A very serious accident occurred at Buckingham on Thursday week.
A boy of the name of Pitkin, about twelve years old, was sent by Mr. W. Stuchbery with a colt to be shod, the poor boy was particularly desired not to ride it, but he unfortunately did not attend to this order; rode it to the smith’s and was again riding him back, when he took fright of a pig singed in the public street, and threw the poor lad, who, falling on his head, fractured his skull.
M. Edmund Southam, very humanely proffered his services to scalp him, but we fear, without its proving successful, as the boy lies in a dreadful, restless, and delirious state, with but little hope of recovery.
Surely this accident will rouse the borough authorities to put some restrictions of thus dressing pigs in the open streets, it being obvious to every one that danger may arise to persons either on horseback or in harness.
'The boy lies in a dreadful, restless, and delirious state, with but little hope of recovery.'
Mr. W. Stuchbery was almost certainly a forebear of present-day Councillor Robin Stuchbury’s family.
In 1849, William Stuchbery was the Guardian in Radclive, responsible to the Buckingham Union Workhouse for the poor and destitute of his parish.
After the fire of 1725, Buckingham was rebuilt upon its mediaeval town plan and foundations. It was high density, urban living, leaving little room for grounds and gardens. Public open space was often pressed into use, as in this tragic example, to light a big fire upon which to singe the hairs of a freshly-slaughtered pig. No doubt, washing the carcass in a “tin” bath of cold water would have followed.
In mediaeval iconography, December was represented as Pig Singeing Month.
The demand for flitches of bacon rose towards Christmas when they would be suspended by the hearth to provide the family’s meat through the cold months of winter.
Mr Edmund Southam (who rushed to the boy's aid) was Buckingham’s leading surgeon. He was a highly, respected, devout Quaker who operated from his house in Castle Street.
Scalping was an extreme remedy, very much kill or cure.
The scalp would be removed and the exposed skull roughened. Small holes might be bored into the skull. Occasionally, new tissue and skin formed over the wound and the patient made a (forever hairless) recovery.
Authority in Buckingham lay with its Bailiff and Burgesses. They didn’t react to the tragedy. They were unaccustomed to taking decisions as they were the Duke of Buckingham’s “place” men, in position for ceremonial purposes but having neither a budget nor the means to effect action.
'Pig singeing' in the streets of Buckingham has yet to be banned - but, in its day, it was as dangerous as using a mobile phone whilst driving a vehicle.
Pig-singing manuscript: source unknown.
Pig from RawPixel Ltd under CC Attribution (CC BY 4.0).
Illuminated Manuscript, Book of Hours, St. Margaret, Walters Manuscript W.168, fol. 222r; Public Domain.