How many of us have put things down and then cannot find them again just a few minutes later? This is not a modern phenomenon and I'm sure that many readers will have sympathy with the predicament in which Lowestoft teenager, James Bishop, found himself during the long, lonely Winter of 1725.
For several months James, an apprentice ship's-carpenter, found himself in agony with stomach pains. The abdominal cramps became increasingly severe and when after 6 months of agonising torment, he began to urinate blood, James finally plucked up the courage to consult a surgeon Mr. Robert Payne. Mr Payne carried out a thorough examination but could find no evidence of intestinal disease and no obvious cause for the pain. He therefore came to the conclusion that young James must be suffering from a bladder stone and prescribed a physic accordingly.
However a month later, James returned to the doctor in even worse pain and with a mysterious swelling which had appeared on his left buttock. It had the appearance of a hard tumour and sat proud about 3 inches from the anus. For several days James was in torment and passed all manner of noxious substances in his 'doings'. During an examination by the increasingly perplexed Mr. Payne, three prongs of metal burst through the swelling followed by a large quantity of pus and foul-smelling matter. James's pain was instantly relieved and with his backside in the air, Mr. Payne cut a circle around the metal prongs and grabbed hold of them with a strong pair of forceps and began to pull the object out. James screamed in agony as the doctor wrestled for several minutes to remove the stubborn object. Finally with James lying flat out gasping with relief, the object was dropped, clattering into an enamel kidney dish. The fetid, fecal matter was rinsed off the mysterious object and revealed to be.... a 7 inch long ivory-handled fork!
The doctor looked incredulously at the somewhat sheepish James, who did not seem to be conveying the quantum of surprise that he would have expected, having just had an item of cutlery extracted from his buttocks.
James then 'remembered' that several months previously he had suffered a bout of 'constipation' and in the absence of any other remedy had decided to poke around his rectal passage with the smooth ivory handle of one of his mother's best forks. Unfortunately it had slipped up so far into his fundament that he had been unable to retrieve it. He then forgot all about it and even a month later when the stabbing stomach pains began, he never associated them with the misplaced tableware.
Mr. Payne found the case so remarkable that he wrote up the case for a prestigious medical journal, no doubt with a wry smile making a mental note not to stay for a meal next time he paid a house call to old Mrs. Bishop.
Tales from the