Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Snails Tale or is that tail?

Today's tale is about snails. You may recall that we (my husband and I) went to Scotland earlier in the summer and I said that I would give details later. Well we went to Paisley, Scotland so that my husband could attend a law conference. You may, quite understandably, be wondering what that might have to do with snails. Well I'll share some information on a famous case in English common law about a snail.

First though, what is a snail?

A "Snail is a common name which is applied to most of the members of the molluscan class Gastropoda that have coiled shells in the adult stage. When the word is used in its most general sense, it includes sea snails, land snails and freshwater snails. The word snail without any qualifier is however more often applied to land snails than to those from the sea or freshwater. Snail-like animals that naturally lack a shell, or have only an internal shell, are often called slugs, and land species that have only a very small shell (that they cannot retract into) are called semislugs." (Wikipedia)


I probably don't have to tell you that snails don't move very fast and thus are sometimes used as a symbol for laziness.

"In Christian culture, it has been used as a symbol of the deadly sin of sloth. Psalms 58:8 uses snail slime as a metaphorical punishment."
"Snails were widely noted and used in divination. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote that snails signified the time to harvest by climbing the stalks, while the Aztec moon god Tecciztecatl bore a snail shell on his back. This symbolised rebirth; the snail's penchant for appearing and disappearing was analogised with the moon."
"In contemporary speech, the expression "a snail's pace" is often used to describe a slow, inefficient process. The phrase "snail mail" is used to mean regular postal service delivery of paper messages as opposed to the delivery of email, which can be virtually instantaneous."
Add to that, they are  hated by gardeners because they seem to "graze" on the fresh new shoots of our favorite plants, and are much maligned indeed.

Here is my husbands synopsis of the famous case celebrated and discussed at the Paisley Snail Conference:
In August 1928 May Donoghue went by tram from Glasgow to the small town of Paisley with a friend.  In Paisley they went to the Wellmeadow Café where her friend treated her to a ginger beer float.  Mr. Minghella, the proprietor, brought a glass with ice cream and poured some ginger beer from an opaque bottle into the glass at the table.  When May poured some more ginger beer into the glass she claimed that the decomposed remains of a snail appeared.  In those days May would have had no recourse – her friend had treated her, Mr. Minghella just poured the ginger beer out of the bottle which he had purchased from Mr. Stevenson’s soft drinks company and May had not bought the soft drink from Mr. Stevenson so she had no contract with either of them.  However a law suit was commenced and a motion by Mr. Stevenson’s lawyers to strike out the claim was dismissed but the Court of Session (Scotland’s appeal court) allowed the appeal and dismissed the claim.  May’s lawyers appealed to the House of Lords, at that time the United Kingdom’s highest court.  In May 1932 Lord Atkin allowed the appeal, supported by 2 of the other 4 judges.  He said that when you manufactured a product you had to take reasonable care not to injure your neighbour, who in law was anyone you could reasonably foresee might be injured if you were negligent. (Donoghue vs Stevenson)

This simple case was the beginning of a major change in the law in the Commonwealth as the courts finally caught up with the reality that many products were now manufactured and shipped across a country (in trains) and the users of the product dealt with intermediaries, not the manufacturer.  The House of Lords’ decision opened up the whole area of product liability and other areas of liability such as negligence of professionals.  While there have been many important court decisions, this case probably had the most wide reaching and long lasting effect of any case in the Commonwealth.

Interestingly the case never went to trial so it was never proved that there had been a snail in the bottle.  Mr. Stevenson died and his executor settled the case with Ms. Donoghue.

The conference in Paisley was held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the House of Lords’ decision.  Many interesting papers were presented dealing with the development of the law since the decision.


This way ..........

So with that in mind, how could a snail have gotten into a bottle of ginger beer. As an aside my husband tells me that the term "ginger" is used as a generic word for a soft drink or soda in Scotland.

So when I was in Province in the summer I took "a few" pictures of snails which seemed quite active early in the day.

Since the snails were quite cooperative I decide to try to reenact the alleged event so bear with me as the snail makes his way from the path and over the gravel ...

... to the bottle....

Well there seems to be a problem here, looks like a tight fit or .............

maybe not ......
Well they have a saying that in Scotland, the snails are so poor they can't afford houses! Maybe that explains it, but if they don't have houses then according to the previous description they are technically slugs not snails ... and that just doesn't have the same ring to it!
I hope you have enjoyed this tale about a very famous snail case. Oh, by the way, no snails were harmed in photographing this reenactment.
This week for a change of pace I painted something light and silly. A watercolour again, but this time of a frog, perhaps a frog prince, perhaps a prince frog. I call it "Who did you expect?"
Well thanks for hanging in through this moving tale. Happy Whimsy Wednesday.
Until next time ..........


