Pills, Potions and Proper Medicine


Ben Batten and Mary Quick have both referred to various home remedies used when calling the doctor might have been expensive. For many purposes a kaolin poultice was a frequent resort, as was various sorts of herbal tea or for sore throats honey and lemon was a simple palliative. Looking through copies of The Cornishman from the late 1920s an impressive number of remedies were advertised as being on offer:-

1) Women who are tired out


-How to regain lost vitality for women who feel tired out, nervy and overwrought, and suffers from headaches and backaches.

Try Dr Williams’ pink pills –of all chemists 3/- a box


2) Clarke’s Blood Mixture


“Just as good for abscesses, ulcers, bad legs, inflamed wounds, swollen glands, haemorrhoids, also rheumatism and gout- all of which are signs of blood impurities.

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3) Swan’s Oxygen Therapy, Alperton, Penzance


Inhalation therapy for asthma, tuberculosis and pneumonia


Each copy of the newspaper would carry around five of such adverts, some large but few efficacious.

Had medical science a great deal to offer? As the CountyMOH report of 1933 shows the Women’s Hospital in Redruth was busy-some due to unsanitary home conditions- and some areas of the county, like Sennen, had no midwife coverage of any kind. Puerperal fever as it was termed had not been eradicated although the work of Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Boston Physician with literary leanings, as far back as 1843 had shown the risk of physicians carrying infections from one infected patient to others. Whilst this was recognised, effective treatment for the condition depended upon the development of antibiotics. It was only in 1936 that Colebrook’s research was reported in the Lancet about the effectiveness of sulfa drug on a condition that was more lethal than pneumonia. They also worked on meningococcal meningitis so that the death rates for such conditions started to fall after 1940.

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Eric Kemp mentions in ‘We want to speak of Schooldays’, that because his mother lost a sister, who died soon after she was born in St Ives, he comments, “…they decided that when I came along, they’d go up to London, and be born in a proper hospital.”





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