The Childe of Hale, John Midleton (1578-1623), was an astonishing 9ft 3in tall; his hands were each 18 inches long. Originally a farm labourer, he was hired by Sir Gilbert Ireland – Lord of the Manor of Hale (a village just to the south of Liverpool) – as his personal bodyguard. The King, James I, sent for him and set him to wrestle the King’s Champion. Midleton won, taking the 20 guinea gold prize, but was set upon and robbed of it on his long walk home from London. There is a lifesize wooden statue of Midleton in Hale village, and a painting of him in Brasenose College, Oxford.
Not all seafarers were men: 19 year old ‘Arthur’ Douglas served on the privateer Resolution for three months before being discovered to be a girl; ‘Jack’ Roberts was really Jane Roberts, a grog-swilling, tobacco-chewing crew member of the slaver Anne.
Lottie Dodd (from Bebington, Wirral) was a remarkable sportswoman. At the age of 15, in 1886, she won her first Wimbledon tennis title – she won six in all. She won the British Women’s Golf Championship in 1904, played hockey for England, and won the silver medal in archery at the Olympics in 1908.