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Popular Domestic Medicine in the Highlands fifty years ago
From the Transactions of the Gaelic Society


In Martin’s “Western Islands,” published in 1703, there will be found a great variety of most interesting information as to the popular medical remedies and surgical appliances which, nearly two centuries ago, he found in common use among the Celts of the Isles. Martin’s book is, indeed, a rich mine, wherein might easily be quarried much precious ore, in the folk-lore, not only of popular medicine, but of a thousand other delightful topics. I am not going to review the work, nor to draw upon its multiform contents for the materials of a lecture. Till very recently it was-one of the rarest and most precious of rare Highland books; but it has now been reprinted, and brought within the reach of ordinary readers. Every Highlander, and every student of the Highland problem, whether on its social, political, or economical sides, should possess and carefully study the volume. In its pages I can promise him a feast of fat things, and of wine well refined— not merely a substantial repast, but a feast of knowledge, so served and flavoured as to tickle the palate of the most fastidious literary epicure, whatever his tastes or predilections.

Compared with Martin’s varied symposium, what I am going to-present to you will be but a modest repast, in which, very possibly, by the keener olfactories, a soupc(on of Martin may be scented, for I have lately been deep in “ the feast of reason” between his brown mahogany boards. But my whole and only purpose is just simply to describe to you such old traditionary treatment in domestic medicine and surgery as fifty years ago I personally observed among the Highland people. Let us begin with a subject whose interest unhappily touches us all very closely.

Consumption, or phthisis, though not then so common as at present, was a well-known disease in my early days. It was believed to be infectious. During the visit to my father’s house of a boy believed to be consumptive, I was warned by an old domestic not to sleep with him, “else,” as she put it, “by breathing his breath, you’ll get from him the white lights,” that is, white lungs. The phrase is significant. White lungs—that is, lungs thoroughly infiltrated with white tubercular matter, in the form known as “ miliary tubercle”—are but too well known in the dissecting rooms of every medical school; and any one who is familiar with the post mortem theatre of a modern hospital will gather from the-phrase that the Highland people of my boyhood’s days were not without some traces of sound pathological knowledge.

Besides a line of treatment to be mentioned farther on, there were various remedies for this serious and, even then, too often fatal disease. Nourishing food was strongly insisted upon. The marrow of bones, especially that found in the long bones of the ox, was greatly valued, and eagerly sought after. A soup made of snails was also much esteemed. The snails were also cut up into small pieces, and hung in a porous cloth before the fire, so as by dripping to yield a juice, which was taken internally, as we take cod liver oil. Lamb broth, made with certain herbs, was also considered very helpful. And of medicinal herbs, those most in vogue were:—The dandelion, root and leaf, raw, cooked, and in the form of infusion; the marsh mallow; the wortle berry; colt’s foot; the mullin; flax, in the form of tea; and the gentian, mainly as a tonic. Most of these herbs are useful adjuvants of natural digestion. They would, therefore, have a good effect in the early stages of the disease. Others would similarly help the liver and kidneys when, in the later stages, these organs had to take up their share of the failing function of the now disabled lungs. Certain mineral springs were resorted to by not a few, and where the disease had not already taken a firm hold of the system, they were undoubtedly of great value. One of these wells, which is rich in carbonate of iron, was used by Hugh Miller when a boy at Cromarty ; and he very highly praises its virtues, as I can also do from personal experience. It is, however, to be noted that the waters of Strathpeffer, our greatest of Scottish spas, have always been contra-indicated by the popular voice in cases of suspected phthisis.

