In-depth blog about former slave and boxing legend Bill Richmond (1763-1829); subject of Luke G. Williams' biography, published by Amberley in August 2015.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Richmond Unchained talk at Alnwick Castle

I will be giving a talk about my book Richmond Unchained at Alnwick Castle on Wednesday 3 August 2016. There is a close connection between Alnwick, the history of the Percy family and the life story of Bill Richmond which my talk will be focusing on.

If you are interested in attending please click on this link where you can access more information and buy tickets.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

British Sports Book Awards reflections, images and videos

I've been meaning to blog for a few days now about the Cross British Sports Book Awards, which took place last week, on Wednesday 1 June.

Richmond Unchained was shortlisted for the Biography of the Year award, and although it didn't win, the whole process of being nominated and attending the awards was very special.

To gain recognition for one's efforts and hard work with an award nomination is very gratifying indeed, and the chance to rub shoulders with journalistic and sporting legends, from Nigel Mansell to Michael Lynagh, from Donald McRae to Brian Glanville was the experience of a lifetime.

Before heading to the awards, I made sure that I drank a toast to Bill Richmond by finally cracking open a bottle of his favourite drink - noyaux - which I had been saving for a special occasion. I then slipped into my tuxedo, complete with a pocket square utilising Bill Richmond's ring colours, and my wife and I walked the short distance from our hotel to Lord's cricket ground, where the awards were taking place in the Nursery pavilion.

While enjoying a champagne reception I, and many other nominees, were interviewed by the awards organisers. You can watch a video compilation of these interviews below, in which I even pop up for a few seconds.

We then took our seats for a splendid dinner. Before we knew it the ceremony had begun and the nominees for Biography of the Year had been announced, and a video of the judges discussing the merits of the shortlisted titles had been played. You can watch these videos below.

One of the judges, Annie Vernon, then took to the stage and announced that the winner was Andy Bull's Speed Kings. Disappointment then, for myself and Richmond Unchained, although I cannot stress enough that Mr Bull's book is an excellent work and a truly worthy winner. I was particularly pleased to see that the winning book was one with a historic dimension to it, and featured - in bob-sledding - a sport seldom written about. You can watch an interview with Andy Bull about his book below.

With the nerve-wracking part of the ceremony out of the way, we were able to sit back and enjoy the rest of the meal and the ceremony. And very enjoyable it was too!

All in all, then, a very memorable evening. Huge thanks to my publishers Amberley for supporting my nomination, and for the organisers and sponsors of the Sports Book Awards, particularly Danielle and Alastair at Agile Marketing.

Thanks also to my friends and family for their support and encouragement in supporting Richmond Unchained, as it grew from an idea, to a manuscript and then, finally, into an award-nominated book! Particularly heartfelt thanks to my wife Kemi, my mum and sister, my friend and Richmond Unchained illustrator Trevor Von Eeden and my friends Richard and Sara Evans.

You can check out more about the Cross Sports Book Awards on their website here and on their video channel here.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Raise a glass to Bill Richmond: in search of noyaux

One of the qualities I have always admired about boxer Bill Richmond was his abstemious nature.

Unlike many of his pugilistic contemporaries, who fell victim to the charms of the bottle and died young, Richmond maintained a sense of self-control throughout his life, despite the rampant drinking culture which surrounded prize-fighting and despite the fact he spent several years as landlord of the Horse and Dolphin public house in St Martin's Street.

This is not to say, however, that Richmond was teetotal. The Morning Post newspaper, in its obituary of 'the Black Terror' in 1830, noted that he was "remarkably abstemious in the use of liquor, seldom taking more than a glass of sherry and water". Meanwhile, Pierce Egan, in Boxiana, noted that Richmond could be "rather facetious over a glass of noyeau, his favourite wet with a SWELL".

While researching Richmond Unchained, this quote of Egan's piqued my curiosity. Having never heard of 'noyeau' I decided to try and find out what it was and, if possible, get my hands on a bottle, so I could taste what Richmond's favourite drink was like.

I soon discovered that 'noyeau' was, in fact, an Egan spelling error, and that 'Crème de Noyaux' - to give it its correct appellation - was a once popular but now largely forgotten 19th century French liqueur, pink in colour, and made from the kernels of apricot, peach or cherry stones or - according to some sources - a combination of all three.

However, try as I might, I couldn't find anywhere in the UK that stocked noyaux, not even the legendary spirits store Gerry's in Soho, who told me they had been searching for it for "12 years, to no avail". I could find several vendors abroad who sold a liqueur named 'Noyau de Poissy', but none of them would import to the UK.

It was only when I came across a website for an American company named Tempus Fugit that I began to make some real progress.Tempus Fugit described themselves thus:

"Our goal is to source and recreate rare spirits and liqueurs from the pages of history to satisfy the demands of the most discerning connoisseur."

One such liqueur that they have 'recreated' was Crème de Noyaux, the process for which they described as follows:

"Tempus Fugit Spirits’ Crème de Noyaux is based on the historic 19th century French liqueur, traditionally made with apricot stone (pit) kernels, bitter almonds and other botanicals. Many years of research were required to finalize the production techniques for this rare and complex spirit, utilizing the natural ingredients specified in the original recipes. Tempus Fugit Spirits Crème de Noyaux represents the classic Crème de Noyaux. Prized by the most distinguished bartenders during the Golden Age of cocktails. Perfect in numerous classic cocktails, Crème de Noyaux is used as a primary ingredient or in dashes."

