Brummie Salesman Wins Battle Of Waterloo

The Legend.

Massively outnumbered by Napoleon, Wellington outmanoeuvred The Little Corporal. Glory in a Belgian field which so hugely, thankfully, changed the course of history.

I visited this place many years ago. It wasn’t even sign-posted. Nor any landmark visitor centre in sight.

It reminded me of wandering onto the Runnymede riverside site of the Magna Carta signing. Mortified to find nothing but an unguarded pagoda. Built by American lawyers. The shame.

Still. With both passing key anniversaries this week, times have caught up.

When I was south of Brussels, even the locals weren’t too sure of where to guide me.

Not a problem back in 1815 for an enterprising button rep from Birmingham.

Oh I so wish this story from Sunday 18 June that year was true.

Mist swirling, cut-off from his men, Wellington caught fleeting sight of a lone horseman among the incessant rifle fire. Hoping this could be the man to send a vital message to the critical flank, he beckoned him closer.

When they met, the rider (known as the “cob-man”, cob being a common term for a particular horse at that time) allegedly thrust his business card into The Iron Duke’s hand.

The chap was a travelling salesman from Birmingham’s famed Jewellery Quarter. Gilded buttons prized by soldiers was his game. The Duke of Wellington is said to have replied to his pitch;

“An order for Blinks and Blinks? I am afraid not, but would you do me the service of riding to that gentleman there and telling him to refuse his right flank”

The buttoneer duly obliged and the rest, as they say, is history.


Well, did the Duke (born Arthur Wellesley) actually enjoy such encounter? Was the Brummagem cobman really selling sorely-needed replacement buttons on the battlefield? Did he truly get offered a good job in the Royal Mint as a result once back home?

I hope so.

Less ambulance-chaser, more knowing where your customers will be when they’ll be in greatest need, and so beat your competition.

A wonderful tale with which to regale your sales troops with this week. A salesman saves the day. Right place right time. You never know what might happen when you enter the fray…

blinksandblinks 1815businesscard

The actual business card?

And as a footnote, how about this superb quote from the formidable, world-changing Industrial Revolutionary, Matthew Boulton. Local lad and first customer of the Birmingham Assay Office the day it opened, also in 1815;

“excellence rather than cheapness should be our principle”


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