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  • The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts April 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts

    The slave trade to America was banned in 1807, but slaves were still brought to America illegally in the decades that followed. The last known slave ship that brought slaves across the Atlantic was the Clotilde in 1859. What is extraordinary about the Clotilde’s journey is that the young slaves who were sold in Alabama, […]

    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?! March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?!

    There is lots of enjoyable nonsense about the Welsh and the Romans. The medieval Welsh genealogies are full of supposed Welsh connections to Caesar and other luminaries of the Empire. If memory serves correctly Gerald of Wales claims that the Welsh of his time sported Roman hairstyles (or was it their clean beardless faces that […]

    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer? March 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer?

    OK, OK there were no personal computers in 1884. But the following ‘Oracle’ sounds as if it was mapping out, imaginatively, the territory that computers would make for themselves. We are in the UK: our source the Leighton Buzzard Obs, 1 Jan 1884. Dr. Lloyd, the medical officer of St. Giles’s Workhouse, attended before Sir […]

    Killer Cameras March 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Killer Cameras

    When many years ago Beach travelled in Sub-Saharan Africa he was warned by anxious parents, and relatives not to take photographs of the natives. They might believe that their soul had been taken. Where does this idea come from? And did anyone anywhere ever actually believe it? Well, a run through sources suggests that the […]

    Last King Killing February 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Last King Killing

    Armchair anthropologists (such as this blogger) often thrill over the stories of mutilated and better still murdered kings and the rituals described by Frazer and his heirs in the tropics and reconstructed (ahem imagined) in European history. The king is the land, and as he becomes old and frail he must be sacrificed so life […]

    Late Witch Ducking in Bedfordshire October 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Witch Ducking in Bedfordshire

    Just to put the following events in perspective. The last witch certainly executed in England – there are some subsequent doubtful cases – dates to 1682: the last witch executed in Scotland dates to 1727. In 1735 witchcraft ceased to be a supernatural crime in England. Yet, 12 July 1737, The Monthly Chronologer reports the […]

    Early Bionic Ear August 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Bionic Ear

    Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (obit 1676) was a seventeenth-century German author with a penchant for fantasy. Here is an invention dreamt up for one of his novels. In Simplicius Simplicissimus (published 1668) he wrote this extraordinary passage. And when I had fancies, and lay awake many a night thinking how might contrive new finds […]

    Late Storm Bellringing May 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Storm Bellringing

    Enjoy this short extract from a Sheffield newspaper about a folk practice in Devon in south-west England: 28 July 1899. Bells it will be remembered were for the supernatual like alcohol for bacteria: they drove away witches, fairies and, of course, storms… There is a curious survival in that pretty, quiet little south country place, […]

    Jacob of Edessa’s America March 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Jacob of Edessa's America

    Many readers of Beachcombing will know Beach’s fellow bizarrist, Esoterx, who writes fascinating posts about ancient, medieval and modern history and in Beach’s humble opinion has the best and wittiest headlines on the internet: a recent discussion of Hellenic religion was called, for example, ‘Muppet Theology’. Often Beach knows Esoterx’s sources, as the two share […]

    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age? January 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Struell Wells, Ireland: Pagan Customs in the Modern Age?

    Exciting article by Finbar McCormick from 2009, one that somehow passed Beach by, ‘Struell Wells’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (2009), 45-62. FM begins with a careful description of a nineteenth-century Irish water shrine, the Struell Wells (Downpatrick). This shrine is credited through St Patrick with the power of curing. Crowds would […]

    Great War Organ Gun November 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Great War Organ Gun

    The organ gun, also known as the ribadulequin, was one of those crude innovations in military technology that shifted humanity towards the ‘elegant’ killing of the machine gun arc. Organs were basically guns with many barrels and one trigger and were as liable to explode in the gunner’s face as to blast away the opposition. Beach recently […]

    Telephony and Music: the Perils of Modernity October 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Telephony and Music: the Perils of Modernity

    In 1876 the telephone was born after a half dozen inventors had scrambled for the right formula for years: who could forget poor old Philip Reiss with his beer barrel, sausage skin, kinitting needle and two cups of mercury? The telephone was, in fact, one of those technologies that took off remarkably quickly and was […]

    Bathing Mystery at Lahinch October 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bathing Mystery at Lahinch

    In 1892 Laurence Gomme gave a presidential address to the Folklore Society. Gomme was particularly interested in the parallels between British (by which was meant at this date British and Irish) folklore and the folklore of the ‘savages’. If he could snap some branches from the golden bough while proving that the Aborigines and the […]

    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941 October 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941

    This blog has long taken pleasure in noting late cases of witchcraft from Britain and Ireland. From time to time Beach announces, in arrogance, that this case or other was absolutely the latest: just last month it was an assault on a witch from 1924 from Devon. However, the following remarkable case seems to make […]

    The First Automatic Door Bell in History? October 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The First Automatic Door Bell in History?

    ***Thanks to the person who sent this in. Sorry I can’t find your name now!*** It is the middle of the first century AD and you need holy solace from priests in your native Alexandria. You head down the dingy streets of the city as the sun is just breaking and then turn out in […]

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