South Australia - Health
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General Health Matters
QuarantineAlso see Place Names - Torrens Island.
(Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)
South Australia [stands] almost alone in her neglect of proper means for the protection of colonists against contagious diseases introduced from abroad and for the accommodation and comfort of persons arriving in vessels known to have disease on board.
(Register, 4 August 1873, page 5.)
The rationale of quarantine during the formative years of the colony was that man, not yet having discovered the law which regulated contagious diseases, hoped to find a substitute for it by imposing laws of his own. What we lacked in scientific knowledge we attempted to supply with mechanical vigilance.
Little could be done to control an infectious disorder when it gained an entrance into the community and, in our internal helplessness, we were driven to the desperate expedient of trying to exclude it. Quarantine as a prevention corresponded to 'stamping out' as a remedy and both were precarious in their operation, very costly and inconvenient in their results, while their efficacy was a matter of dispute among those who ought to have known best.
Quarantine is an ancient institution but, evidently, it is not respected in proportion to its age. It is an almost universal institution among European countries, but its value was not so distinctly recognised as its extensive services might indicate. From the earliest days of the plague to our own generation it has been more or less in practice, yet no one seems to have closely studied its effects.
In the early days of South Australia there was no fixed opinion either among the ordinary or the scientific public as to its protective power. The so-called health officer, who first boarded a foreign arrival, was seldom a medical man and he had to accept the captain's own version of affairs on trust, and only where something was acknowledged to be wrong did he send for his superior officer. All this involved a danger which quarantine was meant to prevent - communication with the shore.
Quarantine Procedures in South Australia
For many years inadequate provision was made in the colony for the carrying into effect the quarantine laws. In consequence of emigrants landing from vessels upon which cases of smallpox had occurred in 1838, the authorities became deeply impressed with the necessity for adopting measures of precaution 'to guard against the introduction of that and other diseases, whose ravages among the Aboriginal and infant population would be attended with such fearful consequences.'
Accordingly, the Colonial Surgeon was directed to proceed on board all vessels arriving from Great Britain, or other foreign parts, immediately after their approaching either Glenelg or Port Adelaide, to enquire into the health of the passengers. If any infectious disorder was present no individual was allowed to either board or leave the vessel without the express sanction of the government. Further, the Harbour Master was instructed to anchor any such vessel in a place of security, where the comforts of the patients could be attended to and, at the same time, ensure that intercourse with the shore was prevented.
Six months later the authorities, observing 'that several ships had arrived with emigrants having no contagious diseases', considered it unnecessary for the Colonial Surgeon to leave his other duties in Adelaide and proceed on board ships, unless his presence was specially required.
Therefore, the previous order was rescinded and in the future all surgeons in charge of emigrant ships were required to see that the Yellow, or Quarantine, flag was hoisted immediately on their arrival if any contagious disease prevailed on board. Further, he was to take steps to prevent any communication between the shore and the ship until the Colonial Surgeon or Health Officer visited the vessel.
It is apparent that this instruction lapsed, for early in 1849 the Editor of the Southern Australian expressed his concern:
We have no quarantine regulations, not even a medical boarding officer. A ship load of men with fever, cholera or plague might march into Adelaide... The yellow flag is not known here. Perhaps this El Dorado, this Land of Promise is deemed by the authorities so healthy that they welcome sickness by way of change... Here men are landed in the last stage of fever and children with the maladies common to their age. The smallpox or the plague might be brought on shore; we have no regulation to prevent it... Such is the apathy of our officials, perhaps of ourselves, that nothing is done to guard against [an invasion of contagious diseases].
Within a few months twenty cases of smallpox occurred on the Marion during her voyage, two of which proved fatal and, following her arrival, the 'Emigration Agent on hearing this did not board the vessel, for at present his powers do not extend to preventing the landing of passengers.'
The emigrant ship Trafalgar arrived in 1850 with 'fever, measles and whooping cough on board' and 'partial' quarantine was imposed on Lefevre Peninsula nearly opposite the modern-day station on Torrens Island. One of the 'captives', Dr R.T. Wylde, has left us with a record of his incarceration: 'It was on April Fool's Day 1850 that I first tempted Australian mosquitoes at Schnapper Point, Lefevre's Peninsula and they showed me clearly, that like a good many people in this world, they could not resist temptation and had to pay a penalty for their indiscretion.
'On April 4 I went to attend the sick who were arranged in tents. Including my wife, myself and attendants, we were 29 in number, and a curious sight it seemed to see the double row of tents all pitched on the sand in that wild spot, and the large wood fire blazing away. On the 8th my career in South Australia was very nearly settled, for I barely escaped stepping on an adder which was close to the tents. I luckily managed to kill it and hung it up in the bushes as a warning to others.
