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A few of the athletic feats achieved by Joe Darby,
Achilles of the Black Country

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: August 05, 2004

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With the Olympic Games almost upon us, it's a great time to remember the incredible physical feats that the world's greatest ever stand spring jumper, Joe Darby, is famous for. This mighty atom from the Black Country was born in Netherton on August 6, 1861, one hundred and forty-three years ago, and the following are a few of the more notable feats credited to his name.

'Jump off brick on end, cleared 14 feet without knocking the brick down; off brick over seven chairs, without knocking brick down; off brick over chair, alighting on a second brick, then over a bar 5 feet 6 inches, without knocking brick down; able to clear half-dozen chairs with a jump taken off an ordinary glass tumbler filled with water without spilling a drop; over 10 chairs, placed together, in one jump; over two chairs placed 28 feet apart, standing start; over an ordinary chair placed on top of a table, at third jump with ankles tied together; jump over chair on to a man's face whilst lying on the ground and off again without injury; and jumping over twenty chairs placed 11 feet apart in 20 successive jumps, and in the 21st jump clearing a horse between 15 and 16 hands high.'

He was also adept at trick jumps, and could jump on to the surface of water in a tank and out again, simply wetting the soles of his shoes. That this jump involved a double spring is proved by the fact that he would jump up to the water a distance of 5 feet and then clear the tank, landing six feet beyond it.

'One backward spring jump 12 feet 11 inches, achieved September 14, 1891; one forward spring jump, 14 feet 9 inches, achieved September 19, 1890; one forward spring jump (without weights) twelve feet one and a half inches, achieved May 28, 1890; one stand high jump (with ankles tied) 6 feet, at the Church cricket ground, June 14, 1892; one high jump, after 2 spring jumps, six feet five and a half inches.'

On February 5, 1892, Joe Darby cleared a full size English billiard table length-wise minus the cushions, and, after two jumps, taking off a solid block of wood raised four inches, at Roland's Circus, Wolverhampton. Both these feats were performed for £100 bet, the referee at the event being Mr Edward Pike, the official representative of the "Sporting Life & Sporting Chronicle."

'Two forward spring jumps, 28 feet, September 19, 1890; three forward spring jumps, 41 feet 7 inches at Westminster Aquarium, November 5, 1888; three forward spring jumps (barefoot), 40 feet 11 inches at Bloxwich, July 11, 1891; five forward spring jumps, with weights, 76 feet three inches on Dudley Castle Grounds, May 28, 1890; seven forward spring jumps, with weights, 32 yards 4 inches at Morfield Grounds, Failsworth, Lancashire, July 2, 1887; ten forward spring jumps, 137 feet 7 inches, August 19, 1889; and seventeen forward spring jumps, 81 yards 1 foot and 6 inches on Netherton Cricket Ground, September 18, 1889. The previous record for 20 jumps was 79 yards, 6 inches. This distance was beaten by J. Darby by 7 feet in 17 jumps.'

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