But the Highlander’s mainstay in the early domestic treatment of this fell disease was not properly medicinal, nor yet was it exclusively nutritional. His treatment was, indeed, very largely nutritional, but it was also, and still more largely, manipulative. In fact, it was, as appears to me, nothing less than that system of treatment which is at present so highly valued in the profession under the fashionable name of massage. And if we had the reality of massage without the name, the operator, as in the modern instance, was usually a masseuse, though she would be mightily surprised if addressed by that now fashionable title. The masseuse of my early experience was a tall, muscular, horny-handed daughter of toil. An out-worker on the farm, she added something to her earnings of sixpence a-day by the practice of her art. Her fee for each sitting was half a pound of fresh butter. A small portion of this was used as a lubricant in her professional operation, which was as follows :—I was seated on a high chair, and had to strip to the loins. The dame stood behind me, and set to work with a sweep of both hands from before backwards, in the line of the lower border of my chest, so as to satisfy herself as to the condition and position of the cartilaginous ends of my youthful ribs, and especially of the ensiform cartilage, which she called an duilleaa, that is, “the little leaf.” A main part of her immediate object was to prevent the ends of the lower ribs and the ensiform cartilage from turning inwards into the region of the abdomen. With this object she would again and again sweep a hand on either side, with steady pressure of palm and fingers, from before backwards, along the lower border of the chest; and then, with sudden movement of the fingers, she would dig in beneath the border of the chest at its attachment to the diaphragm, and pull out the ribs with moderate but firm and continued force. In most persons the ensiform cartilage is more or less curved inwards at the pit of the stomach. This the masseuse held to be the fertile source of much serious disease. Many a sore tug did she give, in vain endeavours to rectify this undesirable malformation of my skeleton; many and solemn her head-shakings at the poor success of her attempts. She was persuaded, and almost persuaded my sorrowing mother, that I was already in the earlier stage of an tinneas caitheadh, “the wasting disease,” as consumption was then popularly called by our people. That her treatment was beneficial there can be no doubt. The bones of my chest were then pliable and elastic; much of the chest-box, at that early age, being really not osseous, but cartilaginous. Massage of the chest, at that age, and as my old masseuse was wont to practice her art, cannot help being beneficial. The sweeping pressure of palm and fingers, well anointed with sweet fresh butter, though begun at the lower border of the chest, was continued over the whole upper portion of my body, from below upwards, from above downwards, and, most of all, from before backwards; and ever and anon there came the dig and sweep, and the continued pull of her iron fingers beneath the lower ribs, and hooked round the peccant ensiform, to raise them outwards, and so to “open the chest.” The Gaelic name of this early form of massage has often puzzled me. It was known as a toirt na clachan cleibh dheth 'n ghille, that is, literally, “taking the creel stones off the lad.” In some way it seemed as if, by an unconscious anticipation of the modern theory of heredity, the old people thought that we children were being visited with the consequences of some excessive labour in burden-bearing on the part of our remote ancestors; thus associating the genesis of this mysterious disease with another of the sore perplexities of my childhood, arising out of one of the many abstruse and mysterious questions of Shorter Catechism. The name, in all probability, is simply a degraded form of the words glacadh cleitke, “a catching or ‘stitch’ of the side.” Logan (Scottish Gael, ii.t p. 170) speaks, indeed, of the one word glacadh, as being itself “among the Highlanders the name of a disease of a consumptive nature, affecting the chest and lungs.” In that sense it would be the Gaelic equivalent of phthisis pulmonalis, “consumption of the chest.” But glacadh, in that sense, is unknown to me. The dictionaries have it as a “swelling of the hollow (glac) of the hand.” But external swelling is not a symptom of consumption. Logan’s use of the word cannot, therefore, settle the question. It is, indeed, to be greatly regretted that in the mouths of the Highland people, many names, whether of plants, birds, diseases, or even of places, have long ago, in the wear and tear of common use, lost all trace of their first meaning.

It may be here stated, by way of parenthesis, that the manipulations of my masseuse were always accompanied by a low, muttering, inarticulate sort of incantation, whose meaning, or even the words, I could never catch. The meaning, in all likelihood, was unknown to herself. If she knew it, she was certainly very careful to keep her patient in the dark. She was a good Protestant, and as a regular and devout church goer, she used to hear the minister thunder out all the terrors of the law against witchcraft and all forms of superstition, as well as against pipers and fiddlers. Whatever the reason, she was always reticent on the subject. Very often did I ask what it was she was saying, but she did not seem to understand my question, or rather, she looked at me in such a way as was probably meant to convey that impression to my mind.

The whole subject of health-charms among the Highlands, whether used to restore health or to protect it from adverse influence or the evil eye, has been admirably treated in Mr Maebain’s learned and thoroughly exhaustive lecture to this Society. I have nothing to add to what by him has been so well said. But reference may be made to a few Gaelic charms printed in Mackenzie's “Beauties of Gaelic Poetry,” at page 268, in a foot note. In Dr John Smith’s “History of the Druids,” at page 80, there may also be found a very old and comprehensive rule of health, summed lip in these words : —Bi gu sugacfi, genmnaidh, mocheireack: “be cheerful, chaste, an early riser.”

