In August 1802 a small child, thought to be four-years-old, was found wandering near the market town of Fareham, Hampshire. Shoeless and dressed only in rags, the boy appeared to have no knowledge of his life prior to being found and that his name was John, was all that could be coaxed out of the him.
Enquiries were made as to his origins but none were found, so Henry and Margaret Stickland kindly offered to take the boy in. The Stickland's were blessed with three daughters, but no son's, so they proudly raised the habitually silent lad as their own. Mr.Stickland was a reputable maker of fine canes which he sold to the gentry to make ends meet, whilst Mrs. Stickland and her daughters, helped supplement their meagre income by taking in laundry.
John soon became a worthy apprentice to Mr.Stickland in the cane making trade and his contributions towards the family were notable. For not only had he become an excellent runner, he was regularly filling the family cooking pot with the odd pheasant or two, after finding his naturally quiet nature, made for an exceptionally good poacher.
However, this settled existence was not to last and as he approached his 15th year he was caught setting traps. John shamefully ran away and, although under-age, enlisted in the army to join the battle against Napoleon. John then spent the next thirty years in service, fighting the French, the Mahratta in India and finally with the British Auxiliary Legion against the Carlist's in Spain.
During his time in the army he married Amy Grant and had three children. He was wounded twice, though received a third, crippling blow when his wife Amy and their children, all died of cholera during his time in India, leaving John with a permanent scowl and a deeply ingrained cynicism.
Returning to England in the early 40's, a chance meeting with George (Butch) Butcher brought him hope and with help from 'Butch' and his associate Thomas 'Saltbox' Archer, he soon went into business buying and selling walking sticks. Little did he realise this was to bind him to a life of petty crime that came with being associated with known thugs, pickpockets, swindlers, and whores.
Now living in a garret in Whitechapel, John's dept to Saltbox perpetuates, never to be paid off. For life under the wing of the formidable Archers never comes cheap, or without consequence. Recently called to attend court as witness to a theft of a kingsman, John (being drunk and unruly), was found to be in contempt of court and sent to Newgate prison for a month.
Upon release, 'Sticky' (as he is now known), once again took-up his old trade of cane making. Forced to pay Saltbox sixpence a week for trading on "his" streets, he can be found in the centre of town and the adjoining streets. Attempting to earn enough each day, to maintain his business and afford the paltry morsel of food, needed to stave off the pangs of hunger.
At the end of every day, before laying down to sleep upon his meagre pallet, he cast's a jaundice eye over his surroundings. As he looks through the cracked window pane, his eyes rest upon his own gaunt visage looking back at him. The reflection pains him to see and all the poor decisions he has ever made, along with the familiar faces of the deceased, come back to haunt him. He reaches for the bottle to once again drown his sorrows, regretfully uttering "if only, if only.....".