A BLIND GAMESTER.
John Metcalfe, much better known by the nickname of blind Jack of
Knaresborough, was a celebrity at Harrowgate during the first
quarter of the present century. This extraordinary man had been
deprived of his eyesight at so early a period that he retained no
idea of either light or vision; but his remaining faculties were
so actively employed that few persons in the full enjoyment of
sight have surpassed him in the execution of undertakings, which
seemed particularly to require the exercise of that faculty. He
traversed the neighbourhood without a guide or companion;
surveyed tracts of country to plan and lay down roads, where none
had ever been before; contracted for the building of bridges, and
fulfilled his contracts without the assistance of another person,
either as architect or superintendent of the work; became a guide
to those who, possessing sight, could not find their way across
the neighbouring moors when covered with deep falls of snow and
impenetrable fogs; rode well, and followed the hounds with a zeal
and spirit equal to that of the most dashing horseman in the
field, and, finally, played at many games of chance, or skill,
with a knowledge and ingenuity that enabled him to come off
victorious in many contests with persons eager to try his ability
or to prove their own.
Such a man was sure to attract notice in any place or
neighbourhood, but particularly at a place of general resort.
Besides, he possessed a facetious mode of talking, and on several
occasions exercised a practical sort of wit, which was equally
certain of gaining patronage. Visitors of the highest rank
treated him with kindness, and even familiarity; and as he never
forgot himself, or trespassed upon those who thus favoured him,
he continued in fashion as long as he lived, and terminated his
singular career at more than 80 years of age.