In the treatment of consumption, it appears to me that the advanced medical science of our day is just now very hopefully feeling its way to a new departure which may prove to be of the utmost value and of vast significance. That departure, if ever it is made, will be in the direction of introducing into the blood a garmicide which, while effectually sterilizing the germs of this fell disease, will not seriously hurt the patient. But the sun of this day of happy omen is not yet visible in the horizon, and the sheet-anchor of the faculty must still, as of old, be found in aliment and nutrition. Whatever nutritious aliment is easiest of digestion, and whatever w^e can do to put the digestive organs in the best condition for the proper assimilation of proper and nutritious aliment—that is the best and the utmost that for the present the physician can do for his patient. And that, it seems to me, along with the chest-rubbing just described, was also the sheet-anchor of our grandmothers. Take for example the milk treatment of consumption. In my early days warm milk, fresh drawn from the cow, and taken at early mom on an empty stomach, was the favourite remedy for this, as, indeed, for all anomic forms of disease. The “strippings ” of the milk—that is, the last residual product of the milking of the cow—were rightly considered to be possessed of especially curative virtues. Now what is this but just treatment in the way of nutritive alimentation! for it is well known that the “strippings” are peculiarly rich in cream. Nor was it otherwise with the dash of good rum, which, in this “ first-footing” of the daily aliment, was a usual

And wholesome adjunct of the treatment. Goat milk, in my early days, was held to be pre-eminently curative, and ass milk came next in popular favour. Milk from the mare, so far as I can remember, was prescribed only in cases of prolonged whooping-cough ; and its use was associated with the muttering of a charm and the passing of the patient, in a certain prescribed order, under the belly and between the legs of the mare. The ritual, if one may so speak, of this last mentioned treatment was no doubt superstitious and absurd. But of the other adjuncts of the •old Highland milk-cure, it can honestly be said that they were all such as would to-day be recommended as rational adjuvants of the treatment. “To be consumed on the premises,” that is, at the byre door, and at early morn, was, for example, a rule everywhere insisted upon as essential. In the curative use of goat milk it was also expected that, if at all possible, the patient should go to the goat on her native hills. Now, it is obvious that such adjuncts of treatment as these are in themselves, and in a very high degree, most healthsome and remedial, for mountain air and early rising have always commended themselves to thinking men as eminently conducive to health of mind and body. It were a good thing for the young people of these days of cramming, and the competition Wallah, if, with all their multiform and multitudinous acquisitions of knowledge, they kept a firm hold of these simple, old-world rules of healthful living. They know perhaps a great deal more than their grandmothers, and in some things they may be wiser, but in this matter of early rising, and a substantial breakfast, deliberately and decently partaken of, as the reward of a good natural appetite, they might do worse than take a leaf out of the old world wisdom, piously stored up in such grandmotherly books as “Meg Dodd’s Cookery,” and Sir John Sinclairs “Code of Health and Longevity.” The growing habit of lying lazily a-bed till the last moment, and then hastily gulping a cup of overdrawn, scalding tea, with a few hurriedly bolted mouthfuls of hot roll, before racing away post haste to school or to business—this shameful habit has much to answer for in the seriously unsatisfactory health-bill of too many families in our midst, both rich and poor. And it is perhaps one of the greatest advantages, to our young people, of public school life, that in public schools this great rule of early rising and a proper interval, before the morning meal, to gather up a natural appetite for a substantial, deliberate breakfast, is now sternly insisted upon. It is a golden rule which every parent and patriot should by all means strive to make universal; and there be few of us who cannot, in some way, help to make it so. Why, for example, should it not be our rule to have family prayers before, rather than after, breakfast? Such a rule, if only, with the honest consent and hearty co-operation of both heads of the house, it could be made imperative and habitual, would go far to prove that Godliness is profitable unto all things, and has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come ; carrying in its right hand the clear blessing of mundane good health, as well as the higher, if also less palpable, blessings of that life that is unseen and eternal.

