BRIGID. The bush nurse was very important.
MARIA. Yes. She was important in those times. See, that was in another generation. I can remember six generations......I've got my own grandmother, my own mother, myself, my children, their children and their children.
And the women who helped...who were the midwives, were they qualified or did they just have a natural skill?
MARIA. No. It just came natural to them. Look, now.......there were people living out at Pericoe and one of their children was being born and they sent her to Bega hospital and the husband went over when the time came round .......this is a true story....and he was there for the birth because when the next child was born, he was going to nurse the mother at home, she wouldn't come to hospital. And I suppose the mothers and nurses and that kind of thing talked to one another....handed it down. You see, your cough medicine....you'd get a little bottle from the general store or boil up half a gallon of water....you don't see it now but they used to grow around here was horehound plants. You'd put some of the plant in and boil that up with it.
What kind of plant was it?
MARIA. Horehound. They used to make a type of beer out of it too. It was a healthy brew. See, you get the health food that has come in today, all that was used then. There were no chemicals and things. The horehound was boiled and strained and when it got cool you'd tip in the stuff you got from the store and that would be the family's cough mixture. If you had a really bad cold on your chest you'd get camphor and olive oil, that relieves your chest. One of my girls had croup and we were in Sydney and she got a bout and the chemists weren't open on a Saturday night, so before we went out this old man said to get a bottle of castor oil and some grated nutmeg and make a brown paper shirt. I said that I wouldn't like to use castor oil, it would blister. No, he said, don't scrub it. It'll draw inflammation. Then of course, Vicks ointment came in then. Now of course, you go to the doctor and he gives you some antibiotics. And I see Pauline pull her nose when I said castor oil...(laughter). That was your medicine, castor oil. If you were sick you got castor oil. Or we got a dose of salts. Epsom salts.
*** Excerpt from Maria McMahon's interview in 'The Forgotten Corner Interviews'.
Spelling as written in newspapers
In the event of injury or the imminent birth of a baby, in most cases the locals would look after themselves. Each settlement usually had a woman who would act as midwife and babies were helped into the world within the community. As a last resort or if problems arose early in pregnancy, the long trip was made to hospital.
If unexpected problems arose during a birth, it was not unusual for the child to be lost or both mother and child. Giving birth was a higher risk than today but many women had families of between eight and thirteen children.
For everyday coughs and colds and minor accidents, home remedies were used and most mothers were skilled in preparing ointments and mixtures to aid and combat many common ills.
In the early years of settlement in the Towamba district the nearest hospital was a good day's horse and buggy ride away. Residents of the district, both coastal and inland, subsidised the hospital with generous donations of food and linen. It was, after all, their hospital and without their generous donations the institution could not have survived alone on Government subsidies.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 15 April 1861
That dreadful epidemic, diphtheria, has made its appearance in our midst. We have only yet heard of two cases, one an adult, the other a child; but we may naturally anticipate that it will spread. The population of Towamba is increasing, and if the Government could only be prevailed upon to render the road passable between that place and Eden, there is not a shadow of a doubt but that the township of Sturt would be a township indeed.
'Magnet' June 7, 1930
* Inkweed berries used as a cure for rheumatism.
'Magnet' February 25, 1933
TICK BITE REMEDY
"Pills made of Bi carb and butter or lard, 3 at a time followed 1 hour later by a dessertspoon of caster oil (also) bracken tea made from the light green fronds of bracken fern by boiling about a handful in half a pint of water until the colour of brandy - administered in dessertspoonsful every hour until relief followed."
'Magnet' March 11, 1933
To remove sea water stain from shoes rub with hot milk which has a small piece of soda dissolved in it. Rub well into the stains then polish.
'Magnet' July 22, 1933
Goliath was slain by a stone from a sling,
A primitive means to achieve such a thing.
And giants uncounted have ended their terms
Reduced to despair by invisible germs.
Despise not your dangers whatever your skill
The sting of a spider a lion may kill.
For germic infection protection assure
Remember Woods Great Peppermint Cure.
