Sickness and health

Most of those interviewed grew up in the era before the National Health Service. They were also raised at a time when a visit to the doctor’s surgery often meant a visit to his home. Seventy years ago some diseases that are no longer commonplace were considered a serious threat to wellbeing and even life. Tuberculosis, or TB, was regarded with particular concern.

One of Sheila Herdman’s earliest memories of Whitehead was going into the back garden of her King’s Road home and seeing a bonfire in the next door garden. She later found out that one of her neighbours had died of TB and his bedclothes were being burned. Diphtheria also claimed many lives. The Gribbin brothers lost a five-year-old sister to it, while it also claimed the life of one of Annie Hill’s brothers at the age of seven.

On the other hand, there are illnesses that are now not viewed so gravely which were treated much more seriously in the past. For example, one of the interviewees had scarlet fever as a child and spent several weeks in hospital in Antrim. Another missed most of an autumn term with tonsillitis and then his mother kept him off school for the rest of the academic year to allow him to make a full recovery. Occasionally a visit to a hospital was required. Matt Quinn was in Antrim hospital having cartilage removed from his knee on the day of the Nutts Corner air crash, 5 January 1953. As a result of this disaster, three of the four crew members and 24 of the 31 passengers were killed.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: