Who were the Old Pair and how far did their exploits and high-jinxs stretch?
The Old Pair certainly felt that they had the Freedom of The City although not in the tradtional sense.
The Royal Cornwall Gazette first mentions the ‘Old Pair’ in 1843, where they ‘Once again have commenced shaving the mane and tails of horses’. It may be their first mention in the newspaper, but they are certainly known before. From the theft of a picnic, to the removal of shop shutters and gates, the Old Pair were certainly blamed for many things, but seemingly never caught for their actions. Stretching west to Camborne; to Truro; and North to Padstow, their continued pretty crime and nuisance is met with despair in The Cornish Telegraph in 1858:
‘St Columb Old Pair. — It has been thought for some years that this band or society, which was formerly the terror of the neighbourhood, was extinct, but…there is still a branch or root of the society remaining.’
In 1870, a short excerpt from the Cornubian and Redruth Times gives one clue to a potential identity, in a mention of ‘Edward John Williams… a member of a gang of youngsters who call themselves the ‘Old Pair’ He is in front of the judge for breaking the window of a pub and assaulting the landlord, he was fined “23s expenses, or 14 days.’
Articles from 1878 place the Old Pair as disrupting town politics and political proceedings in St Columb. At this time we get a clue to their names in a letter of complaint about their disturbances written in to the Royal Cornwall Gazette, in 1868, naming them as Messrs Allanson and Northey. The Old Pair clearly made an impact on town politics, when a comment was published in 1905, calling the Old Pair, probably satirically, ‘an old governing body [of] St Columb’.
We may gain some clues into their later, adult lives, in two unrelated notes to the Royal Cornwall Gazette. The first in 1879, and sent unsigned, mentions them as “former parsons, doctors and lawyers, wine bibbers, republicans and other sinners.” In 1901, written by An Old Farmer: ‘One was a schoolmaster, the second a lawyer’s clerk, third a goldsmith, fourth a painter and as to the fifth I have lost sight of his name and occupation.’
Their final mentions are in late 1908 and early 1909, when they write into the Royal Cornwall Gazette themselves, requesting a public invite be sent out to all former St Columbites, to reconvene for the upcoming Royal County Show, they offer to donate £2 towards a celebration. The letter gives a full address in Pennsylvania, America, where they say they have been receiving the Royal Cornwall Gazette for 35 years. Their last mention were two letters from them, published shortly afterwards; One signs off ‘ST COLUMB OLD PAIR’ with the same Pennsylvania address; the second signs off ‘FORMERLY ONE OF THE OLD PAIR’
It is notable that the Old Pair were notorious enough for this name to be used in the wider community, as a point of mirth or a slur, if you name-called someone as linked to them.
Whoever they were, and how many there were, it seems their identities were well known in their own communities, but they escaped being formally named.
Truro during the period in which The Old Pair would have roamed the streets.