'Magnet' December 16, 1933
* Mrs. R. Ritchie proposed to establish a Bush Nursing Association and hoped to send a nurse to Towamba within months.
'Magnet' March 31, 1934
* Bush nurse centre to be established at Burragate on May 1st to embrace areas Wyndham, Towamba, Pericoe and Rocky Hall. Sister Hughes.
'Magnet' September 29, 1934
* Great interest is being taken in B. N. A. Ball to be held here in October.
* District-wide support is anticipated for the sport and ball at Burragate on October 1, in aid of local Bush Nursing Association's funds. Mr. W. R. Luff and Mrs. J. Keys are honorable secretaries.
'The Southern Record and Advertiser'
26 October 1934
* A feature of the recent Bush Nursing Association ball, was an interesting tableau arranged by Mr. C. Logan and Mrs. Littley. A realisitic slab- and-bark hut took up a central position on the stage, with a bearded figure lying beside a log which he had been chopping, while blood appeared to flow from a gash in his leg caused by a slip of the axe. A glimpse of the man's wife was obtained through a window in the hut, and over the chimney hovered the ancient stork bearing in its beak the usual bundle. Coming through a background of hills and valleys covered with tall timber was the figure of the bush nurse. Over the scene was a placard advising all and sundry to "send for the bush nurse when trouble comes."
'Magnet' November 17, 1934
* Master Jack Gait of Towamba was bitten by a snake one day this week. He was treated by the Bush Nurse and is now doing well.
'The Southern Record and Advertiser'
2 November 1934
* The period of six months trial of the Bush Nurse will expire shortly, and a general meeting of the centres interested will be necessary to decide whether the bush nursing service will be carried on.
'Magnet' December 1, 1934
LOST YOUTH RESTORED
Seaweed, it is claimed, is a potent agent in restoring their lost youth to aging glands, and certain tonic tablets are now available to the purchasing public. The manufactures ascribe the value of the preparation to the fact that seaweed contains iodine. They have succeeded in making seaweed palatable and by means of these tablets, the iodine can be passed on direct by the thyroid gland through the blood-stream. Those who take them will, if the claims of the makers prove fully justified, be rewarded in the possession of thicker hair, a clearer eye and skin and a 'dynamic energy'.
* It has been decided to hold a sports carnival and ball here on Anniversary Day next in aid of the Bush Nursing Association. An improved program has been drawn up and a successful day should result. Sickness is still very prevalent in our midst and many cases have received the attention of the Bush Nurse. Nursing Association is a decided benefit to the district and is being much appreciated.
'Magnet' December 8, 1934
In regard to the mention in the 'Magnet' of the prevalence of ticks and the difficulties of curing animals infected by them, an old bushman informs us that he has saved a large number of dogs by administering a dose of copper eg., ( a whole penny, ground fine and mixed with oil and flour to form a ball of suitable size) followed by an injection of warm soapy water into which has been added a few drops of turpentine. This, he says, has never been known to fail except in cases where treatment has been too long delayed. The Blacks, he tells us, used to dig a hole in the ground, lay in it a quantity of good burning materials such as dry leaves, candle bark etc., cover this with a heap of green eucalyptus leaves, light the dry material and cover the hole with a sheet of bark. When the fire (which caused a certain amount of steaming in the green leaves) was out and the ground was cool enough, they would put the tick affected dog or man (as the case might be) in the hole and leave him there until relief was secured. Though he has never tried this method, he has seen it used successfully by the Blacks. There has always been argument as to whether a tick should be pulled out or cut off. Our informant is one of those to favour cutting off and applying a little kerosene to the spot. A tick, he points out, both feeds and poisons by means of its mouth and therefore any attempts to remove the tick with the fingers, tweezers etc., tends to result in an unduly large supply of poison being injected, whereas a quick cut with a sharp knife removes the source.
'Magnet' December 15, 1934
* Sister Cameron who has been in charge of the Nursing Centre here has returned to Sydney. Her place will be taken by Sister Rogers.
