Wayfarer Column- We Start to Believe More Tales When we get Older

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As youngsters we gain experience by listening to the tales of those who have sampled most aspects of life and some of the tales they tell require a lot of digestion before we can accept them to be true. We naturally understand that they have been crafted in the tradition of the good story teller, an art that brings them to life and we listen open mouthed not knowing whether to believe them or not.

Here are a few tales to whet your appetite and I can assure you that each has the basis of truth in them.

At the height of the foot and mouth crisis in Britain in 2001 the chess correspondent of The Scotsman Mr. John B. Henderson travelled to America with a present of a haggis for his host. However the US customs officials confiscated the haggis, took it out on to the runway, shot it five times and then doused it in petrol. Now I suppose you expect me to say that the haggis then jumped up and ran away, but that would only spoil a true story which the press reported. But you can see the extremes the US government were prepared to go to keep foot and mouth away from their shores.

In the old days when new recruits joined the army they were asked to accept the King’s/Queen’s shilling which then formed the basis of a contract, but there were many novel ways of enticing new recruits to accept the shilling. In 1794 Jane, the 4th. Duchess of Gordon who was a renowned beauty took a novel way of recruiting volunteers for the newly formed Gordon Highlanders. The Duchess wore a military uniform and travelled around the area recruiting men into the regiment by placing the King’s shilling between her lips and allowing the recruits to accept the shilling by kissing her. I believe that she was very successful, but remember it meant that an entire regiment had kissed their colonel’s wife.

Dr James Easdaile worked as a surgeon in Calcutta during the 19th. century where he performed over 2,000 operations on patients under hypnoses. The patients felt no pain and the death rate which had been as high as 50 per cent had fallen to 5 per cent.Dr. Easdaile had successfully found the level of hypnosis required at which natural anaesthesia occurrs and this was named the Easdaile in his honour. The modern use of anaesthetics has naturally overshadowed Dr. Easdaile’s excellent work, but we must remember that without those prepared to accept a certain amount of quantifiable risk we would not have a future. I will look for more tales of the unlikely and hope to see you next week.