Welcome to the spring edition of our Newsletter. Thank goodness that ‘The Beast from the East’ has gone west and allowed us to resume our lives. Snow in March is not such a novelty. In 1674, in a century when the Thames froze over on at least six occasions, the March snowfall lasted for 13 days and, quite topically for our region, became known as ‘The thirteen drifty days’.
Perhaps you can recall memorable winters of yesteryear, such as that of 1962-63, when some of you, as I did, might have trudged or ‘crept like snail, unwillingly to school’. Then there was the journey home again through endless drifts of ice-spangled snow under a darkening sky, wearing a cold school cap and a soaking standard issue gabardine raincoat, which still remained wet from the morning journey. At such times, if I had not been feeling well before going to bed, I remember being given hot lemon juice and an ‘aspro’ tablet or, as was quite common in my area of Yorkshire, offered a mug of ‘pobs’, which consisted of hot milk and honey into which chunks of bread were added. It was a temporary comfort cure but could do nothing for my tonsillitis, which I first contracted around this period. What a relief therefore to be visited at home by a doctor and be given the miraculous antibiotics of the time which, within days, had me fighting fit to go back out into the snow and start the whole trudging process all over again.
I only relate this ‘when I was a lad’ tale because, as a lass or a lad, something similar might have happened to you. It also reinforces my view of how fortunate we are, in terms of our health and welfare, to have lived through such times, which neatly brings me to the subject of our last meeting.
Kill or Cure ~
The January Mardle Evening, Tuesday, 9th January, 2018, at the Village Hall.
Informal and relaxed, the Kill or Cure Mardle evening was well attended. Light refreshments and a glass of wine proved welcome as members shared old remedies and cures which may have been helpful …….or otherwise!
We were privileged to have pharmacist Enid Meadows present to explain how the antique medical equipment on display functioned. There were wooden pill making boards and moulds, pestle and mortars, tins, waxed boxes and old bottles which once contained obscure medicines and potions. Those containing poison had a ribbed exterior, often green in colour. Enid was happy to answer questions and informed us that pharmacists always used to write messages and labels in green ink to indicate they were authentic. Also on display were medical books, advertisements, papers and copies of old cures, the earliest relating to the Stuart period and some beautifully handwritten cures from 1838.
Long ago there were few trained doctors, their charges beyond the financial means of the majority so it was common practice to treat the sick with homemade herbal remedies. A delightful 17th century recipe ” For a Cofe or Consumption or any weake body or rume” includes “Doble refined sugar, Damaske rose water, souroupe of Gilyflowers and Powder of pearle”
Less complicated cures recommend spiders’ webs for wounds, silver spoons to ease cramp, raw potato for sunburn, a dirty sock around the neck for a sore throat and a dish of fried mice for smallpox, not exactly appetising. For Arthritis the patient should mix turpentine with either vegetable oil, an egg or animal fat and rub this on the skin. An alternative cure was to put two horse chestnuts in your pockets. Bread poultices for boils feature among our childhood memories and the blue bag used in washing for insect and nettle stings. Some herbal remedies are still popular and bring about good results. Many include honey, onions and garlic, all easily available.
It was a delightful evening, both informative and entertaining. It also made us appreciate the NHS more. Cures now are more scientific, likely and reliable but it has to be acknowledged our ancestors refined herbal knowledge, much of which remains beneficial today.
(With grateful thanks to Shirley Wright and Sylvia Ford for compiling this report.)
Our second meeting of the year is at 7.30 p.m. next Tuesday, 13th March, at the Village Hall. The speaker is Pip Wright from Stowmarket, who is going to give an illustrated talk on the subject of ‘Frolic, Fervour and Fornication’.
Pip has written numerous books and articles on many facets of historical country and town life in Suffolk. His talk for us will relate to registers and papers that once lay in the parish chests of a number of Suffolk villages and the remakable surprises that some of them unexpectedly contain.
It promises to be an intriguing evening
For those of you who have not done so, there will also be an opportunity at the above to pay your annual subscription which remains at £8.50. For guests, the attendance fee remains at £3.00.
Dates of Future Meetings.
Tuesday, 8th May. ‘The Hoard of Alpington.’
At this meeting we shall welcome back Stephen Dunthorne, our expert metal detectorist and resident in the village. Stephen is one of the few metal detectorists in the county authorised to work on scheduled sites and has used his expertise to assist archaeologists in their work.
In past visits he has kept us up to date with his discoveries, both local and from further afield. However, this meeting will be something special – Stephen will be able at last to tell us about the hoard of important early coins that he discovered somewhere in Alpington. He is a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker, so do come along to hear more!
July – Visit to Carlton Colville Transport Museum. Date to be arranged.
Tuesday, 11th September. ‘The History of Plant Life’. Robin McDonald.
Tuesday, 13th November. ‘And then the guns fell silent’. John Ling.
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the above events and thank you for supporting the Society.