Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Irish News: Lady Cyclist, Fiery Meteor, & Death from Laughing

For this Sepia Saturday, the inspiration is an image of men reading newspapers which bear a remarkable headline. Written in Dutch, the words 'Dansen Op de Maan', that is, 'Dancing on the Moon', make up the headline used by these papers to announce the 1969 moon landing.

With the advent of the twenty-four hour news cycle, and news available online from every possible outlet, sometimes it is easy to forget that at one time people got their news only from a newspaper made of actual paper, imprinted by the typesetter's hand. Rather than focus on the moon landing, an event which some may have seen as an early mark of a whole new world, I have decided to go another way, and present a few unusual articles from an old Irish newspaper called The Freeman's Journal.

Many of us use newspaper archives when conducting family history research. Within the pages of old newspapers you might find information about family members not only in birth, marriage, and death notices, but also on social pages, and in articles about certain 'incidents'. Generally, I find reading old Irish newspapers very entertaining, particularly The Freeman's Journal, Ireland's oldest national newspaper which was in continuous publication from 1763 until 1924. Sometimes the stories bear archaic words or phrasing no longer familiar to the modern eye, or subject matter is included which you might not see in a newspaper these days.

Here are three stories which caught my eye, including one entitled Knocked Down By A Lady Cyclist, which speaks of a family member on my maternal tree who tangled with a lady and her bicycle, and came away somewhat worse for wear. I've used artistic licence in adding the images, since they did not appear with the original articles, but I think they fit the bill.


Knocked Down By A Lady Cyclist

From The Freeman's Journal, Friday 28 May 1897.


Although the lady pictured is not the cyclist in question, I chose her image because she looks like a surly sort of woman who might mow down a cheeky boy who got in her way. It is interesting to note the news clipping mentions neither the lady's name nor that of the boy who was hit, only that of his father, my great-great-granduncle, Andrew Kettle.

It appears as though the incident may have been a hit and run, since the boy was "found lying on the ground" by a gentleman driving past. I wonder which one of Mr. Kettle's sons it was who had his ankle broken, and was thus "removed...to his father's house". Also, was the lady cyclist a scofflaw, and did she hot-foot it away from the scene?

A Fiery Meteor

From The Freeman's Journal, 9 December 1841.


This story originally appeared in the Whitehaven Herald, and was 'picked up' by The Freeman's Journal. It is interesting to think about how they would have shared stories in 1841, long before the advent of the internet and share buttons. The description of the size of the meteor at "about one foot in breadth" says something about distance and perception, and the explanation given to chronicle its demise —the shape of a serpent, beautiful spiral curves, the letter Z — leaves you wondering about exactly what was seen. Was this in fact a fiery meteor, or was it instead a 19th century encounter with a UFO?

Death from Laughing

From The Freeman's Journal, Tuesday, 7 March 1843.

This article is very curious indeed. In addition to the title, the language of it also caught my eye, with the use of the word se'ennight — a contraction of seven night, which means one week ago — and the use of intemperate to describe the boy's laughter, as though he was simply showing a lack of self-control. Clearly limited was the medical expertise of Mr. Hele or whoever diagnosed this poor lad as "addicted to intemperate laughing". Given the description, and the fact that the disorder was present from infancy, the child may have had something like epilepsy, which can produce uncontrollable laughter. Perhaps he died from a grand mal seizure, rather than from "hysterics, produced by excessive laughing", or his death may have been the result of a cardiac event.  Hmm... Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

Copyright©irisheyesjg2013.
Click on images to view larger versions.
Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the image of the lady with the bicycle.
Reference: The Freeman's Journal, 1763-1924, as sourced via the Newspaper Database, National Library of Ireland.
(Some editions of The Freeman's Journal are available online from the Irish Newspaper Archive, and the British Newspaper Archive.)

22 comments:

  1. You have to wonder about getting knocked over by a bike, both would have come off bad from the encounter. I wonder if the lad hut himself and made the story up.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your comment. Not sure how young Mr. Kettle would break his own ankle, but you never know. Hopefully he was an honest lad.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. Fascinating stories, With the recent upsurge in cycling we have be careful not to get knocked down by cyclists, male and female, riding on the pavements.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your comment. We don't have to worry a whole lot about that where I live. Still, there are still a few idiots who risk the $111 fine, and the charge of dangerous driving, for riding a bike on the footpaths. The tikes with the little bikes get a free pass.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      Delete
  3. Wonderful! I love these bits of news, the surly woman and death by laughing (oh no). Thanks for sharing them Jenn.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Charlotte,

      Thanks for your comment. Glad you found the stories amusing.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      Delete
  4. Priceless!! Love that word "se'ennight", I've never heard or seen it before.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for your comment. I love the word 'se'ennight' too. An odd place for an apostrophe.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. What interesting articles from old newspapers. Love your selections! It reminds me that even today, small town newspapers have funny articles that reveal much about life in these areas. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your comments. It is nice that we still have small town newspapers to count on when it comes to these kinds of stories. It does, as you say, reveal much about life in those areas, and it's nice to know people still care about simple stories.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  6. Death From Laughing. That would be quite something to come across an ancestors death certificate.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kristin,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, that really would be something to see. Hopefully it would not be hereditary :-):-).

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  7. Death from Laughter caught my eye most. How strange. Maybe he had an asthma attack at the same time?

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  8. Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for your comment. Death from laughter certainly is strange. It's too bad full civil registration was not in place in Ireland until 1864, otherwise I might be able to get his death certificate and find out to what they actually attributed his demise.

    Cheers,
    Jennifer

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  9. These made me smile, a lot, but I must admit, I was hesitant to laugh... but I did! Whew, all ok...

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    Replies
    1. Hi Crissouli,

      Thanks for your comments. I'm glad you smiled...and then laughed...and lived to tell the tale.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  10. What an awful thing to have written in the death certificate too. Perhaps the poor child had asthma and couldn't catch his breath. The cyclisit headline brings to mind all the current controversy about pedestrians and cyclists; I wonder if it made any difference that it was a lady.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Little Nell,

      Thanks for your comments. It certainly gives us a lot to think about with respect to what actually happened to the poor lad.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      Delete
  11. You chose well in making your selections. These were interesting and entertaining. That lady with her bike looks a bit mean. If she knocked someone down, I'm sure she thought they only got what they deserved for being in her way.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your comments. The lady certainly does look mean. I'm reminded of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz saying, "I'll get you and your little dog too."

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  12. Old newspapers are so interesting to read. When I search for anything in particular in old newspapers, it always takes me longer because I stop to read the news of the day instead of just searching. I appreciated your thoughts on the articles you share, Jennifer.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for your comments. I can completely relate to your pleasant predicament because I find myself doing the same thing. The news of the day is always so interesting and varied in old newspapers.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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Cheers, Jennifer

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