'On rising early on the 10th I found that there was no water for breakfast so I went across the river to Torrens Island to get some from a small native well, taking two men with me. After filling our casks we found that the boat was high and dry. Fortunately, one of the islanders, Mr Yeo, had just killed a pig, so we had pork chops for tea, with delicious cream, and returned to the tents as soon as the tide would permit.
'A Yankee woodcutter, Darbin Goodhill, who lived in a wurley a half a mile off, came and spent the evening at our fire and he told me he could earn from £3.12s. to £4 a week by woodcutting on the peninsula and sending it per boat to the Port, and as he had no wife or family he could, and did, save about £3 per week. Another woodcutter - Stanley - who sprang from a celebrated tribe of gipsies - also used to come and spin yarns at our fireside. On the 14th poor Mr LeMessurier Gretton, the father of Captain Gretton, died from fever...
'April 20. Rose early and took a boat across to the island to see if I could procure some food for breakfast (so very considerate was the Government of that day) and luckily secured some new milk, a loaf, and some eggs and bacon; and after breakfast rowed up to the port to get some provisions for the sick, and to complain we had no water. On my return to the encampment at 4 pm I learned that one of the sick men, who was recovering from fever, had been driving some pigs that daily came to steal our provisions and wandered away from the tents and could not be found.
'With another man I started off in pursuit of him and fired off guns and called out his name until night overtook us and, not having found the poor fellow, I took a man with me and rowed again to the Port and reported the matter to Dr Duncan. Took back three policemen to help me to search for the lost man and went to bed at 12 o'clock at night quite knocked up.
'Next day the police started early in search and returned some hours after saying that they could not find the man; neither could Sergeant Lorimer and I, although we rambled round the tents for miles. About 3 pm a number of natives came to hunt for the man who was lost and among them was a well-known black - "Big Rodney" - and he frightened Mrs Wylde as he looked unutterable things at her and said, "What for white woman not watch?"
'Next day, April 22, I went up to town and called to see the [Colonial] Secretary, Captain Sturt, who commended me for the steps I had taken... On my return to the encampment I had the pleasure of hearing that the man had been found two miles from the tents by old Mr Germein and his dog...
'The wandering pigs were the cause of much trouble to me on the 25th. I was near the fire skinning a black swan, when I noticed that they were about to eat some vegetables that were in the tent that formed my parlour. I threw a stick which was lying near the fire at them, and in about a quarter of an hour I noticed a flame creeping up a piece of fir tree which formed an ornamental doorpost to my parlour.
'I instantly rushed in and took out my gun and a box of clothes, and this was all I could do, for the and the tent and part of a fine old teatree at the back were burned down in five minutes, together with an easy chair, swingtray, two dozen of my brother Harry's shirts, several waistcoats and a pair of trousers; also petticoats, bonnets, gowns, stuffs, shirts and shoes belonging to a poor girl and her brother Kate and Pat Courtney, who were staying with us.
'Our sleeping tent was a short distance from the burned one and the fire was fast creeping up my teatree pathway to it, but by the exertions of my Yankee and gipsy friends we contrived to pull it down and bury it in sand, not before it was burned in many places... Soon after the fire began I saw flames creeping towards my brother's tent, where he was ill with fever. So I rushed to the tent, pulled him out of bed and left him on the sand outside; pulled down his tent and then took some blankets and laid on the sand for him.
'I went to the Port and reported the matter to the authorities and then returned to my woodmen friends and I soon set up my brother's tent again and then sat down on a log to dinner, which we managed in the best way we could, all the knives and forks having been burned.
'On Friday, May 8, I found that our large water cask, which had been supplied to us, had been carried away by the tide and was nowhere visible, so I went over to the island to tell the waterman of our loss. In crossing the river a squall arose and we were nearly capsized, and it continued to blow so hard all day I was unable to get back to the tents and was obliged to put myself under the protection of one of my kind hut friends; and while in her house one of the hens hopped on to the sofa and laid an egg, which was forthwith transferred with some bacon to the frying pan and made a capital dinner for me.
'At night a bed was made for me on the locker in the kitchen and the sheets were scrupulously white and should have tempted one to sleep; but alas! this was out of the question for innumerable little gentlemen in brown coats (Pulex irritana I believe the charming little creature is called) commenced an onslaught on this unoffending victim and, after capturing twenty, I beat a retreat to the banks of the river.
'Next day I went to the Port and brought back provisions for the sick and myself and wife... and attended my first private patient, a Mrs Scott, wife of a man who had built a wooden public house between the Port and North Arm. Pat Courtney slept in the next tent to me on a palliasse placed on trusses of straw and during the night of May 14 I heard Pat anathematising something at the top of his voice and, suffering as I was from a bad boil on my knee at the time, I could not resist laughing at the situation for I found sundry cows trying to eat Pat's bed and had upset his tent completely and left him exposed to the real elements...
