Wednesday, 16 March 2011


It would be nice to think that just before meeting our maker, we could summon our last remnants of invention and utter a witty or whimsical remark by which we might be remembered. Sadly, the muse deserted Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary, for his dying remark was "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something." I think he was hoping for a little more than a verbatim reporting of these words.

In reality then, it might be best to follow in the Blue Peter tradition of 'Here's a deathbed speech which I prepared earlier'. However, a
word of warning is in order. Do not copy someone else's witty demise as Groucho Marx did when on expiring in 1977 he said "Die, my dear? Why that's the last thing I'll do!" which a little research has shown to be the actual deathbed words of Henry Palmerston over a hundred years before in 1856. Perhaps Groucho felt that the copyright must have expired by then.

Of course, the circumstances of your impending death may well have a bearing on your choice of phrase. Imagine if you will that you are standing in front of a firing squad and are given the floor for your final speech. A certain Joe Hill of Utah found himself thus situated back in 1915 and shouted "Fire!" which promptly brought down the final curtain. James Rodgers, also facing a firing squad was asked if he had any last requests. "Why yes, a bulletproof vest!" he exclaimed - a request which was denied him.

Staying with the execution theme, a convicted murderer named James French when about to take a seat in the electric chair shouted out to the assembled news reporters "Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!"

Of course there have been some sad souls who when about to die, seized the opportunity to make their last big mistake. For instance, you would be well advised not to copy Gaius Caligula who, critical of his own guards to the last, pointed out their shoddy workmanship when having attempted to assassinate him, the Emperor shouted "I am still alive!" The error was soon corrected.

Terry Kath, who co-founded the rock band Chicago, managed the immortal phrase "Don't worry, it's not loaded" as he 'pretended' to shoot himself in the head. General John Sedgwick, a Union commander during the Civil War made a similar error of judgement when sticking his head above the parapet as he said "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist. . . ."

I certainly plan to have something memorable to say when I proceed to checkout. No sense in rushing things though. I intend to write it the day before I die.

No comments:

Post a Comment