Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Duet for a Lifetime.

Here is an interesting piece of my history, dating back several generations on my paternal grandmother's side of the family. It was written up and published by a cousin of my dads. I always remembered hearing this story when I was small, it seemed so fantastical, almost not quite real. But if you get an opportunity to read this book, you would see how real life as co-joined twins was for this pair of young men.

" This is the story of the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, who were born near Bangkok in 1811 and died after a lifetime spent in perpetual fleshy captivity, in North Carolina in 1874. Their fantastic history is told by Kay Hunter, descendant of the Scot who found and befriended them. She has been able to unearth much new and hitherto undisclosed material, including her own illustrations, not only from her family sources but from the descendants of Eng and of Captain Abel Coffin, the villain of the piece who sought to rob the Twins of their earnings.
After purchase from their mother they were launched into show business and spent most of their lives "on the road", at one time working for Phineas Barnum the great American impresario. They eventually settled in North Carolina where they married two sisters and raised large families. Although they often sought medical advise in hopes of being separated, medical science at that time was not advanced enough to perform such an operation. Kay Hunter's book contains accounts of the various medical examinations and details of the autopsy which finally revealed the extent to
which these two men were joined as one.
As the author says, there comes to every man, at some stage of his life, the desire to be alone. He may need solitude in which to laugh, to weep, to think constructively, or to indulge himself in blank idleness. For Chang and Eng this luxury, which we all take for granted, was denied - for a whole lifetime."

Taken from the inside cover of Duet for a Lifetime

This is a portrait of my ancestor, Captain Robert John Hunter that can be found in the book. He was the man who discovered the twins in their homeland, whilst there on merchant business. This old photo hung in a relatives house. It was as much a part of the story as the twins. Although I never saw the portrait myself, I remember Grandma always said that as a child, when she was in the room where it hung, she could feel those eyes looking down at her, and how they seemed to follow her around the room.

Its sort of a strange bit of family history, but its my history.


FTS said...

How fun to find your ancestors have a place in history. I've always wanted to research my family tree, but I'm seriously lacking in enough living relatives.

dee said...

I think it's very interesting!

Oh and meant to thank you for the view of Golden Ears the other day. It was so very beautiful in the winter months and I haven't seen it for years. Happy Smile!

carol said...

It is so neat to have this story as part of our history. One day I shall read this book. Funny thing, along time ago Brians mom, Hilda was cleaning up a bunh of stuff she no longer wanted, clothes, books, etc. I looked thru this stuff before it was sent to a charity shop and she was getting rid of that book Duet of a lifetime.I either gave it to you or dad at that time. Neat hey? Love and kisses.P.S. thanks for everything.

August95 said...

Thank you for sharing this bit of history with us. How neat is that.

Bobbie said...

What an interesting piece of history. Once of my hobbies is working on the family's interesting what you find.

The thought of always being attached to someone and never being alone sure makes me appreciate any 'alone' time I have.

Take care and thanks for your caring comments on my site. You're a special and caring person.

David said...

Very interesting indeed. It is fun to look way back into our family history and try to determine what life was like for them.

Deanna said...

I believe I knew about this once.... the memory has a fair amount of dust sitting on it... but it seems like a story that you told me once upon a time....COOL

Yorke Haynes said...

Greetings! I guess that I have your ancestor to thank for my very existence, in a way. Chang Bunker is my great-great grandfather. Robert Hunter is very well known among the many decendants of The Twins. The Kay Hunter book was my first exposure to my unusual family history when I read it as a child. Odd how things work out! Thanks, Yorke