A typescript found in the Haining Archive, and possibly published, contains potted accounts of many examples of horrible or ridiculous deaths involving food. Here are a few of them:
A Gruelling Fate
Few cooks have suffered a more bizarre fate than Richard Rosse, a well-known London chef in the sixteenth century. In the year 1530 he was appointed to the household of the Bishop of Rochester and appears to have satisfied his master until the autumn. Then, says an account of his life published in Remarkable Trials and Notorious Characters ( 1850):
It was declared that he had poisoned some gruel being made for the Bishop and imprisoned in Smithfield. Here he was boiled to death.
Found in John Thomas's Earthquake in England (Unbelievable but True) -published by Blackwood's in 1938, this press cutting from the late 1970s from an unnamed newspaper.
Quakes can be our worry, too. Peter J. Smith
At 9.18 on the mining of April 22, 1884, Dr Alexander Wallace and his family were in their garden looking across at the roofs and spires of the town near by. Suddenly, with a roll of sound like "passing wagons", the buildings began to sway and chimneys crashed to the ground in clouds of dust. Dr Wallace saw his house rise and fall and heard ornaments hitting the floor. He felt sick and shaken, but the fence he grasped for support was rocking too. Less than six seconds later it was all over.
What Dr Wallace and his family had experienced was an earthquake. But they were not visiting Japan, California, the Mediterranean or any other of the world's known belts of destructive earthquakes. This was Colchester, Essex, where such things were unheard of.
In the town itself more than 400 buildings were damaged... the brunt of the damage was taken by villages closer to the shock centre to the east and south-east of Colchester. At Peldon, for example, no house or cottage escaped and 70 percent of chimney stacks were thrown down. Nobody was killed, but within an area of about 150 square miles more than 1200 buildings required repair.
The Colchester earthquake of 1884 was the most destructive ever known in Britain and was felt as far away as Exeter in the west and beyond York in the north. But it was not the first British earthquake; nor, contrary to popular belief, are such events uncommon.
The late Peter Haining
was one of many writers fascinated by
the terrible events of the evening of 3rd September 1878, when the
paddle steamer ‘Princess Alice’, laden with over 800 day trippers returning
from an excursion to Margate, was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle close to
North Woolwich. Over 630 men, women and children perished in the disaster,
which remains the worst in the history of river navigation—not just in the UK,
but in the world.
Hoping to publish a book on the subject, Peter Haining kept
clippings both from the centenary coverage of the disaster in 1978 and from
August 1989,when a much smaller vessel, the ‘Marchioness’, sank further
upstream in the Thames. He also researched a similar Victorian sinking in 1875,
when the’ Deutschland’ went down off the Kentish coast, carrying among its
passengers, five German nuns--- a disaster which prompted Gerard Manly Hopkins to compose his
famous poem The Wreck of the Deutschland.
The second and last part of an article on Sangorski's ill-fated Omar Khayyam binding. It was found in Piccadilly Notes: an occasional publication devoted to books, engravings and autographs (1929). A contemporary eyewitness account talks of Sangorski's Omar with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover..' Less commonly known is the odious role played by New York customs officials in the affair and that the magnificent book was, in fact, making its second trip across the Atlantic when it was lost forever beneath the waves. J.H. Stonehouse writes:
Found in an offprint from Piccadilly Notes (circa 1930) this article about (possibly) the most lavish binding the world had ever seen. The magazine billed itself as 'an occasional publication devoted to books, engravings and autographs.' it was edited by J.H. Stonehouse and this article is by him…
It was in 1907 that I first met Sangorski, when he brought a letter of introduction from a church dignitary, and asked to be allowed to show me a lectern bible which the Archbishop of Canterbury had commissioned his firm to bind, previous to its presentation by King Edward VII to the United States in commemoration of the tercentenary of the established church in America. I recognised at once the justice of his contention that there was something more in the design and execution of the work than was usually to be found in an ordinary piece of commercial binding and that the appreciation of it which had been expressed in the press was fully justified.
Found among a lot of miscellaneous papers, some religious - this poem by one William Allen about the Titanic disaster. It is dated May 1912, one month after the tragedy. The name William Allen is associated with the Titanic because it was the name of the father of one of the survivors, Ada E. Hall. The family was from Hackney, London and Ada was emigrating to America (along with her brother in law the Reverend Bateman who drowned*). She is in the Encyclopedia Titanica and in a lengthy article on her in the Baltimore Sun it states: "Nearer My God to Thee" was the last song Ada heard from the band that was playing on the deck of the RMS Titanic after she boarded a lifeboat and was lowered to the waters below." This hymn is mentioned in the poem and there are a few details that may have come from an eyewitness (i.e. his daughter) rather than from press reports. William Allen is a common name so none of this is conclusive. The poem is heartfelt, competent and deeply religious:
T'was the eve of the day of rest
That the mighty Leviathan
Ploughed her way through the ocean's
List to the throb of her stately tread
Mark her proportions
From anchor to lofty head
Its harmony sublime.
