Fighting fund to buy S York boxer painting

The painting of Iron Hague the boxing champ
The painting of Iron Hague the boxing champ
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A fighting fund to bring a painting of a Doncaster area boxing champ home is hoping to pack a real punch.

Doncaster Museum has been offered the opportunity to purchase a painting of the legendary local boxer James William ‘Iron’ Hague, who was a triple British heavyweight boxing champion in the early 1900s.

Iron Hague Heavyweight Champion of England.

Iron Hague Heavyweight Champion of England.

The painting, which is in oil on canvas, depicts Hague in typical pugilistic stance, and was probably painted in 1909 to celebrate his victory over Gunner Jim Moir to claim the British heavyweight boxing title.

Hague, who was born in Mexborough, was British heavyweight boxing champion between 1909 and 1911, defending his title three times.

The painting is on long term loan at Cusworth Hall Museum from Iron Hague’s family where it has been admired greatly by members of the public.

Doncaster Museum is currently putting together a grant application for half the £2,500 cost to try to bring the painting to Doncaster on a permanent basis and prevent it from being sold into private hands.

The museum is also appealing to members of the general public to make pledges of financial support to help the fighting fund, and so far nearly £600 has been donated.

Councillor Bob Johnson, cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “This painting of Mexborough-born boxing legend James William ‘Iron’ Hague is proving a popular exhibit at Cusworth Hall Museum.

“With Doncaster celebrating its first world boxing champion earlier this year when Jamie McDonnell was crowned IBF bantamweight champion, it would be wonderful if we could raise the funds to keep this painting which recognises one of our earlier boxing heroes on public display.”

The fighter acquired his nickname of ‘Iron’ during his schooldays. After being hit over the head when involved in a playground spat he wrapped his school scarf round the wound, held it in place with his school cap and proceeded to his next lesson.

On entering the class he was asked by his teacher to remove the cap.

Seeing the size of the wound, and the fact that young Hague had patched it up himself, the teacher said: “You must be made of iron, lad” - and the name stuck.

He also refused to cry during canings at school, and earned his first boxing purse as a 14-year-old in 1899 when he beat the resident champion in a fairground boxing booth.

He enjoyed early success organising bare knuckle fights on the canal bank in Mexborough, and trained for fights on a diet of chips and beer.

Irish tenor ‘Count’ John MaCormack was such a fan he received blow-by-blow reports by telephone in his dressing room at Covent Garden during performances of Rigoletto.

Hague also served in the First World War and spent the rest of his life in Mexborough.

To pledge, email Neil.mcgregor@doncaster.gov.uk or call contact Neil McGregor on 01302 734 295.