You Swallowed What? Sunday 11th June 2023

Today saw my first walk of 2023 and after the morning rain it was a sunny afternoon. The walk started with twenty people and took a circular route from the non-Conformist chapel, going up and one of the more “rural” paths in the cemetery. The group heard the stories of eighteen unfortunate people who died by swallowing something that killed them.

James Moynihan (01/09/1891) was a rag and bone man who found some horseradish growing on some waste ground and decided to put it in his sandwich for lunch. He became desperately ill and died later. At the postmortem Aconite was found mixed up with his stomach contents. Aconite is highly poisonous and is often mistaken for the horseradish plant.

Samuel Hooper (26/03/1876) was a 11-year-old boy who lived with his aunt, brother. His mother had recently died, and his father was away at sea. Samuel’s aunt said he was asking her if it was true that when you die you will see your dead relatives again. She did not think much of that. Then Samuel told his brother he was going to die, and he could have all his things. One morning they found Samuel in bed extremely ill after swallowing carbolic acid that he found in a bottle under the sink. Samuel died later that day. I hope his wish was granted.

Henry Bentley (14/10/1911) was enjoying his lovely fish supper when he suddenly started to choke. He had something stuck in his throat and after much coughing and back slapping he told his wife he was ok. A couple of days later henry was quite poorly, could eat properly and had pains in his chest and breathing difficulties. Henry saw his doctor who could find nothing wrong, but he deteriorated and was admitted to hospital. Henrys underwent chest surgery, and a massive abscess was found on one of his lungs. That had burst. In this abscess there was a foreign body., a thin white object” that went from the abscess through the chest wall and into the oesophagus. The foreign body was a fish bone. Henry died a few days later of septicaemia from the infection.

Bartholomew Robinson (15/03/1922). Elizabeth, Bartholomew ‘s wife said she had been in the garage with as he wanted to go for a cycle ride but needed to pump up his tyres. Elizabeth said she left him doing just that, using a hand pump with great gusto. She returned 5 minutes later with a drink for him and found him lying on the floor looking dazed. Elizabeth said she picked him up and asked him what happened, and he told her he came over all dizzy and fell over but was ok now. Bartholomew did not go out on his cycle as he no longer felt like it. A few hours later Bartholomew told Elizabeth he had a headache and was going to lay down in the bedroom. After a couple of hours Elizabeth decided to wake him with a drink and went into the bedroom and he was laying on the bed asleep. Elizabeth shook him several times but could not wake him as he had died. What caused him to die? The postmortem found lodged in his larynx over his trachea and totally blocking off his airway was a foreign body. What was the foreign body – the top plate of his dentures. Bartholomew must have swallowed his denture without realizing when pumping up the tyre and it caused him to faint and later his death.

In the middle of this walk two very sharp-eyed people within the group saw two, what we think are baby Tawny owls high up in a tree.

The walk then ended by the Non-Conformist Chapel and the group seemed to have enjoyed it and gave me a round of applause.

Text by Lizzie O’Sullivan

Photos taken by Bruce Larner