A COUPLE of weeks ago, I told you about a wonderful find I had in the former Barony St John’s Church in Ardrossan where my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, is based.

Some plaster had fallen down revealing a pamphlet which had slipped under the gallery floorboards around the 1890’s.

It was advertising “Dr Birley’s Invaluable Compounds of Free Phosphorus” and last time I told you what I found out about this miraculous drink.

Now, I’d like to tell you about the man himself – Dr Birley, or Samuel Birley Rowbotham to give his actual name.

Rowbotham was born in 1816 and it appears that he spent an early part of his life working in a commune where he noted that there was a distinct lack of curvature on the long straight drainage ditches of the Bedford Levels and this convinced him that the earth was actually flat.

According to his scientific method, which he called Zetetic Astronomy, the earth is actually a flat disk with the North Pole at its centre and this disc is bounded along its southern edge by a wall of ice.

The sun, moon, planets and all the stars are really only a few thousand miles above the surface of the earth.

By 1849, he had written “Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not A Globe”, a 16- page pamphlet and he was touring community halls across the land under the nom-de-plume of “Parallax”, charging sixpence per person to packed audiences listening to his reasonings.

He then began to trade under the name “Dr Birley” although I can’t find out if he actually was a doctor.

And he also patented a number of inventions, including his miraculous phosphorous compounds, a fire-resistant starch in 1860 and a “life-preserving cylindrical railway carriage” in 1861.

That same year, he married for a second time (I couldn’t find any information on his first wife but his new wife was the 16-year-old daughter of his laundress) and he moved to London where they lived in a splendid 12-roomed house.

They had 14 children over the years but only four survived – a shame considering his miraculous phosphorous compound drink was purported to cure all diseases and ailments.

In either 1864 or 1881 (there seems to be some confusion), his pamphlet was extended into a 430-page book version, “Zetetic Astronomy: The Earth not a Globe”.

Dr Samuel Birley Rowbotham died in 1884 and soon after, Lady Elizabeth Blount founded the “Universal Zetetic Society”, which remained active well into the early part of the 20th century.

When Everest was conquered in 1953, one of Rowbotham’s followers stated; “From atop Mount Everest, an observer sees the horizon roughly 230 miles away.

“Over that distance, Earth should curve over 35,000 feet. Yet the horizon remains at the observer’s eye level, having not dropped one inch.”

The Earth was indeed flat.

In 1956, this “proof” led to the Universal Zetetic Society being revived under the new name, “The Flat Earth Society” which exists today.

I will try to uncover more about Rowbotham’s “life-preserving cylindrical railway carriage” and tell you all about it in a future article.

In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about the discoveries I have made in the former Barony St John’s church building, please check out my blog at www.ardrossman.wordpress.com or if you would like to know more about the Barony St John Regeneration Project, look us up on Facebook.

Goodbye for now.