Charging Thunder

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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Charging Thunder was Remanded in Custody

Charging Thunder was Remanded in Custody There were probably a fair number of hangovers in Glasgow on the morning of Friday, the first of January 1892. One of these belonged to a twenty-four year-old Lakota Indian named Charging Thunder. To make matters worse, he awoke in a prison cell, and had to make an appearance in the Eastern Police Court to answer for the assault which he had perpetrated on George Crager on the afternoon before. The case was continued until Monday morning, owing to the fact that Mr Crager was still nursing a sore head of his own, although in this instance alcohol was not the immediate cause. When the case was called on Monday morning, Charging Thunder was remanded in custody, and his case was remitted to the Sheriff Court.

When the case came before the Sheriff on the 12th of January, Charging Thunder pled guilty through an interpreter, who would either have been John Shangrau or else Crager himself. In mitigation, Charging Thunder claimed that his lemonade had been ‘mistakenly’ spiked with whisky! He was however unable to identify the pub in which he had been drinking. The Sheriff sentenced him to thirty days imprisonment in Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie prison.

Several Glasgow newspapers carried accounts of the hearing on the following day, 13th January. Quite remarkably, Charging Thunder was not the only American Indian whose brush with the law was reported on that day. Running Wolf, from Mexican Joe’s show had also fallen foul of the authorities, and his hearing, on a charge of assault, also received attention in the newspapers on the same date.

The now semi-derelict building in Tobago Street which housed both the Eastern Division Police Office and the Eastern Police Court. Charging Thunder endured an uncomfortable weekend here at New Year 1892. The now semi-derelict building in Tobago Street

On a brighter note, John Shangrau, the mixed-blood Lakota interpreter with the show, was married in Glasgow to Miss Lillie Orr, the daughter of a Liverpool ship’s captain, on the 4th of January 1892.

On Monday the 15th of January, Buffalo Bill unveiled what were billed as Stupendous Additional Attractions at a special matinee to an audience of invited guests. These would be an integral part of the entertainment during the final weeks of the Glasgow season. An advert in The Bailie for Wednesday, January 27th 1892 read:


From Stanley’s Darkest Africa, in conjunction with the American Indian, for the first time in the World’s History; also LOCKHART’S HERD of BURMESE ELEPHANTS, the most perfectly Trained Animals of their kind. Cowboys will Ride Wild Texas Steers. Sabre Exercise by Detachment of English Lancers.’

It was a turning point in the history of the Wild West show. Until now, Cody’s entourage had been a Wild West outfit pure and simple, but as ever cultural interaction was a two-way process, and new elements were gradually brought in. In the following season, in London, Cossacks were introduced, and in 1893 Buffalo Bill unveiled his Congress of Rough Riders in Chicago. By the time that Colonel Cody would return to Scotland in 1904, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World was a highly cosmopolitan entertainment indeed. It was a natural concomitant, however, that from this point on there was a distinct tendency for the show to degenerate into just another circus.

For the Indians, the Africans, and the elephants, this strange new world must have seemed like the phases of a surreal nightmare.

The innovations unveiled to the Glasgow public represent an important stage in the overall evolution of the show, but in the immediate context they were in part intended to camouflage Cody’s departure. The awful Glasgow winter weather, exacerbated by a national epidemic of influenza, had got the better of him, and in the last week of January, he sailed home, to take a much needed-break before the 1892 London season got underway.

With the advent of the ‘Stupendous Additional Attractions’, the Wild West establishment must have seemed like a very different place to Charging Thunder when he finally got out of Barlinnie on the 11th of February.

The crowds continued to turn out in vast numbers right up until the last night, Saturday the 27th, when young Johnny Baker took the parting salute, in the absence of Buffalo Bill.

The company then proceeded to break up in stages, ‘Professor’ Lockhart and his elephants departing the scene more or less immediately. But it would be mid-April before the last remnants of the entourage had left Glasgow.

Those Indians who remained behind, pending the London 1892 season, had time on their hands, and were a more visible presence than ever on the streets of city. They ventured far and wide, as often as not the worse for drink.

One of the final acts of the company was a charity football match at Celtic Park played by the cowboys against the Brandon Club. The final score does not appear to be recorded, but it is known that the cowboys lost.

The end of Glasgow’s Wild West trail came for a party of twenty-four Indians, which included Kicking BearShort Bull, and Charging Thunder, when they sailed on the 4th of March on board the S. S. Corean. They embarked at the Mavisbank Quay, whose central point is still marked by the Southern Rotunda.

No sooner had the ship berthed at Brooklyn Harbour on the 18th, when a corporal and three troupers marched on board, and arrested the eleven ghost dance prisoners.

They were sent for a further period of imprisonment at Fort Sheridan, while the other thirteen were promptly dispatched back to Pine Ridge reservation. Which of these represented the worse fate is a matter of open debate.

Back in Scotland, one of the strangest concert parties ever seen undertook a brief tour of selected towns in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. This consisted of the Cowboy Band, which provided the music at the Wild West show, the Alberger Troupe of Tyrolean Vocalists, and about a dozen of the Indians. The last-named performed war dances, and also (what was billed as) the ghost dance which had brought tragedy to Wounded Knee only the previous winter.

The “Wild West” End.

You bet we reckon Colonel Cody
By this time quite a Glasgow body,
His term of fourteen weeks, or so,
In Duke Street he with plucky “go”
Has undergone, and so is free
Straight westward to go to tea.

To keen-eyed shots – no joke if foes! –
Buck-jumpers working hard for “throws,”
Swart Indians, Cowboys, buffaloes,
And “Bill” brave captain of the crew
We raise our hat, and wave “Adieu.”

From: The Bailie for Wednesday, March 2nd, 1891


Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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