'On 1st of June I walked to Adelaide (14 miles) and then rode to the Port and intended going on foot to the tents on the Peninsula. As it became dark I lost my way and did not know what to do. Luckily Mrs Wylde suspected something and had a blazing fire made and I soon saw it...
In June 1855 the Taymouth Castle arrived at Port Adelaide with cases of smallpox on board. Accordingly, the brig Clarendon, which had been lying up, dismasted, in the Port River for some time, was chartered for three months by the government to be employed as a quarantine hulk at the lightship.
Within a few hours she was cleaned out thoroughly, fumigated and provided with beds, bedding, medical comforts and all the requisites for a smallpox hospital. Male and female nurses were obtained and Dr Duncan went out to superintend the removal of eight smallpox victims from the Taymouth Castle
. No communication was allowed with the shore beyond signalling every day for what was required and taking in fresh provisions. By this means perfect isolation of the patients was secured and, although 22 cases were at one time under treatment, the infection was prevented from spreading.
At the same time a quarantine station was established on Torrens Island when orders were received from the Health Officer by Mr Walter Smith, builder, of Port Adelaide, for the immediate erection of tents and other necessary accommodation. The site was pleasantly situated on a rise of ground fronting the river and was supplied with an abundance of water, The locality was known as 'Yeo's Huts' or 'Milk Cottages'.
The occupant of the buildings, when aroused by Dr Duncan and Mr Smith, thought the cottage was being taken by storm and battery and he was not less unpleasantly surprised on receiving instructions to quit and make room for the inmates of the Taymouth Castle, the cottages being situated on quarantine ground and belonging to the government. However, in consideration of the man Yeo leaving the cottages Dr Duncan promised to recompense him for his loss.
Commencing at nine o'clock a government steam tug conveyed the forty full-sized military tents and two marquees to the site, together with a large quantity of cedar boards for flooring, 2,000 palings, cooking apparatus and three large boilers, the latter for the express purpose of boiling all the emigrants' clothes.
The 'non-smallpox' passengers were accommodated in a 'canvas town', set up in tents four deep from the beach and equidistant one from another. The single females were at the eastern side and near Dr Kitchener's house, while the married people were in the centre and the single men at the western end - 'an arrangement which proved most conducive to the good order of the establishment.'
To ensure that all quarantine regulations were carried out the Water Police received orders to keep a floating sentry abreast of the station. Twelve special constables were sworn in and stationed there with strict instructions that if any person be imprudent enough to attempt communication with or from the quarantine ground they were to be fired upon.
In mid-August Dr Duncan mustered the immigrants and passed them all as free from contagion, while patients from the Clarendon, who were free from sickness, were brought to the island, following which it was hoped that they could be 'released from the strict separation to which all on board the unfortunate Taymouth Castle, had been subjected.' In October 1856 it was announced that a quarantine station was to be built on Torrens Island 'within 20 feet of the water's edge' consisting of a weather-boarded building 101 feet long and 23 feet wide, with a spacious kitchen. The contractor was Mr Reynolds of Port Adelaide.
In the course of time this building gradually fell into decay and was pulled down and removed. The reason for this apparent anomaly was that the island, although surrounded by water, was not thoroughly isolated and, further, it was not considered to be a very healthy place, the land being for the most part low and marshy. Indeed, the authorities went so far as to say 'that no station of any kind is required upon shore.'
The Fitzjames as a Quarantine Ship
The Adelaide press of April 1877 carried a report of the fate of some passengers from the Bangalore being transferred into quarantine: 'Good Friday was spent very quietly on the hulk Fitzjames. The passengers took possession of their quarters between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning in view of a select party of Bangalore people who stayed awake to do farewell honours to their late companions. A few minutes before 2 o'clock the Governor Musgrave got up steam and turned her unwieldy companion in a blundering circuit around the P & O vessel.
'A feeble cheer from both sides, a plentiful flutter of handkerchiefs, and a parting salvo of compliments ended the communication between the unfortunates for Adelaide and those for the other colonies. A singular appearance the Fitzjames presented in the bright moonlight. The low pent roof assorted well with the blank heavy walls in suggesting a Noahs Ark of more than ordinary ugliness.
'The roomy decks, roughly provided with galvanised iron fixings, might have passed for the interior of a shearing-shed of a superior order, while the cleanliness everywhere gave fair promise for the future... Throughout there was to be found evidence that a rigid economy had been observed in the fitting up of the vessel.
'Deal tables, or rather benches, and plain deal forms constitute the furniture of the saloons - of which by the way there are three, galvanised iron cabins, copiously frescoed, with the brand of the Gospel Oak works, but containing no other ornament, either on the inner or outer walls - form the lodging places of the 30 persons who are suffering exile from society; for society's good - not that the lack of ornament counts for much.
