If we’re not careful we’re going to forget about the Duke of Darnall, so for future generations, it’s time to write about one of Sheffield’s great eccentrics.
His real name was Harry Taylor, who lived on Darnall Road, and a clue about his daily life appeared in the Daily Mirror in 1939.
“Mr Harry Taylor is out of work and ‘deaf and dumb’, but he’s always immaculately dressed. Usually he takes an airing in black morning coat and striped trousers, with a flower in his buttonhole and carrying gloves. His manners are elegant, in keeping with his appearance.”
It appears that Harry lacked the ability to hear or speak all his life. A sign of our shameful past is that he was sacked as a core-maker at a steel works.
“Being ‘deaf and dumb’ proved a great handicap,” said Mr Antcliffe, a relative, “And he lost his job, but for some time he persevered in trying to talk, in the hopes of getting work.
“He made himself popular in the city and for some years shop managers and businessmen have kept him in clothes.”
As Harry grew older, his style of dress became even more colourful, always well-dressed, and carrying a stick or rolled-up umbrella, with monocle, bright bow-tie, bowler hat and spats.
In the 1940s and 1950s, he became known as the Duke of Darnall, with pretensions of grandeur, habiting the Darnall, Attercliffe and Haymarket areas of Sheffield, often taking over traffic control, much to the amusement of passers-by and annoyance of police, who regularly moved him on.
Harry was also referred to as ‘The Burton’s Dummy’, as he could often be found outside Burton’s on Attercliffe Road, or ‘The Toff of Sheffield’.
According to legend, Harry married a ‘deaf and dumb’ lady, and had a daughter. However, it is also said that one of Sheffield’s other eccentrics, Melanie Birch, known as Russian Edna, lodged with him until her tragic death in 1954, found murdered in a public shelter at High Hazels Park.
The date of his death is uncertain, but stories of his exploits can still be found on social media forums, including the taunts he received from cruel children who found him a figure of fun.
This eccentric old gentleman lived on in name, the Andrew’s Bus Company naming a bus after him, and a canal boat called ‘The Duke of Darnall’. Harry has also been the subject of paintings, brought to life in colour, by artists Brian Wilges and John Firminger.
And so, let us not ever forget The Duke of Darnall, a man once loved by Sheffielders.