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  • Cornish Mermaid – Half Priest, Half Fish August 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      First the good news. Robert Stephen Hawker (obit 1875) was the eccentric’s eccentric: a vicar who lived most of his life in the wild Cornish parish of Morwenstow. This was a man who hung a mouse for breaking the sabbath, believed that birds were ‘the thoughts of God’ (Beachcombing adores the sentiment) and, yes, […]

    Funny Fairy Stories August 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Funny Fairy Stories

    Beachcombing wants to start this post with an apology. He has been writing madly on fairies the last few days, hoping to get some ‘real’ work done before term begins and while Mrs B and the kids are away at the sea. The result is that he has not had time to deal with emails […]

    Taxis in the Mid Atlantic August 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Taxis in the Mid Atlantic

    Haunting scene from the Battle of the Atlantic

    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid August 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid

    Beach hopes this summer and autumn to offer several obscure mermaid texts from the North Atlantic. However, he could hardly do other than include with the most famous of them all: the Benbecula sighting of c. 1830. He also hopes to shed some more light on this sighting with an obscure second source in September. […]

    Flight in Eleventh-Century England August 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flight in Eleventh-Century England

    As regular readers will know Beachcombing is one of those irritating sceptics, who looks askance at most historical records of the ‘impossible’. But every so often even he has to shake his head and admit that the evidence for the ‘impossible’ is frighteningly good. Take this record from William of Malmesbury’s Deeds of the Kings […]

    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw? August 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw?

    This is an interesting and largely overlooked reference (Frank) to flight from an English newspaper, c. 1650. The newspaper in question, The Moderate, was typically made up of a good many letters from amateur foreign correspondents and one of these came from Warsaw. It would be fascinating to see if there were any other accounts […]

    Dried Cats August 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dried Cats

    In prehistory there were, by definition, no written records. In antiquity there were few. In the Middle Ages few or several. And, then, from the invention of the printing press onwards, in Western Europe at least, the flood of the written word is almost painful. Yet notwithstanding this deluge, incredibly, there are whole facets of […]

    Battle of Maldon and Overheart August 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Battle of Maldon and Overheart

    Beachcombing has a long tradition of screwing up anniversaries – wrong days, wrong months, wrong years… But just for once he thought that he would get things right and offer his readers a story on the right day – 10 August– and hopefully in the right tone. What we have here is a Weird War, […]

    Late (Pregnant) Witch in Devon August 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late (Pregnant) Witch in Devon

    Beachcombing has often tried in this column to date the death of traditional beliefs: be that the death of fairy belief in Ilkley or the death of the werewolf faith in Strasbourg. These things are almost impossible to measure of course. Sources are fragmentary and these kinds of beliefs are in the private world of […]

    Last Human Sacrifice in Europe? August 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Human Sacrifice in Europe?

    Beachcombing has often set a Guinness-Book-of-Records-style competition for the last cavalry charge, the last head hunters or the last execution by blade in the west. And recently an email from the Sword and the Beast got him thinking about the last human sacrifice. SandB who has travelled extensively in eastern parts writes: ‘I take the […]

    Mermaid Sighting in Caithness July 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Sighting in Caithness

    Beachcombing is not, to his regret, a mermaid expert: despite occasional forays into Triton’s territory in previous posts. But he suspects that the following is not a particularly well-known mermaid source. It dates to 1809 and was sent by one Ms Mackay, the daughter of a minister no less, and was sent to the Countess […]

    The Hare that Killed a Hundred Thousand July 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Hare that Killed a Hundred Thousand

    Beachcombing was much struck by some of the comments concerning his Amazon article about the terrifying warrior women of Benin. Several of the examples given by readers were not though of warrior women per se: but of women war-leaders, which is a fascinating phenomenon and one which is certainly more common. Think Joan of Arc, […]

    Self Castrators July 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Self Castrators

    Castration is everywhere in history. The Normans did it to the Sicilians, the Afghans to the British, the Italians to their future opera singers and Heloise’s family did it to Abelard: and, goodness, did Abelard have it coming – a father speaks. But there is a more refined category of testicle removal that is not […]

    Forgotten Anglo-Irish Inventor Anticipates the Modern Age July 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Forgotten Anglo-Irish Inventor Anticipates the Modern Age

    A remarkable piece of dream engineering from the latter half of the eighteenth century, the creation of the obscure but fascinating Richard Lovell Edgeworth (obit 1817), one of those men cursed to have ideas that his day could not possibly understand or produce: an Anglo-Irish Leonoardo da Vinci though with more circumspection.

    Anglo-Saxons in Southern India? July 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Anglo-Saxons in Southern India?

    **Beachcombing dedicates the following to DGM, who has an excellent post on this subject** For those like Beachcombing who lick their lips at descriptions of long and unlikely journeys in antiquity and the middle ages there are few more exciting sentences than this one-liner in some versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In the year 883, […]

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