'Prisoners undergoing sentence have the right to look for luxuries, and the absence of carpets, paintings and gorgeous upholstery, does not give a reasonable ground of complaint. But even the most spacious cabins may be pronounced poorly furnished when they contain nothing more than a plain iron bedstead, with a straw mattress; one small pillow and coarse sheets upon it, two camp stools and a small hanging mirror.
'No press or drawers for clothes, not even a peg to hang a coat on; no chair, no washhand stand, no washhand basin and no light, other than that lent by a friendly moon and by no means luminous lanterns in the saloons. Nor does the record of poverty end with the bedrooms. A paternal government had been so hurried in its preparations that no scrap of food had been put on board and but for the generosity of the Bangalore the passengers would have fared badly indeed...
'When morning dawned, the captives awoke from a brief and fitful sleep to find that their hulk had been moved about a mile and a half from the Semaphore jetty... A search was now made for washing gear which ended in finding three bathrooms amply large enough but, like the other apartments of the ship, very scantily furnished.
'The most serious defect was the difficulty of getting water, but this, there is every reason to believe, will soon be cured. A minor difficulty was the coarseness of the towels... Indeed, there is ground for hoping that under the pressure of proper representations all sources of discomfort... will disappear.
'What has been done in the way of quarantine provision may be an honest enough attempt to remove a flagrant ground of past grievance, but it is a very weak one after all. Early in the morning Dr Worthington was put on board and at once took charge of the dispensing and commissariat department. With him came a miscellaneous, but limited stock of eatables, including the buns of the season, bread and other indispensables.
'Presently from out of native obscurity, which he had doubtless adorned, emerged a cook- a very plain cook - who managed to bring the provisions into eatable shape and the captives took their first meal on the hulk in picnic style. Food was placed on the table in irregular relays and each person waited indifferently upon himself and his neighbour as the necessity arose.
'As it was breakfast, so in the main it was lunch, except that by the time things had been brought into better order, and the passengers instead of foraging promiscuously for themselves, or for one another, were attended by one out of the eight or ten able-bodied men who form the ship's crew, and whose functions on board are pretty much of an enigma. They cannot be needed to navigate the vessel... for most of them there in no work to do.
'The dinner was as formal a meal as the paucity of the dishes and glasses would admit of and altogether matters are evidently settling down into shape. The people on board form quite a communistic society, the contributions of fruit, medical comforts and so forth sent by friends ashore being put pretty much into common stock. A number of boats visited the hulk during the day and to each and all a cordial invitation was extended to repeat the call without waiting for the ceremony of having it returned.'
Three days later a reporter continued the story: 'Things have improved greatly at the hulk and the people on board have become reconciled to their fate. Some of the requisitions have been quietly ignored at headquarters, if indeed they have ever been forwarded; but most of their reasonable demands have been granted. A plentiful supply of provisions - solid and fluid - reaches them daily.
'They have been admitted to the privilege of a change of plates at dinner and, instead of the pewter soup spoon of the first day or two, they have now the genuine article. A cook has been engaged who promises well and waiting at a table is being reduced to the approved method in polite circles...
'The bedrooms continue very bare of furniture but, otherwise, there is no serious ground of complaint. In the absence of other grievances the captives have been speaking their minds very freely respecting the author of a letter on quarantine [published recently]... They urge it would be a gratuitous piece of absurdity to lock up the passengers for a longer term than that already fixed by the medical authorities.
'They have now been isolated from the case of smallpox for twenty one days and not the slightest sign of the disease has developed itself among them. Carrying the argument of the correspondent to its legitimate conclusion, the detention should be made perpetual, unless all the clothes worn on the Bangalore by the present inmates of the hulk are disinfected or destroyed...'
The British Enterprise arrived in April 1877 with more than 500 immigrants and a case of smallpox developed on board shortly after leaving England and the man died; his clothes were burned and the ship fumigated. However, the assistant health officer, Richard Jagoe, refused to label her a 'clean ship' and placed it in quarantine; this action was confirmed by his superior, Dr Duncan.
The passengers, naturally, were much disappointed in being held in this manner in sight of their destination after a long voyage on a crowded ship and showed their displeasure with Mr Jagoe by pelting him with loaves of bread. Their troubles continued when scarlatina broke out among the immigrant children and measled followed closely in its train.
The children were transported to the Fitzjames accompanied by their mothers and, two months later, passengers began to comment 'strongly and adversely' on the situation. The health officers conversed with Captain Marshall Smith, a marine surveyor, whose ship, the J.L. Hall, was in the Port River having partly discharged a cargo of coal.
He agreed to clean the vessel and proceed to the anchorage and take the married couples and their children on board. Two barques in port, the Ashburton and Fleur de Maurice, were also chartered; they accommodated the single men and single women, respectively. After the immigrants had remained another month they were allowed to go ashore, that is, six months from the time they left London. This quarantine exercise was an expensive affair and cost about £8,000.
