Book of memories

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GOT a painful bruise? Try rubbing butter on it. Or for an abcess, how about applying a bread poultice?

These were some of the homespun remedies used before the days of free NHS healthcare, when a visit to the family doctor was too expensive for many people.

There was Friars Balsam on a sugar lump for sore throats, Sweet Nitre and Tincture of Rhubarb for colds and Beecham’s Pill for constipation - also known as the mighty atom.

These cures are listed in a new book written by former Gainsborough nurse and health visitor Phyllis Peart, 92.

She says: “Years ago people only went to their family doctor as a last resort. Money was very tight, so they tried to avoid the expense of consulting their doctor.”

“When people were ill and unable to take solid food, bread and milk was a standby.”

“Gruel, a sort of thin porridge, was often used, and also beef tea, the juice obtained from cooking beef.”

These memories are included in the A4 publication Reminiscences, which is now available to buy from Gainsborough Parish Church cafe. They cost £7, with £1 from each sale going to the cafe.

The book was launched at a meeting of The Delvers History Group as part of the Gainsborough Reminiscence Project and will be donating a book to the town library.

Phyllis, who was born in 1919 in Beaumont Street, said: “One or two people said that I ought to record my memories of old Gainsborough.”

“After giving the matter some thought, I started writing down various things that I remembered.”

“I also did a bit of research. The result is this booklet. The Delvers were interested and have helped me immensely.”

“Thelma Childs and her son Darron edited it and Thelma found photographs to use. Darron’s wife Tara assembled it and made a marvellous cover for it.”

“I am therefore greatly indebted to them.”

The chapter on health care includes the opening of John Coupland Hospital in 1913. As Phyllis recalls, when Mr Coupland died he provided for his widow in his will.

But he included a clause that, if she remarried, the money was to be used to build a hospital for Gainsborough.

Phyllis says: “Workmen usually paid a small amount every week from their wages towards the cost of the John Coupland Hospital.”

There was also a fever hospital half way up Foxby Hill where patients with scarlet fever were taken. Anyone with smallpox was sent to a small hospital at Osgodby, on the way to Cleethorpes.

Phyllis did her nurse training at Scunthorpe Hospital during the Second World War and then trained as a midwife in Sheffield. She eventually returned to Gainsborough after doing her health visitor training at Nottingham University.

She remembers as a child watching silent films at the Grand Cinema and her book also includes memories of transport, markets and shops, housing, business and enterainment. She also includes chapters on people connected with the town, Gainsborough in wartime and the Gainsborough floods.

PIC CAP: Thelma Childs (left) of The Delvers History Group with author Phyllis Peart