This poem about the Royal Charter disaster is printed at the back of An Authentic Account if the Wreck of the Royal Charter Sream Clipper on her passage from Australia to Liverpool , October 26th 1859 with an Interesting Additoion of Subsequent Events and Incidents Written During a Residence at Moelfra, the Scene of the Catastrophe (Dublin 1860.) The poem was inspired by an account of the finding of a gold ring on the beach at Moelfra 'by one of the peasants living in the vicinity of the wreck.' With help from the local vicar the ring was restored to the father of the drowned owner - a Mr. Corry Fowler of Dublin. The ring had been worn by his son in memory of his departed sister whose name was inscribed on it. The poem is by a niece.
Lines on a Ring cast on shore five months after the wreck of the Royal Charter.
At least 800 lives were lost in the seas around the shores of Britain in the violent storms on the night of 25-26 October 1859. 223 vessels were wrecked: the biggest disaster of all was the loss of the Royal Charter off the coast of Wales, in which almost 450 people died. The ship was returning from Australia and the passengers included many gold miners, some of who had struck it rich at the diggings in Australia and were carrying large sums of gold about their persons. A consignment of gold was also being carried as cargo; it was insured for over £300,000 - about half a billion pounds in todays money. Many of the passengers were killed by being dashed against the rocks by the waves rather than drowned. Others were said to have drowned, weighed down by the belts of gold they were wearing around their bodies. The survivors, 21 passengers and 18 crew members, were all men, with no women or children saved. This poem on one side of a small card was probably sold for a halfpenny or farthing just after the disaster. The address 'Trafalgar, Neyland' is nearby in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. Of Maria Roberts nothing is known…
We also have a more accomplished poem about a gold ring washed up on the beach (to follow) but this poem was probably composed very shortly after the fateful night:
Found among a pile of sheet music 3 Titanic items. They incorporate several mythic (but not necessarily untrue) stories around the disaster-- Captain Smith is said to have spoken the words 'Be British' (possibly his last) to his men and the 8 members of the ship's band carried on playing as the ship sank (possibly there last number was Nearer My God to Thee.) Some accounts say that the band played on until they were waist high in water. The sheet music for Be British came with a set of illustrative coloured lantern slides that could be bought or hired from the publisher. The lyrics include these lines, worthy of poet laureate Alfred Austin himself:
Found - a rare booklet published in Melbourne, Australia circa 1913 -What Life in the Spirit World Really is. Being messages received from beyond the veil by Annie Bright. It is purportedly by the great newspaperman W.T. Stead (1849 - 1912) who had drowned in the 1912 Titanic disaster. It was in fact 'channelled' from Stead by one Annie Bright. Stead numbered spiritualism among his many interests and as well as editing The Pall Mall Gazette (which became the Evening Standard) he also edited the occult quarterly Borderland. He is said to be the first 'investigative journalist' and campaigned against child prostitution and the London slums. He befriended the feminist Josephine Butler and joined a campaign with her to successfully repeal the Contagious Diseases Act. He was an early Esperantist and he is also the father of modern paperback publishing and even 'digest' publishing, issuing severely abridged versions of the classics. Wikipedia has this to say of his last moments on the Titanic:
After the ship struck the iceberg, Stead helped several women and children into the lifeboats, in an act "typical of his generosity, courage, and humanity", and gave his life jacket to another passenger.
A later sighting of Stead, by survivor Philip Mock, has him clinging to a raft with John Jacob Astor IV. "Their feet became frozen," reported Mock, "and they were compelled to release their hold. Both were drowned." William Stead's body was not recovered. Further tragedy was added by the widely held belief that he was due to be awarded the Nobel Peace that same year.
Found in a copy of Q Magazine from 2004. It was a special issue devoted to British rock band The Who ('The Inside Story') and the piece was titled "Remember the Gaff Where the Doors we Smashed"- a line from their song Bellboy. The article was mentioned on the cover as 10 Worst Hotel Wreckings. At Jot we are fond of lists, even lists of debauchery and excess - so here goes in slightly abbreviated form:
1 New York
4 April 1968
The Who's first headlong tour of the US found them ejected from the Gorham Hotel after Moon rained cherry bombs (highly explosive red firecrackers) down on New York City cops from a ninth-floor window. He used another to blow up his toilet, knocking out the plumbing on the whole floor in the process.
2 New York
5 April 1968
The Who had barely unpacked their cases at the Waldorf Astoria before they were given their marching orders for failing to provide a cash surety. Moon, unable to retrieve his luggage because the door was locked, blew it open with another cherry bomb.
11 July 1968
According to a myth-making interview Keith Moon conducted with Rolling Stone in 1972, it was at a hotel in Saskatoon that the bored drummer chopped all of his hotel furniture into kindling.