Wonderful account of Mr. George Spearing
Mr. George Spearing,
(A Lieutenant in the Navy,)
Who fell into a Coal-Pit in Northwoodside, near Glasgow; where he remained Seven Days and Seven Nights, without any other Support than Rain Water.
The Surprising manner of his Deliverance, with an Account of his Behaviour while in that melancholy situation.
To which is added,
A Hymn of Praise for his Deliverance,
Published by himself, for the information of his Friends and the Public.
PRINTED BY T JOHNSTON,
Lieutenant GEORGE SPEARING.
ON Wednesday Sept. 13. 1769, between 3 and 4 o’clock afternoon, I went into a little wood, called North-woodside, situated between 2 and 3 miles to the north-west of Glasgow, with a design to gather a few hazel nuts.— I had not been in the wood above 15 minutes, nor gather'd more than ten nuts, before I unfortunately fell into an old coal pit, exactly 51 feet deep, which had been made through a solid rock. I was some little time insensible. On recovering my recollection, I found myself sitting nearly as a taylor does at his work, the blood flowing pretty fast from my mouth! I thought I had broken a blood-vessel, and, consequently, had not long to live, but, to my great comfort, I soon discovered that the blood proceeded from a wound in my tongue, which I supposed I had bitten in my fall. Looking at my watch, it was ten minutes past four, and getting up, I surveyed my limbs, and, to my inexpressible joy, found that not one of them was broken. I was soon reconciled to my situation, having from my childhood thought that something very extraordinary was to happen do me in the course of my life; and I had not the least doubt of being relieved in the morning: for, the wood being but small, and situated near a populous city, it is much frequented, especially in the nut-season, and there are several foot-paths leading thro' it.
Night approached, when it began to rain, not in gentle showers, but in torrents, such as is at the autumnal equinox. The pit was about 5 feet in diameter, but, not having been worked for several years, the subterraneous passages were choaked up, so that I was exposed to the rain, which continued, with small intermissions, till the day of my release, and, in a very short time I was all over wet.
In this comfortless condition I endeavoured to take some repose. A forked stick, which I found in the pit, I placed diagonally to the side of it, which served alternately to support my head as a pillow, or my body occasionally, which was much bruised; but, in the whole time I remained here, I do not think that ever I slept an hour together. Having passed a very disagreeable and tedious night, I was somewhat cheered with the appearance of day-light and the melody of a robin-redbreast, that had perched directly over the mouth of the pit; and this pretty little warbler continued to visit my quarters every morning during my confinement; which I construed into a happy omen of my future Deliverance; and I sincerely believe the trust I had in Providence, and the company of this little bird, contributed much to that serenity of mind I constantly enjoyed. At the distance of about a the road to the mill was still nearer: so that I could frequently hear the horses going on the road to and from the mill. Frequently I heard human voices; and I could distinctly hear the ducks and hens about the mill. I made the best use of my voice on every occasion; but it was to no manner of purpose; for the wind, which was constantly high, blew in a line from the mill to the pit, which easily accounts for what I heard; and, at the same time, my voice was carried the contrary way.yards, in a direct line from the pit, there was a water mill; the miller’s house was nearer to me, and
I cannot say I suffered much from hunger; after two or three days my appetite ceased, but my thirst was intolerable: and, though it almost constantly rained, yet I could not, till the third or fourth day preserve a drop of it, as the earth at the bottom of the pit sucked it up as fast as it ran down. In this distress I sucked my cloaths; but from them I could extract but little moisture. The shock I received in the fall, together with the dislocation of one of one of my ribs, kept me, I imagine, in a continual fever; I cannot otherwise account for my suffering so much more from thirst than I did from hunger. At last I discovered the thigh bone of a bull almost covered with earth, which, I was afterwards informed, fell into the pit about 18 years before me. I dug it up, and the large end of it left a cavity that, I suppose, might contain a quart. This the water gradually drained into, but so very slowly, that it was a considerable time before I could dip a nut-shell full at a time; which I emptied into the palm of my hand, and so drank it. The water now began to increase pretty fast so that I was glad to enlarge my reservoir, insomuch that, on the 4th or 5th day, I had a sufficient supply; and this water was certainly the preservation of my life.
