land of the the bone-grinders

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Still we linger in Doncaster. Things, however, have taken an interesting turn. In his ongoing efforts to delve deeper into the eccentricities of British history, Husband stumbled across an interesting fact about the town in which we are currently staying. In 1822, it was reported in the London Observer that “more than a million bushels of human and inhuman bones” were imported into England (via Hull, because of course Hull), from towns that harboured the sites of Napoleonic battles and were thus littered with the bodies of soldiers and their horses.  From Hull, these bodies were sent chiefly to Doncaster, where they were “[reduced] to a granularly state.” Why? Because dead bodies make good fertilizer and Doncaster was the seat of agricultural trade in Yorkshire. As this 1822 reporter said: “The good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread.” Firstly, this explains all the French-speaking ghosts. Secondly, this has given me a great title for a work of historical fiction: The Bone-Grinder’s Wife. With a sepia-tinged photo on the cover, cropped so as to just cut out the eyes, the title in italicized serif type, a blurb telling you what Ann-Marie MacDonald thought, and a purple sticker, Heather’s Pick, it’s what everyone’s mom is getting for Christmas.

Author: Ashleigh Rajala

Ashleigh Rajala is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in numerous journals, both online and in print. She is passionate about using story-telling to build community in Surrey BC, where she lives and works on the unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples.

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