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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Into the Lion's Den

Seventy years after his death, the family of Harold Davidson, the Rector of Stiffkey, is still trying to clear his name. He was accused of misbehaving with the "fallen women" he tirelessly tried to rescue.

At the ensuing church trial, in 1932, only one of the 40 witnesses, Barbara Harris, a 17-year-old prostitute bribed with money and alcohol, testified against him. Nevertheless, the Rector was found guilty of "systematic misbehaviour" and "removed, deposed and degraded" by his nemesis, the Bishop of Norwich. [Link]
His trial was a cause célèbre and spawned a media circus, but it was the story of his bizarre death that interested me most. Having been defrocked, he took a job at Skegness playing the part of "A modern Daniel in the lion's den." Standing in a lion's cage, he preached from the Bible and spoke about the injustice he had suffered. On July 28, 1937, his co-star Freddie grew tired of his act and knocked him to the floor.
The lion then grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and stalked around the small cage shaking the poor Harold back and forth. The audience thinking it was part of the act roared with laughter and therefore it was some time before help was called. Unfortunately it was too late for Harold Davidson and he died from wounds sustained a few days later. [Link]

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