'Magnet' December 15, 1934
The recent references in the 'Magnet' to the loss of valued dogs through tick poisoning it is interesting to note that scientists have found in the course of recent experiments that a weekly powdering or washing of derris root will ensure for dogs almost complete immunity. In regard to the treatment recommended by an old bushman in our last issue several people have questioned the value of copper administered in the manner mentioned eg., grinding up a penny and mixing it with oil, pointing out the same thing used to be considered but was not a sure cure for distemper and various other ailments common to dogs.
'Magnet' January 19, 1935
Valued Help From District Centres.
The Board of Directors met on January 10 when there were present: Messers W. Cole (President Chair), W. Watson, E.G. Bracken, M. Longhurst, W. Henderson, G. Haigh and W. Hayes.
Mrs. R.J. Goward, Kiah, wrote enclosing £8/2/6, donations recently collected by her at Kiah for the hospital. The residents of that centre having decided on a collection instead of an entertainment. Board members expressed themselves as deeply grateful to the good folk who contributed and to Mrs. Goward for her work as collector. The secretary was instructed to write to Mrs. Goward and convey to her the sincere thanks of the board.
TOWAMBA TO HELP
A letter was received from Mr. W. A. Green, Towamba, stating that a days' sports and ball had been arranged to take place at that centre on Friday 8th February in aid of the hospital. Keen pleasure was expressed at this announcement and it was decided to give the event all the support possible. The secretary said he had arranged to be present at the function and would be taking the chocolate wheel with him to help the day along.
A lengthy circular was received from the Hospitals Commission in reference to the election of boards of directors under the Act. This circular stated that the election must be held not later than 28th February next. It also pointed out that the Commission would fix the number of directors which would constitute the entire board at not less than nine nor more than twelve; where the number fixed by the Commission to constitute the board was not more than ten directors, four of them would be Government nominees; and where the number fixed was more than ten, five of them would be Government nominees. The circular asked the board its opinion as to the number which should constitute the board and whether it would wish for a personal ballot giving a postal ballot to those who applied for it or whether it preferred a wholly postal ballot. The board decided to recommend that the incoming board should consist of twelve directors and that the election should be by a wholly postal ballot.
HOUSE COMMITTEE'S REPORT
The house committee reported that matters where satisfactory; the month had been a very busy one both at the general hospital and the maternity unit and all the patients had spoken in the highest terms of the treatment which had been accorded them. Messers W. Cole, W. Haines and W. Watson were appointed as house committee for the ensuing month.
The honorary treasurer's statement showed receipts during the month; subscriptions - £101/16/5; donations, Government subsidies and special grant £239/17/6. After paying three months account there was a debit balance of £64/8/5 at the end of the month.
The Matron reported: patients remaining in hospital on the 1st of December; 5 males, 6 females. Admitted during the month; 7 males, 16 females; Total treated, 12 males 22 females. Discharged during the month (recovered) 7 males, 13 females. Remaining in hospital on 31 December, 5 males, 10 females; outdoor patients, 1; daily average during month, general hospital 9.47, maternity 1.83, total daily average 11.3. Donations in kind received - Mrs. R. J. Goward, Kiah - eggs, old linen, Mr. W. Watson, Mr. Stan Gordon, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Grove - vegetables, Mrs. Powers - fruit, Mr. W. Cole - poultry, Christmas cake, Mr. E. J. Cole, Mr. J. A. Martin, Mrs. W. A. Green - poultry, Dr. Wing - flowers, Mrs. R. Legge - fruit and flowers, Mrs. Fisher - fruit and sweets, Mrs. D. Grant, Mr. G. F. Tisdale, Mrs. L. Thomas - cordials, Mr. A. Henderson - vegetables, Mr. A. E. Walker - preserved fruit, cordials, Mr. E. Coorey - Christmas cake, Mrs. C.A. Woollard - Christmas cake, two pairs towels, Mr. H. Munn - case of plums, Mr. Reg. Turner - vegetables, Mrs. Dorron - vegetables, old linen, Mrs. Laing - scones, cake, Mrs. Bennett - cake, Mrs. L. Thomas - cake, fruit, Mr. McMahon - eggs, vegetables, Mrs. Grant - half dozen pillow slips.
