Foan Hill to Balm of Rakasiri

Leaving the Robin Hood pub Russ Ralph and I set off not knowing exactly which way to go and choose to go up Foan Hill. I’m not sure of the origin of this word ‘foan’ it might be an old name for a moor or a bog, well that’s what just one reference on the internet told me. I also found a map showing the distribution of the word foan as a surname which seems to be mainly in the south and south west of the UK. Maybe the hill is named after someone. The first thing that crossed my mind was ‘fawn’ a young deer and the 1911 census tells us that at that time there were in Swannington four houses with a Fone Hill address and one with a Fawn Hill address. The Swannington History Society believes all these houses were on the same road and it is not known when the spelling standardised as Foan Hill. The spellings in the census could just be due to the way the forms were filled in by individual householders.

Walking up the hill we come to the Incline Kennels named after the Swannington Incline, part of Stephenson’s Swannington Railway, one of the earliest railways in the Midlands and used to transport coal from the local mines to Leicester.

From behind the fence unseen dogs bark at us.

Russ and I both agree that we are not big fans of dogs but that some are okay and make you think maybe having a dog like that wouldn’t be so bad.

Later, still intrigued by the name Foan Hill I search it on Google and it somehow takes me to a page in ‘THE DRUGGIST’S RECEIPT BOOK’ and to Balm of Rakasiri which was ‘Oil of Rosemary dissolved in common gin’. It was made by the Jordan brothers in Canon Street Road, London, who marketed it throughout most of the 1800’s as a cure for nervous diseases but actually without saying so openly as a cure for venereal diseases. They were outed as quacks but were still trading through till the 1860s. Oil of Rosemary in gin sounds quite interesting and maybe worth trying not for its ‘restorative’ properties but for its beverage qualities if it has any.

Any point on a vague walk can lead us to new discoveries, emotions and stories true, half-true and false. Welcome them all.

Paul Conneally
May 2017

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