The curious case of the “10 stone baby” born near Glasgow

The broadside report on baby James published in 1821. PIC National Library of Scotland.
The broadside report on baby James published in 1821. PIC National Library of Scotland.
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It was hailed as one of the “greatest curiosities that ever appeared in the human world” - a baby reported to weigh up to 10 stone when aged not even a year old.

James Weir was born in April 1820 to John Weir and Jean Elder, a “respectable” family from Cambusnethan, Wishaw, North Lanarkshire.

The boy caused such as stir that details of his extraordinary size were published in a broadside, a single newsheet, with James deemed to be “one of the most wonderful children” whose physical size could “scarcely” be believed.

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An 1821 broadside report was published when James was 11-months old.

The baby was “quite healthy; measures about a yard round the body, and is well proportioned in every part ; the weight of this boy is between nine and ten stones, his body, legs and arms being exceeding thick,” the report said.

The report details the difficulty of the boy’s mother in feeding the boy, given she was unable to carry her son.

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“She is obliged to have re-course to the expedient of laying him upon a table or some other support, not being able to carry him in her arms,” it added.

The baby was fed a typical meal of bread-berry served in “moderate” portions.

The report said: “Great numbers of persons have been anxious to visit this in-sant (sic) wishing to attest the truth of it by their own observation, not believing the stories which were propagated about it, but which they now assert to be one of the greatest wonders ever witnessed amongst the human race.

“Should he be spared to arrive at the years of manhood, he will form one of the most rare and wonderful personages which ever made their appearance in this or any other country.”

The report is contained by the National Library of Scotland’s vast collection of broadsides, the most common way of distributing news for more than 300 years.

Baby James did not survive long and died on August 20 1821 died aged just 17-months old.

A gravestone in Cambusnethan Old Churchyard marks his short life.

It states the child’s weight was eight stone at 13 months, not between nine and 10 as detailed in the press story, and was 3ft 4ins in height.

This gravestone reads - “Erected by John Weir and Jean Elder of this parish in memory of their son James who died 20th August 1821 aged 17 months and 9 days.

“Said at the time by the medical faculties of Edinburgh and Glasgow to be the most remarkable child of his age on record”.