A DANBY woman has finally had the courage to open a tin containing a bizarre lucky charm – a piece of human skin aged more than 90 years old.
Lois Buckle came across the caul – a membrane covering the face of some babies at birth – while sorting out her late mother Sheila Hewitt’s belongings.
Sheila was born “in the caul” which happens when the baby’s amniotic sac does not burst and remains intact on the baby’s head or face like a circular crown.
Throughout the world they are thought to be lucky, special or protected and children born with it are rare with just one occurring in 1,000 births.
Superstition has it the cauls are also supposed to bring good luck to whoever who owns them.
Lois said: “I always knew it was there but I really hadn’t the courage to look at it. It’s yellowed with age and is in an old King George the Fifth tin.
“A sailor once offered her mother money for it but I don’t know what to do with it now. I don’t know if it’s worth anything.”
Many superstitions are associated with cauls.
Anyone who had one in their possession was supposed to be safe from drowning which is the reason for them being a prized possession for sailors and they were often sold to them for high prices.
Although they were kept as lucky charms, this did not prove the case for Lois’s mother.
Born Sheila Hewitt in 1921 in Middlesbough where she lived until her death in 1993 aged 71, she married her first husband Raymond Jones at the beginning of the Second World War.
But Raymond was a Spitfire pilot who was killed in France shortly after they married.
Sheila also outlived her second husband, Basil Crutchley, Lois’s father, whom she married in 1945.
Owning a caul also failed well-known Irish writer James Gordon Farrell who died while fly-fishing.
Another well-known personality and caul owner was entertainer George Formby, prominent in the 1930s and 1940s.
References to children being born with the caul as being special occur in literature from the bible onwards.
Writers of fiction seem to have been intrigued by them and they feature frequently in literature.
One of Charles Dickens’ most popular characters David Copperfield, for example, was born with a caul which was auctioned off in the story as a talisman for the price of 15 guineas to protect against drowning.
However there were no takers.
A number of prominent people throughout history are also among their number.
They range widely from Charlemagne to Napoleon and Sigmund Freud.
In addition from being safe from drowning people born with them were supposed to have second sight and be able to foretell the future.