The Torrens Island Quarantine Station
The absurd and costly Fitzjames experiment is proved to be utterly insufficient for the purpose. After an outlay of many hundreds of pounds Torrens Island is abandoned to please the prejudice of the Portonians who affect to be dreadfully frightened at the danger of infection travelling in some mysterious manner a long way up the creek and across the North Arm...
(Observer, 2 June 1877, page 14.)
By 1873 the government was being urged by an inquiring press to establish a permanent quarantine station. As a rule, reforms affecting the health, like those relating to the social and moral well-being of the community, have to be carried out under the stimulating effects of some immediately impending calamity, or they are not carried out at all.
It was so in the case of the Vaccination Act in 1873 and, if a different course had been adopted in regard to the supply of a quarantine station, the government could have claimed credit for a provision as meritorious as it is uncommon. In saying this I do not wish to imply that the work was wanting in urgency, for it was clear at the time that a sanatorium of the kind required could have been called into requisition at any moment.
It is not alone from the islands of the Pacific and from India that the danger threatened, for in July 1873 the colony was informed by telegraph that the smallpox in a virulent form had appeared in England. Therefore, it was considered by many at the time that if the ministry had erected quarantine quarters on Torrens Island without delay, their foresight would have been appreciated.
However, it was not until 1877 that a commission, appointed by the government, made inquiries into the best site for a permanent quarantine station. Among the sites examined were Black Point, Wedge Island, Wauraltee or Wardang Island, Althorpe Island, a peninsula at the mouth of the American River, a promontory at Kingscote, and Point Marsden. Their strong recommendation was Black Point on the eastern shore of Yorke Peninsula and 30 miles from Semaphore.
In June 1877 the Colton government decided on Wardang Island as the preferred site but, heeding the advice of the Surveyor-General as to the lack of available water there and its isolation from Adelaide, Torrens Island was approved in 1878. By mid-1879 it was established and proclaimed by a notice that appeared in the Government Gazette on 15 September 1881 and comprised the whole of the island with the exception of 15 sections.
As discussed above it had been used for the purpose of quarantine some times previous to this, but owing to an omission it was not proclaimed until 1881. There was a great outcry when the island was proposed to be used for quarantine purposes, on account of its proximity to the chief port of the colony and the fact that all vessels coming to or leaving the port would have to pass close by. Another strong objection was the belief that persons quarantined could, at low tide, be able to walk across the bed of the North Arm, which surrounds the island, and so get to the port and the city.
This, of course, was a perfectly erroneous assumption for the island is always surrounded by water - even at the lowest tides - but if it were not, such is the character of the stream near its centre that any who attempted to ford it would, inevitably, lose their lives.
During a tour of inspection of the proposed site in June 1878 a reporter said: 'As the party went rather late in the afternoon they were unable to thoroughly inspect the place owing to a great deal of the ground being under water at high tide and preventing them reaching the higher ground near Yeo's farm. The party returned a few days later and started from the Port ferry steps in the government launch, Dione... [The land] seems admirably suited for the purpose being situated between the reserve opposite Mutton Cove and Yeo's house, close to which the northerly boundary of the station will run...
'It consists of light sandy soil and, from its elevated position, is dry and ought to be very healthy. It is practically isolated from other parts of the island by a saltwater creek which runs into the land to the south of the station and the greater part of the way around it, while between the creek and the station there are extensive samphire flats which are covered with water at high tide.. The main stream is further back and surrounds the island.
'The station will have a frontage on nine chains - some short distance back from the river. At one end, occupying two chains of frontage, the single woman's quarters will be built, while the single men will have a similar space allotted them at the other end., the quarters of the married folk being erected on the remaining five chains in the centre. The depth of the actual quarantine ground will be between seven and eight chains, but outside of this area there are some 40 acres available for the station and which can be utilised as recreation grounds...
'The hospitals will be kept quite distinct from the cottages and will face eastwards towards the Mount Lofty Range, while the cottages will face the river. An abundance of good fresh water can be obtained a little below the surface and provision is intended to be made for the storage of rain water... The ketch Lurline with material for the cottages was discharging at Yeo's landing and as the works will at once be gone on with it will not be long before the vexed question of a suitable site for the quarantine station will be permanently settled.'
When completed the station was divided into three sections as far as human beings were concerned - The main premises where for people from an infected vessel, but without disease themselves, were kept for their legal term; an observation ward where suspected cases were removed and carefully watched; and the hospital.
The right wing of the first section consisted of a large corrugated iron building lined with pine, lofty and well ventilated, in which were a dining room, dormitory, bathroom and kitchen for the single men. A storeroom plentifully stocked with blankets and bed linen opened out from the dormitory which, as well as the dining room, was well supplied with provision for heat in the form of two stoves, one at each end. The kitchen arrangements were perfect but there was a want of a general storeroom, whence stores could be issued.
