful, but that he objected in consequence of Sgt M’Arthur having said that he was going to draw the cord tighter.  Loud laughter and a renewed disturbance followed this statement.  This is remarkably at variance with the Davenport version, and affords another illustration of the fact that these performers, to whom passivity is everything, and who can do nothing unless they immediately remain perfectly quiescent, always manage when well tied to make their wrists livid by wriggling in the cords.

To return to the events at Liverpool.  The performance of the Tuesday evening was virtually upset by the refusal of the brothers to be tied by us, and when at length and we left the platform a large portion of the audience left with us and had their money returned.  Next day there appeared in the papers an advertisement attributing brutality to us, and undertaking that regulations should be adopted which would prevent all disturbances in future.  When we attended in the evening, as we felt bound to do after this aspersion upon us, we found that the only one of the new regulations likely to serve the Davenports was that which gave them the right to refuse any committee named by the audience.  "when they discovered a disposition to deal unfairly."  This of course meant that they intended to refuse Messrs Hulley and Cummins, an intention which they immediately avowed to when the audience selected us.  The right to act thus may belong, as the brothers say, even to criminals on trial; but the assembly were of opinion that it did not become performers who professed to court to the severest investigation.  Accordingly, they stood by us. It is not true, however, that we went to the platform at by a crowd of our friends, except in the sense that a considerable portion of those present loudly applauded our determination to fulfil the duties they had assigned us.  That we in "various ways, excited violent and manifestations in the audience” is simply and gratuitously untrue.  It is equally, calumnious to call us “the heroes of an assault of some hundreds of brave English-men."  We had nothing to do with the riot.  Our only function was to tie the Davenports as the representatives of the audience, and no severity whatever had been committed by us when Ira Davenport stopped the proceedings by having his rope cut and pretending that the blood caused by Dr Ferguson's knife, had been occasioned by the tying.                                                                                                              

In references to facts I have only further to say that in alleging that I declared myself the bitterest foe of the Davenports  it would have been more candid, to add that I said I was so because I believed them to be “about the greatest humbugs I had encountered; and  I as a foe to all imposture."  The brothers asked what right I had after such an avowel to act on a committee whose duty was strict impartiality.  I can but say that if the brothers will only accept as committee men or jurors those who do not believe them to be humbugs, they will have great difficulty in selecting a committee or jury, whose “impartiality"  will satisfy the public.  They have no business to talk of any person being a foe, who is selected by an audience at their own request to tie them, and whose manner of tying is surgically certified not to be painful or injurious.  They must submit to be tied; to remain passive during the operation; to   insist on no objection which competent surgeons do not corroborate; to get out if they can, and to accept the consequences in public estimation if they cannot. 

It is not necessary for me to criticise the preposterous pretensions of the more general passages of the Davenport manifesto.  It is a deliberate and flagrant affront to the intelligence of the community which had better be treated with contempt.  I will conclude therefore, by stating on what terms I will meet the Davenports and respond to their challenge.

1..  At an early date (say the week after next) the Hanover-square Rooms shall be taken for six nights, on the responsibility of the Davenports.
2.  That they shall appear and be tied by me and a friend, whom I would nominate every night of the six, whether they succeed or fail in extricating themselves.
3.  That no free admissions shall be given, and that the ordinary prices shall be charged.
4.  That Mr Fay, Mr Palmer, Dr Ferguson, and the builders, except as their remuneration one guinea each for the week's performances.
5 That they shall be no committee or jury, but that two known surgeons shall be appointed on each side and properly fed, who sole duty shall be to pronounce whether our tying is calculated to give pain when the hands are held passive.
6.  That after the rooms have been paid for and the before-named expenses discharged, the whole of the proceeds, which shall be deposited from night to night with a person upon whom the Davenport and myself shall mutually agree, shall be handed over immediately after the sixth performance to the Liverpool Children's Infirmary.

On these terms, and these alone, will I meet the Davenports, and I would exact them, whether we beat them or they beat us; for if they succeed they will retrieve their lost position, and can afford to pay something for it; while if they fail, they can hardly be in a worse position than they now occupy.  Some may think the terms arbitrary; but on reflection they will perceive that the Davenports cannot expect me, without some inducement, to give them the advertisement, which my participation in their séances would prove; and the prospect of benefiting a deserving charity is surely the most innocent that can be conceived.

I am, &c.,  John Hulley,
Vice-President of the Athletic Society,                                                             Liverpool Gymnasium, March 3.

1865 Mar 8     Liverpool Mercury
A letter was copied from the Morning Herald written by Mr. Palmer the manager for the Davenport Brothers in which he refuted the challenge of John Hulley and reiterates his challenge to him that Messrs Hulley and Cummins shall tie the Davenport Brothers in the presence of a jury of 12 men and 2 surgeons, one of the young men being held by any 2 jurymen hand and foot.

1865 Mar 28   Liverpool Mercury - The Davenport Brothers Row. Action for Recovery of the Admission Money.
- detailed account of the court proceedings at which the judge said at the end of the case that it appeared to him this contract was with each particular individual; and as he had no evidence before him to show that Mr Cummins had prevented had prevented the giving of the performance, he thought that the conduct of the Davenport Brothers was a breach of the contract on their part.  He must therefore give a verdict for the plaintiff of the amount claimed.

The decision was received as considerable applause, which was of course immediately suppressed.  Although his Honour ruled that each case must stand on its own merits, Messrs Hime have decided to refund the whole of the admission money to the proper claimants without further dispute.  It will be seen by an advertisement that Tuesday afternoon next, between five and seven o'clock, has been appointed for the return of the money upon personal application at Messrs Hime’s Music Warehouse, or it will be handed over to one of the charities, at the option of the claimant. (also in the Hampshire Telegraph & Sussex Chronicle Apr 1)

1865 Mar 28   Liverpool Mercury –  Action in the Country Court.  – Decision against the Davenports.
An action brought by Mr R. B. Cummins against Mr Hime, the Liverpool agent of the Davenports, to recover the entrance fee of five shillings paid to see a séance which did not come off, was heard yesterday in the Liverpool County Court, before Sergeant Wheelan, Q. C., Judge. (Incl) He gave his decision for the plaintiff for the amount claimed.  It is understood that, by friendly agreement between the parties, this decision is to guide Mr Hime in reference to all the claims made by other persons for the return of their money.

 1865 Mar 29 -  The Times - THE DAVENPORTS SUED

Mr. Hime, the agent for the  Davenport Brothers in Liverpool, was sued in the County Court on Monday before Mr. Serjeant Wheeler, Q.C. for the return of money paid to witness a séance, which did not take place.  The plaintiff was Mr. R.B. Cummins, who, with Mr. Hulley tied the Brothers with a "Tom-Fool knot."  For the defence it was represented that no definite statement as to what should be done had been put forth in the advertisements.  The judge held that the advertisements had promised a séance, which was to be taken as meaning all that had been given by the Davenports on their previous appearances in the town; and that, having waived their objection to the committee nominated by the meeting, they had bound themselves to complete the contract under those conditions.   The contract was not completed, the séance was not given; and the plaintiff was, therefore, entitled to the return of the money he had paid. This decision will determine several other claims, in which the facts are precisely similar.

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