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Surprise endings


“Truth” defined: In accordance with the actual state of affairs; conformable to an essential reality; the state of being the case.

During the 1970s, we were given a copy of this touching, historical story and because we liked it, we added it to our collection of interesting writings:

An Irish Blessing

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surrounding. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

“I want to repay you,” said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life.”

“No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,” the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel.

“Is that your son?” the nobleman asked.

“Yes,” the farmer replied proudly.

“I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.” And that he did.

Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools and in time graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.

This interesting and unusual story has been circulating for several decades. It is believed to have first appeared in the December 1944 issue of Coronet magazine titled, “Dr. Lifesaver,” by Arthur Galdstone Keeney.

Throughout the ensuing years, this story has undergone several modifications. Its multiple versions contain several different twists and are presented with several diverse details. The two key characters, nevertheless, have remained Winston Churchill and Alexander Fleming, both of whom were well-known people of their era.

The most extraordinary and most disappointing feature of this too-good-to-be-true story, however, is this. It’s a fabrication. There is valid evidence that it never happened.

It is true that Churchill was treated for pneumonia in December 1943 while in North Africa. However, Fleming was neither present nor consulted at that time and penicillin was not used to treat the British prime minister. Instead, his illness was treated with “M&B”, a short name for sulfadiazine produced by May and Baker Pharmaceuticals.

Additionally, other records show that Fleming’s medical school education was financed with an inheritance from a recently deceased uncle, not an endowment from a grateful Randolph Churchill.

There is no record of Churchill nearly drowning in Scotland at that age, or any other age. Nor is there any mention in Churchill’s biography of Winston’s chance encounter with either Fleming, father or son. Unfortunately, in our world today we must challenge what we read or hear; we must constantly search for the “truth.” We should make it a practice to follow President Ronald Reagan’s great advice, “Trust by Verify.”

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at kennanco@gmail.com or visit www.kennancompany.com.

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