Monday, 13 January 2014

Directions For The Recovery Of The Drowned - 1841

Like most coastal towns and busy ports, Greenock has had its fair share of accidental (and not quite so accidental) drownings over the years.  This must have been quite a problem in the past before "health and safety" became the watchword to protect people from their own stupidity.

This ode entitled "Directions For the Recovery of the Drowned" was published in the Greenock Post Office Directory of 1841.

Directions For The Recovery Of The Drowned

When the cold corse shall have been brought to land,
Strip off its clothes with an industrious hand;
Cleanse well the mouth, th' obstructed nostrils clear,
And let each passage drink the vital air;
Wipe dry the body, wrap a blanket round,
Or some such covering as can best be found -
Nay - lend thy coat - 'tis sweet a life to save,
And snatch a brother from a watery grave.
Then on a plank, with head and shoulders high,
Convey the body to some cottage nigh.
Now let good order and good sense prevail,
And no confusion make thine efforts fail.
With common air the breathless lungs inspire;
Blow the faint sparks of unextinguished fire,
(For yet perhaps some embers may remain
Ready to kindle into life again):
Rub well each limb - a genial warmth impart
Around the stagnant regions of the heart;
Then down the gastric tube a cordial throw,
Some draught, to make the internal organs glow;
Should thy best judgment pierce the jug'lar vein,
Take heed! in time the vital stream restrain,
Lest thou too much from nature's fountain pour,
And so destroy the life thou wouldst restore.
Thus on proceed to rouse the dormant breath;
Ply the strong oar and struggle hard with death;
Nor cease thy toil till life's bright flame return,
Or till the lamp at length refuse to burn. 

Can't imagine the ordinary person trying to cut the jugular vein in any safe way! 

Here's a report from the "Caledonian Mercury" of 1844 about a man, Peter Campbell, who seems to have been quite a hero, jumping into the Clyde at Gourock  to save a young woman from drowning.  He even received a reward from the Duchess of Somerset who was impress by his bravery and the fact that it was the third time he had saved a life.

Greenock's Post Office Directories are available to view online at the excellent Inverclyde Council website.

The Greenockian


  1. Amazing to create a "ditty" to help you remember how to save a life from drowning. I think I would panic and hardly remember one word of it, if I could have memorized the entire thing at all. What a marvelous post, minutia of daily life can be so interesting and yet so often forgotten and overlooked.

  2. Times have certainly changed! For the good, mostly.

  3. Very nicely put across - enjoyable post.

  4. I cannot imagine cutting the jug'lar vein for an reason.


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