Eventually, I found a company in Germany named Alandia that were willing to export a bottle of Tempus Fugit's Crème de Noyaux to the UK and, after a wait of a few weeks, a bottle of Bill Richmond's favourite drink duly arrived at my house.

And what does it taste like? Well, I don't know because, like Bill Richmond, I'm pretty abstemious these days, and I'm saving it for a special occasion.

Perhaps I'll have a swig this Wednesday night before heading to the British Sports Book Awards, where Richmond Unchained has been shortlisted for Biography of the Year!

Noyaux ingredients, from's information sheet about Noyaux

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Bill Richmond cartoon from the 1930s

Although I finished writing Richmond Unchained a while ago, I still habitually trawl the internet and other archival sources for any 'Richmond-abilia'.

Here's something interesting I found today on the Heritage Auctions website - a cartoon of Bill Richmond from the Baltimore American newspaper circa the 1930s by artist Tom Doerer. The 'likeness' of Richmond in the centre of the montage is clearly based on the Boxiana portrait, but Doerer has made his version of Richmond far too Rhett Butler / Jason King-esque for my liking! Not quite sure where the moustache came from ... Anyway, an interesting find nonetheless! Incidentally, Doerer was once an artist on the boxing comic Joe Palooka, a character who features extensively in my essay on boxing comic books for the anthology I edited, Boxiana.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Richmond Unchained nominated for Biography of the Year at British Sports Book Awards

I am delighted to announce that my book Richmond Unchained has been nominated in the Biography of the Year category at the 2016 Cross British Sports Book Awards.

This is a real honour, and I hope it means that more people will be get to learn about the amazing life story of Bill Richmond. The awards take place on 1 June at Lords Cricket Ground and highlights from the ceremony will be shown the following weekend on Sky Sports.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the writing and publication of Richmond Unchained, particularly my family and friends, and my publishers Amberley

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"Definitely a book with 'bottom'" - Boxing Monthly on Richmond Unchained

I am pleased to announce that my book Richmond Unchained is reviewed in the new May issue of the highly-respected Boxing Monthly magazine, which is available now via App store and other digital outlets, and in the shops from Thursday.

The review is on page 52 of the magazine and is by the magazine's long-established reviewer John Exshaw. In the interests of full disclosure I think it is important to mention I had an article about Bill Richmond published by BM last year and have also contributed articles to their website.

However I do not know Mr Exshaw and I have never met or communicated with him. Therefore, I do not believe that my contributions to BM will have influenced his review in any way, shape or form - indeed, I think it is fair to say that Mr Exshaw has  a reputation within the boxing community for integrity, independence and - at times - brutal honesty. Certainly, having read his reviews for many years, I have realised that he is a very hard man to please and never defers to reputation. I can also recall at least one occasion on which he has written a very negative review about a book that had also bought advertising space in BM magazine - which I think reinforces my point that he is a truly independent and impartial voice.

Bearing this in mind, I have to say that I am delighted - and no little relieved - that Mr Exshaw's review of Richmond Unchained is a very positive one! A selection of quotes from the review are included below, and if you want to read the review in full then I urge you to get a copy of the magazine!

"Mr. Williams proves both diligent and tenacious in researching the details of Richmond's life ... as well as judicious in his assessment of the most likely course of events in the many instances in which there is conflicting evidence ... The merits, then, of Mr. Williams' book are many and manifold (including the splendid illustrations by Trevor Von Eeden), and it can be heartily recommended to pugilist-specialist readers and novices alike. ... This is definitely a book with "bottom"."

Addendum: Mr Exshaw mentions in his review that Richmond Unchained would benefit from an index and in this opinion, I agree wholeheartedly with him. Due to page constraints, which came about as a result of extra research and information about Bill Richmond that I discovered relatively late in the writing process, I had to make the difficult decision to shorten my sources / referencing section and not have an index. This decision was made to ensure my main text did not have to be edited down and so that Trevor Von Eeden's wonderful illustrations could be included. In an ideal world, I wish there had been an index. Please note though, that fuller details about my sources can be found on this blog and I intend, in time, to also publish a full index to Richmond Unchained on this blog.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Bill Richmond?

Bill Richmond (?) and I at the Getty Center, Los Angeles
On a recent visit to Los Angeles I was able to visit the Getty Center and see up close a sculpture that my friend and fellow Bill Richmond fanatic Jerry Leibowitz is convinced is Bill.

Jerry's fascinating theory is that the sculpture, credited by the Getty Museum and the Yale Center for British Art, as being the work of Francis Harwood in 1758, is actually a much later sculpture of ... yes! Bill Richmond!

Jerry's thesis is very convincing and very interesting ... check out his fascinating posts on the subject below:
Bust of a Man
Bust of a Man ... Alternate version
Bust of a Man, the Sequel - Bill Richmond Strikes Back

Meanwhile, this post contains Jerry's work on the historical background / context to his later work:
Follow the Money

And while I'm recommending further reading for you Richmondophiles out there, you should also check out another  post of Jerry's: the first chapter of a novel he's writing about Bill Richmond. Well worth reading and a real appetiser for the full length novel to follow!

Bill Richmond (?) in all his glory
The Getty's attribution - which is disputed by Jerry Leibowitz

(Some of this post involves repetition of a previous post from January 2015, but the pix are all new!)