The central part of the main block of buildings consisted of a little township of some thirty wooden cottages regularly divided by grass-grown 'streets', each of which was named. A few of them were reserved for first class passengers and there was a common dining room for all. From the midst of these buildings rose a watch tower some 50 feet high, whence frequent observations were made, when persons are quarantined, for the purpose of detecting, if possible, any communication with the mainland.
The fishermen who cast their nets in the north arm of the river made use of the easterly shore of the island, but there was little fear of them holding any communication with the inhabitants when disease was there. Almost hidden in a small grove of golden wattles was a fumigating furnace and some little distance to the left the doctor's quarters were situated. There was accommodation for between 400 and 500 people in the station.
In respect of a smallpox scare in February 1882 some little amusement was caused after the arrival of the Mirzapore by the over anxiety and nervousness of some timid folk. The Port Adelaide Board of Health were greatly exercised in their minds at the rashness of the Register, in publishing a letter brought out by the ship before the quarantine time for mailbags had expired - before they were pronounced convalescent, so to speak!
A few hours after the arrival of the steamship a certain lusty broker of Adelaide asked one of the boarding officers who had just come from Glenelg, 'Did you go alongside the smallpox steamer?' 'Oh! yes; but not on board.' 'Did you bring anything from her?', was the next nervous inquiry, 'Oh! nothing particular. By the way, have you ever seen smallpox germs?'; and before the horrified broker could remonstrate the wag sprinkled on the table a number of small particles (really tomato seeds). That broker made better time down stairs and across the street than many a runner did in the palmiest days of the Adelaide Athletic Club.
A poem titled 'The Troubles of the Torrens Islander' appeared in the press at this time:
There were men of some savvy and notion
And brains they all had more or less;
But they'd just come across the big ocean,
And grumbled, each man at his mess.
They could talk on the state of the nation,
And rail at each Government sham;
But they thought it unheard of privation
To go without biscuits and jam.
They'd heard of the Army of Martyrs,
And though they could take its degrees,
Because with the health of woodcarters
They hungered for biscuits and cheese.
'Twas hard for those men whose position
Condemned them to strict quarantine
That their cook should have made an omission
In the matter of apples too green.
'Twas no use at all to remind them
Of the passengers per Bangalore -
How a cranky old hulk long confined them
Some weeks within sight of the shore.
They were ready, they said, to meet trouble,
But were never inclined to upbraid;
But their woes in their own eyes seemed double
And they wanted some more marmalade.
It was not so much the confinement,
Though speedy release was their dream;
But who could maintain strict refinement
When minus sweet biscuits and cream.
In January 1882 hopes were entertained that passengers of the Garonne on Torrens Island would pass through quarantine without smallpox making its appearance. Alas, on Friday, January 13 it was rumoured that the disease had broken out and these rumours were fully confirmed by evening. The sufferer, a young man named Johnson, a third-class passenger, had been unwell for several days and was most carefully attended to and symptoms watched by Dr O'Leary.
The doctor pronounced the disorder to be unmistakably smallpox and sent the unwelcome news to Port Adelaide, from whence it was wired to the authorities in the city. Stringent measures were taken at once to prevent the plague from spreading. Four constables were sent to the island and others were instructed to cruise around it constantly in a police steam launch. They had firearms and ball cartridges and any one attempting to break quarantine was likely to be shot at. On the following Monday a second case occurred, the patient being Mrs J. Dale.
Although there had been many cases of smallpox in our waters in the past this was the first time the malignant disorder had made its appearance in South Australia on terra firma and brought on a rush from colonial children and adults to seek vaccination.
A New Quarantine Station
By 1896 the station was run down and in a sad state of repair and, in its wisdom, the government decided to build a new station about a mile and a half south of the existing premises. A special reporter visited the site in June 1896 and said, inter alia:
When the buildings now being erected are finished there will be accommodation for 56 single women and the same number of single men, besides 20 four- roomed cottages and ten of three rooms each.
These are for the persons in health who may have had the misfortune to be passengers on a ship where smallpox or other infectious disease had broken out, there being an entirely separate buildings - hospitals as they are called - for the two sexes, 400 or 500 feet away from the main part of the station.
Reckoning five individuals to each house there will be accommodation for over 260 persons, but as all the cooking and washing is done elsewhere and the meals are to be served in separate dining-rooms it is estimated that, if need be, about 4,000 persons can find decent quarters on the premises...
The whole ground will be enclosed by a nine-foot iron fence and a similar partition will divide the quarters. The houses for the married people are being erected by a staff of men under the charge of Mr T. Clarke... [He] took part in erecting the first quarantine station... Mr Clarke expects to get his portion of the work done in about six week's time and the contractor's time expires before the end of March next, by which time, it is hoped, the station will be... ready for occupation...
"Quarantine Regulations" is in the Observer,
6 February 1869, page 12g.
"Quarantine and Contagion" is in the Register,
21 April 1869, page 2f,
"Quarantine" in the Observer,
31 May 1873, page 13a,
7 April 1877, page 2f,
Chronicle, 5 May 1877, page 5c.
