The man who fired a torpedo down a High Street

Europe goes to the polls next week, but election fever sometimes seems in short supply. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Author Jeremy Clay tells the tale of a 19th Century election rally and the drunken inventor who fired a torpedo down his own High Street.

The man they came to know as “Wild” Cunningham gazed ruefully down the main street of his home town at a scene of devastation. Wrecked buildings. A flattened shop. Debris littered all around. And a smoke trail, like an accusing finger, leading right back to where he stood.

Perhaps, on reflection, he had gone too far.

Patrick Cunningham was an inventor who had built a torpedo for the US Navy. It was 17ft long, and packed with enough explosive to do serious damage to a ship. Or, as it turned out, a High Street.

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