If you were with me last time, I was describing the effects of the plague on 17th century Aberdeen and the similarities with our current pandemic.

The Annals of Aberdeen, after recounting the spread of “the pestilence” in 1608, go on to say that the plague wasn’t the only serious illness affecting the population of that time…

“…towards the close of the 16th century, the leprosy… made its appearance among some of the inhabitants; and although it was not attended with such fatal consequences (as the plague) to them, yet was equally dreaded as the pestilence…But while this infectious disease was common in the town, a new one, more contagious, broke out among the younger ranks of the community about the year 1608. It raged with unabated fury, carrying off many children, and baffled every medical art.  This distemper was distinguished by the name of the plague of the pock.

This was smallpox, which was believed to have been brought to the country, as the Annals author put it, “by our intercourse with Turkey and (it) continued its ravages, not only in the town, but over the whole of the island, for nearly two centuries.”Fortunately, as we know, the population was led by the science of the day… “The first remedy obtained for it was by means of Lady Mary Montague, who introduced inoculation from the country from which the disease was brought.  This was so far a relief; but it remained for the celebrated Dr Jenner, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, to discover the most effectual preventive of the virulence and fatal effects of the small-pox, my means of inoculation with the cow-pock.  This has disarmed the original distemper of all its terrors; and perhaps in the course of time, like the plague and leprosy, it may disappear altogether.”

Wouldn’t it be good if I could write that last sentence again very soon, except this time with reference to the coronavirus…

Julie Skinner, Resourcing and Benefits Specialist