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  • Victorian Cannabis Use February 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Cannabis Use

    Cannabis became illegal in the United Kingdom once the 1925 Dangerous Drug Acts came into force in 1928. However, before that there was a long tradition of ‘hemp’ smoking in the country: mainly for medicinal reasons. Regrettably we know little about British hemp-smokers. Victorian interest in opium often reached almost hysterical levels: but interest in […]

    Dying from Fright: Women and the Weak Minded? February 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dying from Fright: Women and the Weak Minded?

    A lazy morning and so Beach inspired by his recent post of a girl who died of fear decided to look a little deeper. How many people really die because they are frightened? To carry out a half decent experiment he surveyed the British press from January 1850 to December 1859. He ignored probable urban […]

    Bogey Lanterns February 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bogey Lanterns

    The whole question of where pumpkin heads or Jack o’ Lanterns come from is fascinating. No one has been able to drag the date convincingly back beyond the nineteenth century and the point of origin is very generally: ‘Britain’ or ‘Ireland’ with constant references to ‘the Celtic areas’, with the implication that the tradition is […]

    Worst Career: the Knocker Up February 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Worst Career: the Knocker Up

    He knocks at doors wheer new-born babs Hev kaled him throo t’ black heawrs o’ dark; He knocks wheer deoth stalks in an’ grabs, Or age hes thrown fooak eawt o’ wark. He knows heaw mony raps ‘ll rouse Young lusty Dick, or sleepy Nan. He knocks ’em eawt o’ t’ second snooze, ‘Rat-tat, rat-tat, […]

    The Gandhi-Hitler Letters February 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Gandhi-Hitler Letters

    Love or hate Gandhi, and God knows there are plenty of reasons for both, there is something remarkable about this abortive correspondence between he and Hitler (see below the post): ‘correspondence’ might not be the right word as Hitler never wrote back. The first letter dates to late July of 1939 when the world was […]

    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)? February 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)?

    This is a one of these stories where the problem is not with the facts but with interpretation. As it involves human facts it is not a very happy story: be warned a little girl dies. We are in 1871 in Ashton-under-Lyne just outside Manchester. Mr F. Price is the coroner and he held his […]

    The Matrimony Business February 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Matrimony Business

    You are living in the middle of the nineteenth century and, man or woman, you have failed to get your mate for life. Perhaps you regret, saying, ‘no’ to the third son of a duke: or perhaps you regret asking twelve daughters of men in ecclesiastical offices. The point is that, tick toc, time is running […]

    Red Fairies #4: Added in Translation? February 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Red Fairies #4: Added in Translation?

    Perhaps the real key to the Red Fairies problem is language. As we have established they are referred to as y Gwilliaid Cochion Mowddwy in Pennant our first extensive source. Let’s work backwards. Mowddwy refers to their region, modern Mawddwy. No problem there. Cochion refers to a deep red colour. Again no problem or controversy. (Some […]

    Red Fairies #3: Do NOT Use the Chimney February 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Red Fairies #3: Do NOT Use the Chimney

    One curious folklore tradition survives about ‘the red fairies’. This is David Pennant our earliest extensive source. The traditions of the country respecting these banditti, are still extremely strong. I was told that they were so feared, that travellers did not dare go the common road to Shrewsbury, but passed over the summits of the […]

    Red Fairies #2: A People Apart? February 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Red Fairies #2: A People Apart?

    One of the most curious aspects of the Red Fairy legends in the belief that the Red Fairies survived up until the nineteenth century as a race apart in the locality. This was elevated to high pseudo-science. Here is a passage from The British Race (1909) In Merioneth there is a red-haired, ruddy-skinned people, with […]

    Red Fairies #1: The Fairy Bandits? February 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Red Fairies #1: The Fairy Bandits?

    Imagine the scene: 1555, Lewis Owen, vice-chamberlain is passing down the road with a small bodyguard and his son-in-law, on the edge of Powys in central Wales. As they pass down the track, they come to several felled trees across their way in the midst of ‘thick woods’. Are the men anxious? Perhaps not at […]

    Index Biography #26: Prize a book January 31, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Index Biography #26: Prize a book

    ***James got this… scroll down for the answer*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We […]

    Robin and the Sermon January 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Robin and the Sermon

    When Beach was at university he lived about six floors up just under the roof of a marvelous Georgian building. Every day a bird used to visit his room and fly around inside impressing all Beach’s friends and casual visitors who thought that he’d turned into a Celtic saint. The real reason for the bird’s […]

    The Bogle and the Gamekeeper January 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Bogle and the Gamekeeper

    Regular readers will know that Beach has a pronounced weakness for the collision of the supernatural and the legal system: be this in Africa, Ireland or Britain. Here is a lovely case from Scotland in 1889. Five miners were charged yesterday, Falkirk Sheriff Court, with poaching on the lands of Mr William Forbes of Culendar, […]

    The Mystery Footstep January 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Mystery Footstep

    A busy day, so a good and, let’s say, credible story from Llanfillin in Wales. This tale also involve a favourite Beachcombian theme, which cannot be revealed to the end without ruining the story.  An English man goes to live in Wales and is warned that the house he wished to rent is haunted. The […]

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