At the bottom of the pit there were great quantities of reptiles, such as frogs, toads, large black snails, or slugs, &c. These noxious creatures would frequently crawl about and often got into my reservoir; nevertheless, I thought it the sweetest water I had ever tasted and, at this distance of time, the remembrance of it is so sweet, that were it now possible to obtain any of it, I am sure I could swallow it with avidity. I have frequently taken both, frogs and toads cut of my neck, where, I suppose, they took shelter while I slept. The toads I always destroyed, but the frogs I carefully preserved, as I did not know but I might be under the necessity of eating them, which I should not have scrupled to have done, had I been very hungry.
Saturday, the 6th, there fell but little rain and I had the satisfaction to hear the voices of some boys in the wood. Immediately I called out with all my might, but it was all in vain, tho' I afterwards learned that they actually heard me; but, being prepossessed with an idle story of a wild man being in the wood, they ran away affrighted.
Sunday, the 17th, was my birthday, when I completed my 41st year; and I think it was the next day that some of my acquaintances have accidentally heard that I had gone the way I did, sent two or three porters out purposely to search the pits for me. These men went to the miller’s house, and made enquiry for me; but, on account of the very great rain at the time, they never entered the wood, but cruelly returned to their employers, telling them they had searched the pit, and that I was not to be found. Many people in my dismal situation would, no doubt, have died with despair; but, I thank God, I enjoyed a perfect serenity of mind; so much so, that on the Tuesday after-noon, and when I had been six nights in the pit; I very composedly, by way of amusement, fell to combing my wig on my knee, humming a tune, and thinking on Archer in the play called the Beaux Stratagem.
At length the morning (Sept. 20.) the Hibernian stile, if I was still living? I called out that I was, and hearty too; and then gave them particular directions how to proceed in getting me out.morning for my deliverance, came! a day that I while my memory lasts, I will always celebrate with gratitude to Heaven! Thro’ the brambles and bushes that covered the mouth of the pit, I could discover the sun shining bright, and my pretty warbler was chanting his melodious strains, when my attention was rouzed by a confused noise of human voices, which seemed to be approaching fast towards the pit. Immediately I called out, and most agreeably surprised several of my acquaintance, who were in search of me! As soon as they heard my voice, they all run towards the pit, and I could distinguished known voice exclaim, "Good God! he is still living!" Another of them, a very honest North-Briton, betwixt his surprise and joy, could not help asking me, in the
Fortunately, at that juncture, a Collier belonging to a working pit in the neighbourhood, was passing along the road, and hearing the unusual noise in the wood, curiosity led him to enquire into the cause of it; by his assistance, and a rope from the mill, I was soon safely landed on terra firma (continent or main land). The miller's wife very kindly brought some milk warm from the cow; but, on my coming into the fresh air, I grew faint, and could not taste it. Need I be ashamed to acknowledge, that the first dictates of my heart prompted me to fall on my knees, and ejaculate my thanksgiving to the God of my deliverance, since, at this distant time, I never think of it but the tear of gratitude starts from my eye?
Every morning while I was in the pit, I tied a knot in the corner, of my handkerchief, supposing that, if I died there, and my body should be afterwards found, the number of the knots would certify how many days I had lived.— Almost the first question my friends asked me was, How long I had been in the pit? I immediately drew my handkerchief from my pocket, and desired them to count the knots, on which they found 7, the exact number of nights I had been there.
I was conveyed home, and every mean used for strengthening my limbs, which were much benumbed with the damp and coldness of the pit; but, thro' the ignorance of my physicians, a mortification seized both my feet, by which the skin and all the nails of my left foot, and three from my right foot, came off like a glove. The flesh at the bottom of my foot being separated from the bones, I had it cut off; and it was 9 months after before I recovered.— I have since been the father of 9 children.
L.G. Spearing's Hymn of Praise.
Almighty God! who, on this day,
My life from death didst save,
To Thee I now presume to pray,
And future blessings crave.
Oh! grant I ever may confess
Thy goodness shewn to me;
With grateful heart and tongue express
The praise that's due to thee.
While in the dreary pit I lay,
My life thou didst sustain;
And, to my comfort, I may say,
Thou gave'st refreshing rain.
In this, thy providential care
Is to tha world made known,
And teaches us to shun dispair,
For thou art God alone.
Then, since my life thou didst preserve,
Oh! teach me how to live,
⟨⟩ me not from thy precepts swerve,
This blessing to me give.
⟨⟩ will I yearly, on this day,
My grateful tribute bring,
In humble thanks, to thee alway,
My Saviour, God, and King.