On Mile End Row, opposite Great Assembly Hall in Mile End, open air meetings were held every Sunday morning by various “Saviors of Humanity”, such as the Salvation Army, Christian Evidence Society, Free Thought advocates, Socialists, etc. Among them, weather permitting, was always Comrade Leggatt, with his small collapsible platform loaded with literature, which he distributed or sold after his “sermon”. A city dustman, or rubbish collector, he was a splendid orator, although with very limited education. Every Sunday he talked on a different subject. Quite frequently he offered analysis and criticism of the subjects his competitors on the “row” had talked on a week before. This would so antagonize the adherents of his competitors that they would try to disturb his gatherings with heckling.
“Hey you, you’re forever a free lover. You don’t believe in marriage. You just live with your wife!”
Leggatt would quickly reply:
“Yes, it’s so, but you believe in marriage, yet you live with the wife next door.”
Another would shout:
“Hey, you blooming Anarchist, you infidel, you’ll go to hell when you die!”
“Well” he would reply with a smile “We don’t know much about the hereafter, but I’d rather be in hell with Voltaire, Paine, Ingersoll, and other philosophers and learned men and women free-thinkers, than be in Heaven with idiots, prostitutes, criminals and tyrants, who were promised heaven if they repent and pray to God. The former can make heaven out of hell, but the latter will make hell out of heaven.”
At times, when he was sarcastically inclined, he would imitate the tolling of a factory bell:
“Mugs mugs mugs go-to-work go-to-bed go-to-work go-to-bed from-your-cradle till-you’re-dead.”
He carried on his propaganda talks for many years, on Sunday mornings in Mile End, and in the afternoon in Shepherd’s Bush. It is remarkable to what extent free speech was permitted in London. Leggatt, for example, attacked the Royal family, the clergy, the capitalists. The Army were “legal murders”, the Navy were “pirates”. He even roasted the Police, although a big London Bobby stood near him smiling. Leggatt later procured a better city job and his ire cooled.
From: Beyond the horizon : The story of a radical emigrant by Thomas B. Eyges. Boston: Group Free Society, 1944..