[From Train's History, 1844]





The following is an extract from a letter published in the Manks newspapers by Dr. Oswald, of Douglas, who has practised medicine and surgery in the Island for the period of twenty-six years:—

" It must sadden every humane mind to witness the number of victims to small pox, which, in Douglas alone, has not been fewer than six daily for the last six weeks—and this mortality has occurred in that class of the people who reject vaccination. With whom then does the responsibility of this mortality rest ? At the first view, it would seem to rest negatively in a defect of the means offered to the poor for vaccinating their children. For my own part, I can state confidently that three or four times every year I have, as far as my means and opportunity went as a private practitioner, and I believe my brother practitioners in this town have done the same, offered vaccination to all who choose to avail themselves of the opportunity; and have as often been chagrined to witness only a very few amongst the poor avail themselves of the offer; nay, some respectable, but illiterate, people have reject my practice broadly by saying:—'If they had twenty children they would not put the cow-pock on one of them.'

For my own part, I am still so much convinced of the inestimable value of vaccination, that I consider it degrading to human nature to see ignorant people not only neglecting it, but depreciating it, and actively opposing it; and not even hesitating to tell falsehoods in order to put it down.

Philanthropy and benevolence would certainly be a failure, if valued according to their usefulness among the poor despisers of vaccination in the Isle of Man. Far sterner measures suit their tastes than the milk and water benevolence of preservation of life by cow-pock: they prefer dying by a loathsome disease, whilst in other countries, the uneducated class, such as the 'wild Irish,' as some are pleased to call them, set a proper value upon and adopt it with alacrity.

In speaking of cow-pock, a late writer on medicine says:—'The discoverer has been justly and liberally remunerated by parliament: vaccine inoculation has passed with rapid progress over every quarter of the globe from the arctic circle to the extremes of Asia and Africa, and been adopted by civilised and uncivilized nations, by blacks as well as by whites, by the Fin, the Hottentot, and the Hindoo.' In the Isle of Man, however, it is laughed at by the ignorant and not encouraged by the government, the strong arm of which alone can overcome the prejudices and scepticism of illiterate men.

(Signed) H. R. OSWALD.

Finch Road, Douglas, 9th Nov., 1837."


At this time the empirics seem to have been in full employment. On 17th Nov., 1837, it is stated in the Manx Sun that one of these Cannie Carls at Kewague inoculated nearly one hundred persons in a few days, while other fellows were going about the country occupied in the same way, thereby extending the ravages of this fatal malady to a frightful degree. The editor adds, " such iniquitous practices should be stayed by the insular government, which has the power of confining public medical practice to regularly educated professors. We have heard that the late Duke of Atholl on a similar occasion once prevented small-pox inoculation in the Island"

In one parish of the Island in the month of October, 1837, sixty-five persons died of small-pox, and in November, eighty-five.




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001