How A Turnip Led To The 1881 Death Of Parliament Member Sir William Payne-Gallwey

History contains no shortage of strange deaths. When you consider the billions of times someone has met their maker, it stands to reason that at least some of those instances would extend beyond natural causes, automobile accidents, or homicides. Take, for example, one of the weirdest deaths from ancient historyAncient Origins told of how Aeschylus, a Greek playwright, perished when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. It's thought that the bird of prey wanted to break the animal's shell to get to the bounty within and mistook Aeschylus's bald pate for a rock.

And then there's famed astronomer Tycho Brahe. Live Science reported that Brahe found himself needing to empty his bladder while attending a dinner party. But as he felt excusing himself from the table would be rude, he held it in. Unfortunately for Brahe, he waited a lot longer than he should have. His bladder burst and he died a slow and painful death over the next several days (per Retrospect Journal).

Much like a tortoise, a person might not look at a root vegetable as a source of potential bodily harm. But, in at least one moment in history, a turnip became a lethal force. Sir William Payne-Gallwey of Thirsk met his end by way of an edible foe that lies patiently in wait under the soil.

Usually a gun is involved in a shooting accident

Sir William Payne-Gallwey had a long tenure as a member of Parliament for the hamlet of Thirsk, a community in North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. But after 28 years in this position, his waning health made him decide to step down from the role (per The Northern Echo). The gentleman had more free time available, which he sometimes spent shooting in the rural farmlands near his home. Sir William met his fate during one of these, but his death didn't come from the barrel of the gun he carried. Rather, a root vegetable protruding from the earth served as his final nemesis.

As he walked along a farmer's turnip field, Sir William tripped. The Northern Echo reported that when he fell, his body landed heavily on a turnip. He fell in such a way that the turnip caused substantial internal damage. He withered away over the next four days before succumbing to his turnip-related trauma. "All that medical aid could do was done, but with Sir William's failing health, he gradually sank and died about ten o'clock on Monday morning," the outlet wrote.

Thirkleby Park, the Gallwey family estate, passed to Sir William's son, Sir Ralph. He would be the last Gallwey at the estate, however. His heir, William, died in France during World War I. After Sir Ralph passed in 1916, the estate went up for sale. After no buyers came forward, Thirkleby Park was demolished in 1927.

Sir William's predecessor also had a notable end of life story

Before Sir William filled the position, a man named John Bell served as the MP of Thirsk. The Northern Echo told of the experiences of Bell, who was elected to the post in 1841. Bell had a strong interest in taxidermy, specifically of the avian variety. His behavior had long concerned his friends, but as his mental health deteriorated, his professional colleagues grew alarmed as well. Those who knew him reported that he would flap his arms and that he even identified as an eagle. He reportedly told a person in his family that he could "fly better than a bird because he kept his shoulders oiled."

Believe it or not, there was no way to force Bell to vacate his post in those days. A Commission of Lunacy held in 1849 concluded that Bell "was of unsound mind," but without a legal way to remove him, they were stuck with Bell as the MP until his death in 1851. The Lunacy (Vacating of Seats) Act introduced in 1886 eventually established a legal process for removing a person deemed to have a diminished mental capacity from their elected post. Parliament repealed the legislation years later as part of its ongoing mental health reforms.

Between death by turnip and an MP who thinks he can take to the skies with the birds, Thirsk didn't seem to have a dull moment in the latter part of the 19th century. Who says history is boring?

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.