Quarantine stations are commented upon in the Register,
12, 15 and 26 June 1877, pages 5c, 4e and 4f; also see
21 April 1877, page 7d,
5, 12, 19 and 26 May 1877, pages 3b, 3g, 6e-12f and 7f,
2 and 16 June 1877, pages 7f and 12b.
"The Law as to Quarantine" is in the Observer,
14 April 1877, page 13e.
A lecture on "Quarantine, Isolation and Disinfection" is reproduced in the Advertiser,
7 September 1900, page 7f.
"The Evils of Quarantine" is in the Advertiser,
23 May 1901, page 4b,
"Medical Inspection v Quarantine" on
24 May 1901, page 4c,
27 July 1901, page 6c.
General Health Matters
Smallpox and Vaccination
(Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)This highly contagious disease was a continual threat to the inhabitants of South Australia and, as early as 1838, regulations were framed and implemented in an effort to prevent the contagion from entering into our society:
In consequence of Emigrants having recently (without previous inspection) landed with their clothing from a vessel whose passengers during her voyage from England had been seriously afflicted with smallpox, His Excellency the Acting Governor has become deeply impressed with the necessity of adopting measures of prevention to guard against the introduction of that and other diseases...
In England, Edward Jenner, had perfected a vaccine for complete protection from this disease and just prior to the public sale of allotments in Thebarton the government advised its citizens that the Colonial Surgeon would undertake vaccinations, free of charge. By 1852 the press was urging parents to have their children and themselves vaccinated while in 1853 legislation was enacted to provide for compulsory vaccination.
In other countries the efficacy of vaccination was self-evident, for example; in Germany before vaccination was undertaken the death rate from smallpox was 83 per thousand and after the lapse of a little more than twenty years the figure was 0.14 per thousand. 'We have sufficient ground, then, for asserting that smallpox is not to be dreaded, unless, indeed, we wilfully neglect to use the antidote which Providence has placed in our hands.'
"Small-Pox" is in the Observer,
11 December 1852, page 4e.
"Vaccination" is traversed in the Observer,
24 December 1853, page 6a,
14 and 21 November 1857, pages 1c (supp.) and 1c (supp.),
15 and 19 April 1858, pages 2c,
27 May 1858, page 2c,
14 September 1858, page 2b,
16 October 1858, page 2a (supp.).
"The Vaccination Act" is in the Register,
14 September 1858, page 2b,
18 September 1858, page 6g.
"Compulsory Vaccination" in the Observer,
8 August 1863, page 6a,
10 August 1865, page 2e; also see
19 August 1867, page 2f.
"Precautions Against Smallpox" is in the Register,
8 March 1869, page 3f.
"Vaccination" is in the Chronicle,
17 June 1871, page 12b,
"Is Vaccination a Delusion?" in the Observer,
20 July 1872, page 3c,
"Vaccination Bill" in the Chronicle,
27 July 1872, page 11f.
"Smallpox on Board the Mail Steamer" is in the Observer,
11 March 1876, page 7d,
31 March 1877, page 5f,
7, 14, 21 and 28 April 1877, pages 6f-13e-14b, 6b-c, 7d and 4c,
5 and 19 May 1877, pages 4g and 6e,
26 may 1877, pages 7f-12g.
"Measures for the Prevention of Smallpox" is in the Observer,
19 May 1877, page 12g,
"Quarantine and Smallpox" on
26 May 1877, page 12g,
"The Vaccination Report" on
16 June 1877, page 17d,
"The Vaccination Bill" in the Chronicle,
1 September 1877, page 5c.
"Smallpox on the Hankow" is in the Observer,
9 November 1878, page 4g; also see
19 February 1880, page 2f,
30 August 1880, page 4d.
"Vaccination and Smallpox" is in the Register,
24 and 26 August 1881, pages 4g and 4f,
10 September 1881, page 4f.
"Smallpox on the Garonne" is in the Register,
4 and 10 January 1882, pages 5f and 6a.
