Tag Archives: John

1691. Hershel’s busy month

Hershel was an undertaker, and he thought it strange that of the fifty bodies he’d dealt with that month twenty-seven of them were called John. Usually there were only a couple of deaths per month in his area, although it went up a little in the depths of winter. One month he once got six bodies, two of whom were Michael. But now in one month fifty bodies! And twenty-seven called John? Goodness me!

To make matters even weirder, of the fifty deaths twenty-two of them were female and therefore would probably never be called John. That meant that twenty-seven out of twenty-eight males were called John. The sole non-John was called Hector.

Further pondering produced other startling results. Of the twenty-seven Johns, twenty-six of them had the surname of Smith. Twenty-six John Smiths in one month! The only John who didn’t have the surname of Smith was John Gillespie-Fotheringham. That must surely be some sort of record.

The experts mulled over how such a thing could happen. It was a mystery. And then the reason was pointed out. Sometimes some things in life are so obvious. It was staring everyone in the face. John Gillespie-Fotheringham was a clerical error. There were twenty-seven John Smiths after all. What a relief!