The secretary reported that £43/5/7 had been subscribed during December under the systematic contribution scheme, being an increase of £11 over the same month last year. Several new subscribers have joined up. The scheme continued to grow and was now an essential part of the hospital's income.
A FINE INSTITUTION
The secretary's report continued: Mr. W. A. Lewis, a member of the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales and Superintendent of Hospitals paid a visit of inspection to Pambula District Hospital last Monday. He expressed himself as very pleased with his inspection and stated that the management of the institution was entirely satisfactory. He was particularly pleased with the fine maternity unit recently added to the institution. This, he said, was a very fine building and splendidly equipped and was an institution of which the people of the district it served might well be very proud.
'Magnet' February 9, 1935
B. N. A. Report (Bush Nursing Association)
The following extract from an interesting report (published in 'Cooma Express' ) by Miss D. D. Richmond, B. N. A. Inspector and Organizer, refers thus to Bush Nursing at Burragate:
" Of all our centres, Burragate is the most southerly and was visited on 3rd of January. This centre has been open for eight months, the first six were a trial. At the end of that period a fully attended meeting took place when it was decided to continue. Many are the stories of bravery and endurance told of the first Bush Nurse who swam on horseback to get to her patients, although not a good horsewoman. When her arm was fractured and dislocated from a fall from a horse - so badly that part of the bone had to be removed - although two boys came to her assistance she continued to lead her horse rather than show the white feather, being much concerned by the injured knees of the animal".
|B.N.A. (Bush Nursing Association) cottage
(opened 1937), Burragate Centre.
Sister Forsstrom in charge.
Photo courtesy B. Ryan
'Magnet' November 2, 1935
The Commonwealth Health Laboratories have been in communication with Mr. I.A. Lee of Nullica regarding the prospect of collecting a number of ticks for experimental purposes with the idea of evolving a serum that will render dogs and also humans immune to the venom. Two hundred ticks (of the variety that attach themselves to dogs - not the small grass tick) are wanted immediately and the authorities have authorised Mr. Lee to be paid five shillings per one hundred for them or if only a dozen or two are caught, he will pay for them pro rata. The main thing is to hand them in while still full of life and only to get those which have not made contact with any person or animal. Method employed for catching them is to drag a damp bag or blanket among bracken or ti tree scrub where they are plentiful. Drag it slowly. When caught, ticks would be put in a bottle with a bit of damp blotting paper and a small hole left in the cork to let the air in.
'Magnet' November 30, 1935
*Mr. Ron Clements is a patient in Pambula Hospital, we trust he will soon be home and quite his usual self.
* Mrs. Slattery who has been an invalide for the past twelve years had the misfortune to break a leg through overbalancing from her chair last Saturday. First aid was rendered by the Bush Nurse Sister Lord and the patient was conveyed to Pambula Hospital. Late reports are satisfactory.
'Magnet' June 13, 1936
SURE CURE FOR DIPTHERIA
Sulphur is one of the most simple and efficacious cures for diptheria. All that is needed is flour of sulphur and a quill. A well known doctor says he cured with this remedy every case brought under his notice. His method was putting a teaspoonful of sulphur in a wine glass of water and stirring it with his finger to make it dissolve. When well mixed this was given in a gargle and in ten minutes the patient was out of danger.
Sulphur kills every species of fungus in man, beast or plant in a few minutes. In a couple of extreme cases when the patient had been left too long before enlisting the services of a doctor and when the fungus was too nearly closing to allow the gargling, he blew the sulphur through a quill into the throat and after the fungus had shrunk he used the gargle.
August 17, 1937
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
* AT the annual meeting of the Towamba Red Cross branch Mr. E. Butcher was elected president Mrs. Ira Parker, honorary treasurer and Mr. V. C. O. Smith, honorary secretary.