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No cock, just bull

Just re-reading Gerald of Wales, Journey Through Wales and Description of Wales and came across the following paragraph.

A certain knight, name Gilbert, surname Hagurnell, after a long and unremitting anguish, which lasted three years, and the most severe pains as of a woman in labour, at length gave birth to a calf, an event was witnessed by a great crowd of onlookers. Perhaps it was portent of some unusual calamity yet to come. It was more probably a punishment exacted for some unnatural act of vice.

This comes early on in the book somewhere between Hay on Wye and Brecon and in the midst of other stories relating to punishments exacted for thievery and misbehaviour (getting you hand stuck to a stone wall of a church for attempting to steal its pigeons. Gilbert Hagurnell’s story is an interesting one, as a man giving birth isn’t that common and giving birth to a cow less common. There are few references to this story, but one of the more expansive is on the slightly esoteric In The Medieval Middle blog which converts this to more of a love story (for Gilbert) and evidence of Gerald of Wales interest in the close relationship at the time with man and his beasts.

The lack of online references to this incident is no surprise. Google had managed to search 60 million pages by 1998 (about the same time I selected Altavista for a UK government project), however Gilbert wrote about the incident as part of his travels in Wales in 1188, so 820 years BG (before Google). We now rely on Google and other sources and suggest they are statements of fact. But as with verbally retold tales and stores of the Medieval era, information now is no more reliable. Whether it be embellishment, simply not true or perverted from the original, even if Gilbert gave birth to a bovine in 2008 there is still no certain that it was true. If it did happen and was recorded in some way, I’m sure the Conspiracy Theorists would put the event in the top 10 and put Gerald of Wales in the same category as David Icke.

This weeks Conspiracy Theory is about the search phrase “Conservatives are” when using Google. But as some articles have argued, rather than a conspiracy theory there is probably some fact or reality. In this case Google have added ‘Conservatives are’ to the autocomplete blacklist to say thanks for the £130m tax deal they’ve done in the UK. Not a nice thing, a bit of mutual slapping of backs, but not a theory.

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