Last week I rambled gleefully about the cool stuff you can discover about earlier incarnations of yourself (i.e. people with the same name as you) in the Papers Past archive of the National Library of New Zealand website. Through this genius repository of old news stories I found out many things about previous James Griffins who had committed heinous crimes or died in newsworthy ways.
But it wasn't just bad stuff I found out about the other versions of me. No, within these archives there are stories of courage and sporting prowess, stories that make me proud to share the same name as these James Griffins of yesteryear.
For starters, not all the death and destruction that has followed me through the ages was my fault. If one believes the Evening Post of January 25, 1923 there has been at least one occasion where I was the innocent victim. Appearing as a witness before the Magistrate's Court, with my "face and right hand ... heavily bandaged" I gave evidence how a surly villain by the name of Richard Gill assaulted me when I refused to allow him to board a ship called the Marama.
Mr Gill, it seems, "was always trying to stir up trouble on the wharf" over "labour questions" but when he messed with me, claiming he had a right to be on the Marama to "look for employment" he sure messed with the wrong James Griffin. According to "me", when Gill and two of his mates had a go at me "I would have beaten the three of them, if they had given me fair play" but instead they "kicked and pushed me until I was knocked out". Dirty scoundrels, resorting to kicking and pushing in the course of a fight! Gill deserved every minute of the 14 days' imprisonment with hard labour he received.
In another story in the Evening Post, dated February 9, 1878 and entitled "Distressing Catastrophy" I am totally the hero. This is an otherwise sorry tale of "a melancholy accident, by which two fine young girls, verging on womanhood, lost their lives by drowning ... in the River Yarra" after a boat had "turned bottom upwards". The death toll, however, would have been higher, had not "a young man named James Griffin, stripping himself of his outer clothing, gallantly jumped into the river and swam as fast as he could to the boat. On reaching it he put forth his full strength, and swimming only with his legs, pushed the boat to the Richmond shore." Go me!
I have also been active, across the years, in several sporting codes. The Grey River Argus of October 7, 1910 talks of my recently ended tenure as the Secretary of the Grey Tennis Club and the fact that I "had done good work for the club" and that "general regret was felt that business pressure could not allow [me] to continue in office".
And the Ashburton Guardian of July 19, 1909 tells me that "as a result of communications by cablegram, a match has been arranged to be boxed in Christchurch in August between James Griffin and Arthur Cripps, of New South Wales". The Otago Witness of July 21 describes this as a meeting of "two champions". Nowhere can I find the result of this bout, but I bet I kicked Arthur's convict butt, because the Star, of March 23, 1906, carried a story of how "Maorilander Jim Griffin ... made his second appearance in the professional ring" at the Sydney National Sporting Club. And what a "hard hitter and a pretty fighter" I was as I took apart a "husky young blacksmith" named Sydney Russell, with blows that were "clean and crisp ... [causing] a pleasant, meaty sound ... from Russell when they landed." The fight itself sounds quite exciting, especially the bit where I "whirled [my] fists like a propeller out of water ... so fast that Russell was temporarily deprived of light and groped about in a species of gloaming, bashing at his enemy's stomach, till the Maorilander went down crash".
Luckily "the agile Maorilander sprang suddenly to his feet" and "was saved by the gong". After that my "stock was sinking, and men who had laid 6 to 3 against Russell were now offering even money against him". Little did these fools know that my best was yet to come, when in the fifth I "let fly a whole book of Euclid about his thinking-box" and Russell "lay down - licked".
After that awesome victory I'm sure by the time I fought Arthur Cripps I'd have overcome the weakness the Star pointed out in my boxing style, wherein I'd "chop down on to his man, and some of Australia's professional pugs have frightfully thick skulls, whereby James Griffin stands to get badly damaged about his smiting machinery" to punch Arthur's lights out.
Papers Past - way more fun than googling yourself.