March 14, 2013
‘The Garibaldi of detectives’
This week marks the anniversary of both the birth and the death of Detective Jerome Caminada. He was born on 15 March 1844 in the slums of Manchester and he died, almost seventy years later, on 10 March 1914. He enjoyed an extraordinary life, rising from a lowly police constable to become the city’s first Detective Superintendent. At his memorial service, his close friend, Judge Parry, summed up his remarkable career:
‘Manchester has lost a great character and a good citizen in Jerome Caminada. I knew him, for we were in the same business – the business of maintaining law and order– thirty years ago, and I saw enough of his methods to recognise his sterling value as a man and a detective. In the latter class he stood alone – he was a genius. He knew criminals and their ways as a zoologist knows the lower animals whose habits and habitats he makes it his business of life to record faithfully. He was a man of resource, energy, and initiative, and he never stultified himself by a petty adherence to office regulations. He was the Garibaldi of detectives.’
At the end of his moving speech he talked about Caminada’s compassion and sense of charity for those less fortunate than himself. Throughout the trials of his work, he never lost his faith in human nature and took time to give those who had been forced into a life of crime by poverty a second chance. The judge described his own experience of working with the detective with his slow sense of humour and exhorted someone to write ‘a proper record’ of his friend’s life and character ‘in due course’.
Next year it will be the centenary of the death of Jerome Caminada, one of the finest, yet often forgotten, Victorian detectives and to mark that event, I will be bringing his story to life and writing that ‘record’ of his achievements. When I visited his grave for the first time, the thought of delving into his past seemed strange and a little uncomfortable but, now that I’m getting to know him through my research, I feel privileged to be able to publish the life of this fascinating man and his unique experiences in the colourful world of Victorian Manchester.
The Real Sherlock Holmes will be published by Pen and Sword Books in March 2014