Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Work this one out . . .

One of the books we got the other day was "One Thousand Curiosities of Britain" by Egon Jameson. I suspect it was his one and only book as he wasn't a natural writer . . . This little conundrum ideally needs breaking into two sections so you have to wait for the explanation, but I shan't be mean . . .

In the churchyard at Martham in Norfolk is an epitaph to set the mind whirling in confusion:

"And there Lyes
ALICE who by his Life
Was my Sister, my mistres,
My mother and my wife.
Dyed Fe. ye 12, 1729.
Aged 76 years.

"In the year 1670 a farmer at Martham, named Christ Burraway, seduced his 27 year old daughter, Alice.

She bore him a son, whom she sent away secretly to a foundling-home far from the place where she lived. Here the son of Christ grew up and, when he reached the age of 20, was apprenticed to a farmer.

When he had completed his training in this, his father''s calling, he wandered through the countryside in search of work until, by chance, he came to Martham and, as it happened, went to Alice Burrway to apply for a job, quite unaware that he was speaking to his mother.

By this time his - and, of course, her - father was dead and Alice Burraway decided to take on the young man, she too being completely unaware that he was her son.

She grew fond of him and became his mistress and, later on, they were married and lived for 20 years as man and wife.

It was not until she was 76 years ld that Alice Burraway chanced to discover that her husband had two moles on his shoulder, just like her father and herself. And then it crossed her mind that she had noticed this self-same birth-mark on her son. So she pressed him to tell her abut his childhood, for he had hitherto maintained strict silence as to his past history, as he hardly cared t have it known that he was an illegitimate foundling.

Full of misgivings and anxious only to set her mind at rest, the old lady set out for the orphanage where she made enquiries and, on learning the date on which the man who was now her husband had been admitted thre, realised that she had married her own son.

Horror-stricken, she fainted, and shortly died.

When she failed to return, the man went to fetch her home, but found her dead. Then he too learnt the whole of the ghastly tragedy in which the evil spirits of chance and fate had involved him.

He too fell ill and within four months followed his mother, sister, mistress and wife the the grave."

Well I never did, as my mum would have said . . .


  1. What a convoluted family story BB! I often wonder what lies behind the wording on gravestones. I do my family history and have found several skeletons in the tree, but nothing quite as amazing as that one.

  2. That tale just gives one the goose bumps! My mother alluded to a couple in the next small hamlet as being too closely related to marry. It seems a number of people knew [or surmised] that the man and woman were in fact half-brother and sister, through a clandestine relationship. [Doesn't that sound dramtic?] When the young couple were attracted to each other and planned to marry no one came forth to say that they shouldn't. My mother had several of the resulting offsrping in school and declared privately that they "weren't bright--how could they be?"

  3. This can happen ...even today ...I feel so sorry for those that it happens to and the traumas they suffer after discovering the truth.

  4. That is almost the Oedipus story. How fascinating, but not good for poor Alice and her son/brother/husband.....

  5. Well! That's an amazing story. I work with people and some of the family 'dynamics' I come across are mind boggling...but your story takes the biscuit!

  6. I think the old expression "there's nowt as queer as folk" goes a long way to cover this . . .