The hydropathist, equally with the masseur, was anticipated in the Highland folk-medicine of fifty years ago. The virtues of the medicated bath were, indeed, known to the Celts of very early times; for we read of a great bath, medicated with all the slan-lusaei, “health plants,” of Ireland, into which, at the battle of Magh Tuirettdh, the wounded were plunged, with such salutary effect, that straightway every man of them returned to the fight, and not a few of them did so again and again. Whatever of the fabulous may enter into that old Celtic story, I can myself vouch for the verity and the success of such items of hydropathic treatment as the following :—My old schoolmaster, fifty years ago, was wont to bathe daily in the sea, all through the winter. Another sufferer used to wade into the sea up to the waist, with his clothes on ; with his clothes thus turned into a wet-pack of sea water he rushed home and into bed; there he had numerous blankets heaped over him till he broke out into a copious perspiration, and soon passed into a refreshing sleep. A common form of treatment was to boil the patient’s flannel shirt, to put it on him, wrung out of the boiling water, as hot as he could bear it, and then to heap on bed-clothes, with the same restorative effect as that last mentioned. As the shirt was often boiled in the potato pot, its virtues as a hot poultice may possibly have found an adjuvant in the soothing properties of that solanaceous edible! The sudden and unexpected shock of the cold douche on his bare back, or a similarly sudden touch of the hot poker over his seventh rib loco grgroto, was counted good treatment for a patient suffering from jaundice. And I have heard in my native parish, and in my own day, though I did not see it, of that very effectual mode of inducing perspiration which Martin sawr practised long before in Skye. A great fire was kindled on the clay floor of the kitchen ; after the fire had been kept up at great heat for a long time, it was quickly removed, and its place was covered with a thick layer of straw, on this a pitcher of water was poured, and then the patient, being laid on the wetted straw, was covered over with heaped up layers of bed-clothes. The result was a speedy and copious perspiration, sound sleep, and in all probability the permanent cure of some serious ailment.

The literature of Celtic medicine lies outside the scope of this paper, which professes only, from personal observation, to deal with simples, and the simple treatment of disease by the common people. The so-called medical treatises of the Macleans and the Beatons—two celebrated medical families of Mull and Skye—are therefore outside my present purpose. These MSS., so far as they are medical, consist mostly of extracts in Latin, translated into Gaelic, from the early medical authorities of the continent. They are, in fact, just such common-place books as would ordinarily be kept by educated men in times when printing was unknown, or printed books few and far between.

Did your time permit, much that is not without interest might still be added. The male fern has long been used in the Highlands as a vermifuge for man and dogs. The wild garlic, the broom, juniper, golden rod, sage, and foxglove were common diuretics. The fresh young nettle wTas variously used, and is really a tasty substitute for spinnach. The wild parsley— dangerous though it be in unskilled hands, by reason of its close resemblance to the dwarf hemlock—entered largely into the domestic pharmacopoea. Eye-bright, was lus nan sul, the eye plant; the house leek, was lus nan cluas, the ear plant; while the garden sage, like several others, was honoured with the name of dan lus, the health plant.

Bone-setting, of course, was practised in the Highlands as elsewhere. The art was not altogether mere rule of thumb ; for the bone-setters had their secrets, jealously guarded, and with much care handed down from sire to son. Nor were they so entirely ignorant of the human skeleton as some modem critics would have us believe. Looking back on my own experience, as the patient, long ago, of more bone-setters than one, I can see that they had a firm hold of two sound principles of treatment. (1). In manipulating an ailing limb, they keenly watched the patient’s features and movements for every indication of pain; rightly, as I think, taking such indications as pointing to the real seat or cause of his hurt or trouble. In the case of old adhesions, whether of long dislocated joints or of misfitted fractures, the key to treatment might thus be hopefully looked for. (2). Their second great principle was simplicity itself, but yet it was a most powerful adjuvant of their restorative manipulation. It was this : by locking the knee or the elbow they greatly increased the length and the power of the lever with which they worked. I well remember how thus an old dislocation of the shoulder, which had baffled more than one regular practitioner, was speedily righted by the bone-setter. Very gently at first he took the ailing arm in his brawny grasp; with keen eye intently fixed on the patient’s features, and with the dislocated limb sl extended as to lock the elbow, lie gently and tentatively moved it slowly to right and left, upwards and downwards: a twinge and a cry from the patient: a pause, and some deep thinking on the part of the operator: manipulation resumed, and the same twinge or cry again : then, with knit brows, and putting forth all his great power of brawny muscle, while his left hand steadied the patient's elbow, the bone-setter made one sudden wrench, and the thing was done. With a “click,” the head of shoulder bone was back in its socket.

For enlarged, or elongated uvula—“the pap of the throat ”— an ailment common among young people in my early days, as it is to-day, the common practice was to search the top of the scalp for the whorl or central parting of the hair (the “welkie,” as the medicine man called it), and then, twisting a bundle of these central hairs on the top of the head round the fore-finger, to give them a sudden wrench upwards. This operation was expected to “lift” the “fallen” uvula; a process which was assisted by repeatedly drawing the closely-pressed palms of both hands, embracing both sides of the face, upwards from Adam’s apple, under the patient’s chin, to the top of his head. And this reminds me that even in the matter of that specially modem instrument, the surgical ecraseur, our old Highland grandmothers anticipated one of the greatest and most valuable discoveries of modem surgery. With a noose of horsehair, passed through a common goose quill, in the hands of an old Highland midwife, I once saw the uvula as neatly and as effectually operated upon as, with the modern instrument, it could be treated by Spence or Syme.

