Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to Top

To Top

On This Day



In On This Day

By Nicola Gauld

On This Day, 11 August 1917

On 11, Aug 2017 | In On This Day | By Nicola Gauld

Birmingham Mail

Saturday 11 August 1917




A man suffering from loss of memory has sought the assistance of the Birmingham police in the endeavour to establish his identity. His age is apparently about 45, and from his accent he is supposed to be a Scotsman. He remembers being at Carlisle on Monday, where he stayed the night. He then cycled to Penrith, and took the train there for Birmingham, which was reached on Tuesday night. He stayed at the Cobden Hotel, and being unable to remember his name he went to the police station to solicit the aid of the detective department in his difficulty. From there he was taken to the General Hospital and placed under an anaesthetic, in the hope that he might reveal his identity.  The result, however, was unsuccessful. The man had notes and cash on him, and in his wallet a bicycle ticket from Penrith to Birmingham, but nothing that helps establish who he is. He is still at the General Hospital, and says that events prior to being at Carlisle are a complete blank.

A reporter of the “Mail” had an interview this morning with the man. In reply to questions by the reporter he said he knew neither his name, trade, age, nor place of birth, nor whether he was married or single. From the time when he “found himself” at Carlisle on Monday everything was a blank. The police say that his chief concern is whether if he has a wife and family they are worrying about him. He has formed the impression that he is a tea-totaller, because when cycling from Carlisle to Penrith the weather was very warm, and a man with whom he was travelling suggested a drink. They went to a public-house, and at the other man’s suggestion two bottles of Bass were called for. He uncorked the bottle, poured out the liquid and was about to take a drink. “I was very thirsty,” he says, “but something within me rebelled against it. I discarded the liquor and called for a lemonade, which I drank.”

The man further stated that something impelled him to come to Birmingham, though he was not conscious of knowing anybody here, nor had he any address to come to. On presenting himself at the Cobden he states that he became quite aware of the fact that he ought to have had a National Registration card, so he complied with the requirements by registering his name and address as “A. Scott, Cairnie Street, Edinburgh.” “I could not tell you,” he added, “whether there is such a street in Edinburgh or not.” The next day he went to the police, and he has since shown a disposition to submit himself to any test or operation which might assist in the recovery of the memory he had lost.

His clothing gives no clue to his identity or address, for the only tab is that attached to his coat, which reads, “Stewards; branches everywhere”. He was told that when under the anaesthetic he said he had a wife and family, that he was a native of Carrick, Ayrshire, and that his wife’s brother lived in Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire. This information did not, however, assist him in recalling the past. The man’s hands are soft, and there is no indication that he has latterly, at any rate, been accustomed to manual labour. His knowledge of geography is excellent, but while he can describe the position of towns in the United Kingdom and abroad and correctly state what they are noted for, he says that his mind pictures no scene nor can he recall any building in any town.

He knows when war broke out, and is conversant with the main features of the fighting, has a knowledge of history, and also appreciates the political situation, though he was a little hazy at first. Asked who was Prime Minister, he replied “Mr. Asquith,” adding immediately, “No, I’ve made a mistake, it’s Mr. Lloyd George.” He could not give the year of the Battle of Hastings, but he was very ready with the date upon which James I of England and VI of Scotland first occupied the dual throne.