  1. what a story ! great post and beautiful images of snails !
    here they eat snails with garlic and parsley : "escargots de bourgogne" !!
    funny painting of a prinz !
    have a nice day

  2. This time also, I enjoyed the story about snails very much!! The snails in your photos are so cute and lovely, but I dislike slugs. How interesting it is that the impression toward them is completely different depending on whether they have shells or not.
    In rain, snails look very happy and are associated with a rainy season in Japan. They fit in it very well.
    Thanks for shaing this.

  3. I so enjoyed reading this post, Gillian! And your experiment with the snail and the rather small opening on the bottle is rather telling, isn’t it? It is incredible to realize that the lowly snail had such an impact on the future laws of an entire society and that such a tale was also a motivating factor for traveling to Scotland. :)

  4. WoW...a real snail tale, with some amazing close ups!!

    and what a cute fun frog. you are so wonderfully talented!!

  5. A wonderful post Gillian the snail shots are fantastic...

    Many thanks for your recent comments they really are appreciated xx.

  6. Oh he is adorable, and looks like he just stepped out of a children's book. Hint, hint...

    Love the snails tale, we don't have snails around here, but we sure did in White Rock. I kind of loved them.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  7. A very interesting post. (and well worth waiting for!) Such a small creature and associated incident on which to base a whole body of law. Your snails were beautifully photographed - but I must admit that I do NOT like the real live ones in the garden!!

  8. What a wonderful story! Love the close up of the snail trying to get into the bottle. Your painting is lovely.

  9. I love frogs and your painting is so much fun. I loved the snail tail/tale and hilarious watching it trying to get in the bottle. Fantastic post.

  10. Love this post. It reminds me of when I was a kid living in California and we had so many snails. My sister and I just loved watching them. I don't think I have ever seen a snail here in the desert. LOVE and I mean LOVE your painting. Its so Whimsical and cute.


  11. Gillian you must be a very patient person to have filmed the snail as it meandered along. I'm sure the prince frog would be a much loved character in a children's room. It would be interesting to see what stories a group of children would come up with if the prince frog was to be the central character of their story.

  12. Oh Gillian, that painting is wonderful. They all are but this one would look lovely in a library and inspire kids. Love your take here. As for the snails, I think they are so beautiful. I would love to see them here. We have some that live in the soil but they are small and not like the ones you featured in your post. Very cool captures. And didn't know that bit about "ginger". I just thought it was used for people with red hair:)

  13. I have a certain fondness for snails - all aspects of the tendency to eat my garden put to one side! I just think there is something about their form that makes me smile!

    My flamingos are paler that the ones in France - I dont think this species is ever really shocking pink!

    Stewart M - Australia

  14. Very whimsical indeed. Enjoyed your little story and reenactment, quite interesting.

  15. You were very patient to take photos of that snail. ;)

    Interesting court case. Who'd have guessed a snail could have caused a change in British law?

  16. What a fascinating story. Love the shots of the snail with the beer!

  17. Cute post and love your frog prince!

  18. You took so many pictures of snails and I wonder how many were your models. Did you find many snails there? In my corner of the world, I ‘ve seen less and less snails. When I was a child, many snails were seen especially during the rainy season. Likewise, I’ve heard frogs are disappearing worldwide. Your watercolor painting has something to do with this post.


  19. Why? I don't know why but when the word, snail, is mentioned or when I see one a new word for it always comes to mind — foot. I guess it was my mother who told me that the part the snail travels on is it's foot.

    Frogs and unlikely suspects in the snail world and I would guess or imagine a snail might become a snack for a bull frog. They can eat just about everything smaller than they are and I have heard tales about them eating Banty hens. Not sure about that as I have never seen a frog, Bull or otherwise, swallow a chicken.

    That would be quite a gulp.

  20. I might shock you, but I have two associations with snails: 1) they ate something in my garden or 2) I ate them as escargots.
    I really like your frog.

  21. I never thought snails could be so interesting lol
    A fascinating and interesting post Gillian.

    Love that frog at the end.

  22. Gillian, I loved the snail story and your cute photos. They are neat critters. And your frog painting is adorable, well done!

  23. Beautiful post you have written, and the snail, I kept thinking it would be a nice thing to get up the nerve and climb inside the bottle, lovely.

  24. Interesting snail story! I love your painting!