Born with a Veil – The Story of the Baby that drowned in the Chelmer Canal

Born with a Veil

The Story of the Baby that drowned in the Chelmer Canal

Michael Ernest Janes

1946 – 21 September 1947

1st cousin 1x removed


Some people are born with a veil, caul, or hood, over their face. Perhaps you are one of these people, or know someone who was born this way.

Many belief systems hold that being born with a veil is a sign of special destiny and psychic abilities, or good luck. Most are female and believe themselves to be psychically gifted, while others show no advanced abilities nor interest.

To be born with a caul, may go more to being Born with a Calling and where that takes a soul.

      A caul or veil (Latin: Caput galeatum) is a thin, filmy membrane, the remnants of the amniotic sac, that covers or partly covers the newborn mammal immediately after birth. It is also the membrane enclosing the paunch of mammals, particularly as in pork and mutton butchery.

In childbirth it is seen as a shimmery coating of the head and face. The caul is harmless and it is easily removed by the doctor, midwife, or person(s) performing the childbirth. The appearance of a caul over a newborn baby’s head is occasional; not all children have one, though they are not especially rare. A child born in this way is known as a caulbearer.

In medieval times the appearance of a caul on a newborn baby was seen as a sign of good luck. It was considered an omen that the child was destined for greatness. Gathering the caul onto paper was considered an important tradition of childbirth: the midwife would rub a sheet of paper across the baby’s head and face, pressing the material of the caul onto the paper. The caul would then be presented to the mother, to be kept as an heirloom.

Over the course of European history, a popular legend developed suggesting that possession of a baby’s caul would give its bearer good luck and protect that person from death by drowning. Cauls were therefore highly prized by sailors. Medieval women often sold their cauls to sailors for large sums of money; a caul was regarded as a valuable talisman. In butchery the caul is used as ‘offal.’

The tragic story of Baby Michael Janes who fell into the Chelmer Canal

The story of Michael Janes is a story still remembered in my family and it’s one that as a parent that I find very difficult to imagine, this little boy died when he was only 19 months old and it took rescue services six hours to find his little body, and he was found in between two barges.

Michael is said to have been born with a veil, superstition tells us that the caulbearer is born lucky or with a divine gift and is said to protect the person from drowning. Sadly in my family this old wives tale never came true.

There is no one alive in my family old enough to remember Michael Janes but he is not forgotten, and through his family his memory lives on.

below is an article published in the Essex Weekly News at the end of September 1947 – ‘Baby Strayed into Canal, Because of Absense of Gate’

Ernest Michael Janes


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