"Smallpox on Torrens Island" is in the Chronicle,
21 January 1882, page 4e,
"Compulsory Vaccination" on
29 April 1882, page 5a.
"The Vaccination Bill" is in the Register,
14 June 1882, page 4e.
"The New Vaccination Regulations" is in the Register,
2 January 1883, page 4d,
6 January 1883, page 24d.
Also see Advertiser,
24 June 1893, page 4g,
19 October 1896, page 4g,
8 December 1904, pages 4c-8f,
3 January 1908, page 8f,
1 August 1911, page 4c.
"Anti-Vaccination Movement" is in the Register,
17 December 1890, page 5b.
"Precautions Against Smallpox" is in the Register on
20 April 1858, page 2f,
"Protection Against Smallpox" on
8 March 1869, page 3f; also see
5 and 15 January 1887, pages 4f and 4e,
24 October 1892, page 4f,
5 and 12 December 1892, pages 4f and 6a,
10 May 1893, page 5g,
24 June 1893, page 4g,
4 June 1896, page 4g.
"Vaccination in Australia" is in the Register,
6 August 1892, page 4g.
"The Centenary of Vaccination" is in the Register,
14 May 1896, pages 4g-6d.
"Smallpox on the RMS Himalaya" is in the Observer,
24 April 1897, page 30c.
"Smallpox and Quarantine" is discussed in the Advertiser,
10 February 1898, page 4e,
25 October 1899, page 4e,
13 November 1900, page 9d.
"Serious Outbreak of Smallpox" is in the Register,
23 October 1899, page 6e.
"Compulsory Vaccination" is in the Express,
9 August 1901, page 4a.
"Vaccination" is in the Register,
8 December 1904, page 4c,
15 August 1906, page 7h.
"If Smallpox Broke Out - A Half-Protected Community" is in the Advertiser,
20 March 1909, page 11e; also see
22 March 1909, page 6c.
"Vaccination" is in the Register,
1 August 1911, page 4c.
"Smallpox in Adelaide" is in the Observer,
26 July 1913, page 39e,
2 August 1913, page 40a; also see
14, 16, 18, 21 and 25 July 1913, pages 8d, 10g, 7d, 6c and 12d.
General Health Matters
Social DiseasesAlso see Adelaide - Prostitution
"Social Diseases - Position of the Churches" is traversed in the Advertiser,
4 October 1909, page 8d.
"Social Diseases" is discussed in the Register,
22 October 1909, page 4c:
We have certainly three coincident facts - youthful depravity, parental laxity and State control. The intensity and strenuousness of city life, its distractions , its frivolities, constitute a physical as well as a psychological problem.
"Venereal [Social] Diseases" is discussed in the Express,
7 January 1914, page 4d,
9 February 1914, page 1h,
10 February 1914, page 9b,
26 June 1914, page 5c,
18 July 1914, page 14c,
12 and 18 July 1916, pages 6c and 4d.
"Venereal Night Clinics" is in the Observer,
7 October 1916, page 30e.
Also see Observer,
17 June 1916, page 19c,
30 June 1915, page 10a,
24 July 1915, page 13a,
25 December 1915, page 7g,
15 June 1916, page 5c,
12 and 18 July 1916, pages 6c and 4d,
30 September 1916, page 8e,
11 January 1917, page 7g,
9 and 11 September 1920, pages 6f and 8f-12e,
17 December 1920, page 8d,
6 January 1921, page 6e,
12 October 1922, page 7g,
29 August 1924, pages 8d-11g,
19 February 1925, page 8e,
30 May 1925, page 28c.
"The Social Scourge" is discussed in the Register,
27 May 1916, page 8b,
15 June 1916, page 5c,
4 November 1916, page 8c,
"Marriage and Venereal Disease" on
21 December 1916, page 7f.
"The Social Pestilence" is in the Register,
9 January 1917, page 4b,
"The Church and Sexual Sins" on
19 April 1917, page 7e,
"Drink and Venereal Disease" in The Mail,
3 February 1917, page 7g.
"The Red Plague" is in the Register,
23 March 1917, page 7d,
"Venereal Disease" on
9 September 1920, page 6f,
11 September 1920, page 31a.
"A Grave Menace" is in the Advertiser,
8 September 1922, page 12g,
"A National Evil" on
12 October 1922, page 9e.
"The Red Plague" is in the Advertiser,
28 August 1924, page 15d,
6 September 1924, page 49a,
28 February 1925, page 16e.
"Disease and Morality" is in the Register,
28 May 1925, pages 4b-9f.
"Sex and Commonsense" is in the Observer,
7 July 1928, page 18c.
General Health Matters
VegetarianismVegetarianism is discussed in the Farmers Weekly Messenger,
16 April 1875, page 11c.
"Why Eat Meat" is the subject of an amusing and informative letter in the Register, 7 August 1902, page 3h:
In her silent hours [the vegetarian housekeeper] will be glad to think that neither she nor her family requires for sustenance the lives of defenceless animals that yield us such willing service in wool and milk and labour, only to die in terror under a butcher's knife.
(For information on a Vegetarian Society see Register, 11 August 1902, page 8g.)
Information on vegetarianism and the Vegetarian Society also is in the Advertiser,
27 March 1897, page 4g,
4 May 1901, page 28c,
23, 28 and 30 August 1902, pages 6g, 6f and 3h,
6 and 13 September 1902, pages 8h and 3c:
I never yet knew a vegetarian who did not resemble Nebuchadnezzar in being if not a shingle short, at least more than a trifle eccentric. In my experience the sanest people have been the meat-eaters and that is why I still cherish my [signed] Mutton Chop.