On Saturday 15th November 1884, elderly spinster, Emma Keyse, was brutally murdered at her burnt out house at Babbacombe Bay, South Devon, England.There was no CSI:Babbacombe.
The person accused of this atrocity was her employee, 20 year old John Lee, a young man from nearby Abbotskerswell. However, evidence was very circumstantial.
Lee happened to be the only male in the house at the time and he had an unexplained cut on his arm. Despite this and his constant claim of innocence he was sentenced to hang.
On 23 February 1885, he was led from his prison cell in Exeter prison to the gallows in the courtyard. The noose was placed around his neck, the lever was pulled and....nothing.
The trapdoor failed to open.
The mechanism was checked and all was in order. The process was repeated......with the same result. The door did not budge.
I suppose they thought "Third time lucky" and they went for it again. You've guessed it. The door remained firmly closed.
The place was in total confusion and John Lee was brought back to his cell.
The case was brought before the Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt. He obviously thought that the poor devil had been through enough mental torture and that fate had intervened. He commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Lee continued to petition successive Home Secretaries and was finally released in 1907.
So what's that got to do with me, I hear you ask!
Well, last Thursday I was in Mullingar Park Hotel for my swim. My membership was due for renewal so I whipped out my cheque book.
Hey, I know that's so last century but I was using up my last one.
Ger, a friend of mine appeared on the scene, we started to chat and I got distracted. Then we went off on our way.
The next day I had a call from nice Mr Leisure Centreman who told me I had forgotten to actually sign the cheque.
Oops, it was a genuine mistake Your Honour!
I apologised profusely and said I would be in to rectify the situation.
The next day I went back. There were different staff on who didn't know where the cheque was. So they said to come back another day when Mr Leisure Centreman would be on duty.
This time the guy at reception did know what I was talking about and said the cheque was in the till. Somehow it's hooked up to the computer. He pressed a few buttons and hey presto......nothing! the till refused to open just like John Babbacombe Lee's trapdoor!
Modern technology, my eye!
Help was called, but to no avail. The drawer held fast. I can only imagine the relief that Lee had felt, but I just decided to go for my swim and reassess the situation when I was finished.
45 minutes later and the till was firmly closed.
Today I will make one final attempt to pay my debt. If it fails, I am pulling a "John Baabcombe Lee" and appealing to the Home Secretary/ Mr Leisure Centreman for clemency.
I think Fate has decided that I don't need to pay my fees for this year.
Wish me luck with that one!!!