by Sir Anthony Henry Bull
It was a surprisingly cool day for late May. May 31st 1966. With England gearing up for a World Cup tournament they would go on to win, it was a tense time, an unstable time. People were restless. Two gigs occurred not far from one another in Rutland. The Rutles, the prefab four, were playing The Gutter Snipe in Pikmin Road. The Beatles, the fab four, were playing The Rubbish Dumbwaiter on Planescape Street. Both finished at approximately the same time, and as they did, Rutles fans and Beatles fans filed into the streets in ranks, and met one another somewhere on the corner of Pikmin Road and Dynasty Street. What occurred would make history.
Reports from doctors at the time suggest the number of gut-punches that took place that day make this the largest navel battle in history. People were smacking each other’s bellybuttons for fun. Council cleaners had to sweep the teeth out of the street. The Battle of Rutland will go down in history as one of the most intense and costly fan battles in history.
The Rutles and the Beatles did not get on, and nor did their fans. In a response to John Lennon’s ‘bigger than Jesus’ quote, Dirk McQuickly of The Rutles simply replied “Who the fuck is John Lennon?” and Paul McCartney was once pushed quite aggressively in a club by Barry Wom. Strangely, George Harrison found it quite easy to get on with both sides, sources suggest he was just a really nice guy.
If the bands did not get on, neither did their fans. As they were coming up this never really caused much issue, but by 1966 both bands were well in their pomp in the UK and were making waves across the Atlantic. That fateful day, their popularity, their animosity and their fan armies would come together in a cataclysmic and violent way.
As the two groups made their way down Pikmin Road and Planescape Street, they were destined to meet. Planescape street met up with the junction of Pikmin Road and Dynasty Street. It is here that the battle took place. Two sets of passionate fans met one another, recognised one another, and a standoff occurred. Violence, at this point, was not inevitable. But as with any conflict, it only takes a small catalyst, a tiny pressure on the trigger and it all goes off.
In this case it was Calhoun Ruminan, a son of Irish migrant parents and a dock worker from Liverpool, and a huge Beatles fan. Desperately sucking on an unlit cigarette he turned to the nearest individual smoking and asked for a light. The man he asked, Gavin Prostitute, a milkman from Peterborough and huge Rutles fan, offered him his lighter. He gently teased the spinning wheel onto the flint and the flint popped out and hit Calhoun in the eye. Calhoun then hit Gavin in the eye, and the whole battle began.
Six hundred Great British men and women were killed that day. Well, not killed, they got better. I suppose they were injured, then. Dentists were busy for weeks afterwards, making and fitting prosthetics due to the sheer number of teeth that were knocked out. So many blocks were knocked off, those blocks were used to build the Rutland Community Library and Naturist Centre, the only naked UK library at the time. But scars of that day still blight the community.
“Some sod ran off with my T-shirt and I never got it back,” says Cybil Harsha, a Rutles fan and veteran of the Battle of Rutland.
“I lost my dad and my brother.” Says Chadley Wickes, “I found them again after the kerfuffle, but I was without them for quite some time. I only narrowly escaped the trouble so I just sat in a café and had a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie.”
“I dropped a pound note.” Says Dirk Nasty of the Rutles, who also got involved, “But it’s okay, because I nicked some other guys wallet and he had a tenner in there, rich sod.”
No one truly knows when the scars will heal. Memories of that fateful day in 1966 still linger, and measures have been made to ensure it would never happen again. It was the fanwar to end all fanwars. At least until Playstation and Xbox some 35 years later. Those, they say, who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It was, however, a different kind of warfare. Electronics replaced fists and psychological trickery replaced punching people in the gut. But still the fan violence continues, and that is why today we remember with reverence those who gave their lives at the Battle of Rutland.
I am Sir Anthony Henry Bull and I am Past It.