Ireland was on e of the first countries in Europe to largely eradicate smallpox due to the dedication of Dispensary Doctors, a poorly paid and over worked profession.
1871, Meeting Courthouse, Durrus, Patrick’s Day re Alarming Spread of Smallpox
Chaired by Father O’Flynn, P.P., Durrus.
Michael Hungerford Morris, Eq., J.P. Friendly Cove
William Morris, Esq.,
Dr. Thomas Henry Sandiford, M.D., Dispensary Doctor
John Vickery, Poor Law, Guardian, Ballycomane
Charles Dukelow, Poor Law Guardian
George Rollins, Rossmore, Slate Quarry Owner
John Moss, Contractor
James Philips, Owner Bandon Arms Hotel, Durrus
Richard Tobin, Businessman, probably grandson ‘King’ Tobin, Kilcrohane
John Sullivan, probably shop owner
1871 Western Tenantry Entertained by Lord Bandon on coming of age of Lord Bernard, at Durrus Court (Gearhameen). Dinner provided by James Philips of Durrus and Mrs. Fitzgerald, Cork.
Among those present
Earl of Bantry
Rev. John Triphook, Schull
Rev. W. Fisher, Teampall na mBochht, Goleen
William S. Tisdall
Michael Hungerford Morris, J.P., Evanson descendant, Friendly Cove.
Rev. W. Dulea, later Parish Priest Durrus.
Rev. R. Noble
Rev. Pratt, Durrus
Dr. Thomas Henry Sandiford, M.D., Dispensary Doctor
Captain Thomas, Mine Owner
Lady Mary Aldworth nee Bernard, Bandon
Lady Elizabeth white
Lady Ina White
Lady Jane White
Lady Adelaide and Cathleen Bernard, Bandon
Mrs. Pratt, nee Murphy, Newtown, Bantry
Mrs Payne, probably wife of Somers Payne agent Lord Bantry
Mrs Tisdall, may be nee Murphy Newtown, Bantry
Mrs M. Morris
Miss Bessy Morris
Toasts to :’Her Majesty the Queen’, ‘The Prince and Princes of Wales’, and the Royal Family
‘The Lord Lieutenant and Prosperity to Ireland’, ‘Army Navy and Reserve Forces’
Doctor Barry, 1800, on ‘Shinach’ (Small Pox) and practice in Cork of inoculation with Cow Pox 50 years before Dr Jenner’s vaccination and late 18th century inoculations by Mr. Goodwin, Bantry, Wes
Clais na Bolainghe (Clashnabullagee), Small Pox Trench/Pit, containing remains of those who died of Small Pox, identified in 1842 Ordnance Survey Orthography, 1842, Townland of Rooska adjoining Bantry Bay.
Ross Cathedral Records: included are details of the three young Griffith girls who died by small pox in 1717.
1748, Thomas Trendle (Trender?), Skibbereen escaped Convict en route to Cork Gaol, Marked with Small Pox, Wig, Description of Clothing, Reward £5 from William Hull, Skibbereen, Ship Masters Notified.
1822, Dr William Folliott, Clonakilty, County Cork, to Chief Secretary’s Office, Dublin Castle, making case for increase of vaccination against small pox in District Edward Hunt, Kinsale, 1822, observes that many Magistrates are uneducated men ‘who in many instances are Tythe Proctors and in most instances are as Middlemen the cruelest and most unrelenting oppressors of the unfortunate tenantry under them’
1835, The Cow-Pock Institution, Inoculation in Clonakilty 1822, Rooska, Bantry, Pit with Small Pox Victims, Old Practice of Shinnack, 50 Years before Jenner.
Samuel Doherty, Coolnaconnaught, Kilmeen.
Blinded by small pox.
The disease inspired particular dread in Ireland where smallpox and its ugly sisters, cholera, typhoid and dysentery made themselves at home for hundreds of years and exploited extreme poverty and ignorance to devastating effect. The symptoms of the disease were high fever, headache, pain in the back and muscles. Children might also experience vomiting and convulsions.
If you didn’t die of smallpox in 18th and 19th century Ireland you probably went blind. The next time you hear the music of the great harpist Turlough O’Carolan from Nobber in County Meath think of smallpox. It blinded him at the age of eighteen in 1688 making him virtually useless for any occupation until he developed a talent as a harpist and a facility for musical composition. Many other itinerant harpists had been similarly afflicted.
The disease, which was highly contagious and infectious, is believed to have caused about one fifth of all deaths in the city of Dublin between 1661 and 1746. About a third of all child deaths were probably caused by smallpox. Although it mainly afflicted the poor it was no respecter of rank. The children of the rich could die of the disease just as quickly as those closer to the breadline.
Hope emerged towards the beginning of the 18th century when the efficacy of inoculation started to become apparent. Inoculating people with small doses of the virus had apparently been practiced in China since the 10th century but didn’t really begin to make inroads in Europe for almost another eight hundred years. In Ireland the technique was first tried on a number of, presumably unwilling, prisoners in Cork Jail in 1721. Four years later the experiment was extended to five children in Dublin.
As the effectiveness became clear the better off began to use inoculation to protect themselves and their children. During periodic epidemics in the mid to late 18th centuries the survival rate among the wealthy families who had engaged in the practice encouraged its more widespread use. The South Infirmary in Cork even initiated a programme to inoculate the poor.
Naturally where there was money to be made there were charlatans. Travelling inoculators with a very basic grasp, if any, of what they were doing, competed for trade. In Donegal in 1781 all but one child of a group of fifty-two died when one unqualified practitioner purported to inoculate them.
Whatever inroads were being made in Ireland against the disease came to virtually nothing with the onset of the Great Famine of the 1840s when smallpox returned with a grim vengeance. Even for sufferers who survived the recovery period of the disease ensured that many were pauperised and died anyway with breadwinners unable to work.
It was only from the 1880s onwards that the disease began to be more rapidly eradicated in Ireland. In the 1870s more than seven and a half thousand people died of smallpox. By the first decade of the 20th century that figure was down to sixty-five. Between 1901 and 1910 almost a million Irish people were vaccinated against the disease.