One of the great pleasures of working with archives is the propensity they have to surprise. Hidden amongst the vast records of organisations, or the more petite collections of individuals, you are almost guaranteed to stumble upon something you would never have imagined to find. Items such as these help to add colour to the picture extant records create of the people who have left them, and they add colour to the world they occupied.
There are quite a few such items in the W Ronald D Fairbairn Archive. These items help to support the evidence we have of the wide-ranging interests Fairbairn had, both within and without the world of psychoanalysis. For example, at university he studied philosophy, theology and Hellenic studies, before embarking upon his medical qualifications and he was a member of a number of societies including the Scottish Anthropological and Folklore Society.
A small, yellowing newspaper cutting from 1932, in the Fairbairn Archive, holds the distinction of telling one of the most unusual stories I have ever come across in the ten years I have worked with archives.
This macabre and disturbing incident is shocking to read but, unfortunately perhaps, the journalistic style of the time renders it mildly humorous too.
It is obvious why this story would have interested Fairbairn: the unexpected nature of this cutting is that the event happened at all.