Of the old Highland catholicon, or universal remedy, your time forbids me to say more than a word. Whether the ailment was a cold or a fever, or the much feared small-pox, whether its seat was abdominal, thoracic, or cephalic, and whether it was a faintness or a fullness, there was one remedy that never came amiss. It was a glass of good honest whisky. But Troja fuit / Good honest whisky is no longer to be had for love or money. The making of it is a lost art—as much so as its long lost sister-art of the ancient Picts, who are said to have made a wholesome and delicious beverage from the fresh, fragrant shoots of the blooming heather.

In what is here set down I have drawn exclusively on the stores of memory and early personal observation. Everything printed on the subject, whether old or new, I have purposely eschewed. Will you take it as my stone upon the cairn of an interesting inquiry, that ought to lead to important results in the service of humanity ? And in return for any service I have thus rendered, I would ask those present to supplement what has been said, out of the stores of their own early experience or observation. On one point I would specially invite farther information. That form of early “ massage,” or chest-rubbing, which I have endeavoured to describe, seems to me to have been peculiar to this district of the Highlands. I can find little trace of it elsewhere. And I firmly believe that it contains the elements of a system of treatment which, in competent hands, might still be largely and hopefully used for the relief of our suffering humanity. The better day of a safe and effective germicidal treatment of consumption may already possibly be dawning upon us. But what looks like the dawn of that better day, may only be the electric flush of a subtle delusion. Meanwhile, an intelligent system of pectoral manipulation, would seem to be the needful complement of what is now being done in the way of a cure by alimentation. In consumption, the candle of life is burning away at both ends—at the respiratory end, and at the alimentary end. Anything, therefore, that enlarges the chest, increases its elasticity, and stimulates in a healthy, natural way, its vital function of respiration, cannot fail to be most helpful in our efforts to combat the disease, and to set up processes of restoration or repair, through the nutrient functions of the alimentary canal. Those of you who can add anything to these reminiscences of the chest massage of my early days, are urgently invited to do so. For any additional information on the subject, and for any intelligent hints for its renewed and more effectual application, or modification, I shall be truly grateful. Such information had best be given now, that it might pass at once into the Transactions of the Society. But written communications, sent to me at your convenience, would also lay me under a debt of obligation, which I shall always gratefully acknowledge.

In conclusion, let me commend to your serious consideration, the practical lessons which each of you may draw for himself, and apply to his own case, from the following quotations :—

“I beseech all persons, who shall read this work, not to degrade themselves to a level with the brutes, or the rabble, by gratifying their sloth, or eating and drinking promiscuously whatever pleases their palates, or by indulging their appetites of every kind. But whether they understand physic or not, let them consult their reason, and observe what agrees and what does not agree with them, that, like wise men, they may adhere to the use of such things as conduce to their health, and forbear everything which, by their own experience, they find to do them hurt; and let them be assured that, by a diligent observation and practice of this rule, they may enjoy a good share of health, and seldom stand in need of physic or physicians.”

Such is the testimony of an authority in medicine, which is second to none. It is the testimony of Galen himself.

Here is another word of warning and encouragement:—

“Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty,
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood;
Nor did I, with unbashful forehead, woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.”

So wrote one whose knowledge of men, and of the world, has been the admiration of learned and simple for full three centuries—I suppose I must not say the immortal Shakespeare, and I cannot just yet bring myself to say Lord Bacon. Let us compromise the matter, and say, so wrote the immortal author of “As You Like It.”

An interesting and instructive discussion followed the reading of Dr Masson’s paper. Dr Aitken, of Inverness, who has given the subject a considerable amount of attention, spoke as follows:— Mr President, Ladies, and Gentlemen,—I have listened with very great pleasure to the address we have heard from Dr Masson, on a subject which has naturally, from my profession, interested me much. Some years or so age, I began to collect matter for a paper of a similar nature, and, if the Society will permit, I shall lay before it some of the information I have collected, taking the diseases in the order in which they come in my notes. And, first, in regard to epilepsy, a disease always regarded with great veneration by all primitive people, there appears to be a cure which has held its prominence in all districts of the Highlands, with variations. For recovery from the disease, a black cock, without a white feather, was taken and buried in the place where the patient had the first fit. A modification of this process was the taking of the pairings of the nails of the fingers and toes, binding them up in hemp, with a sixpence in a piece of paper, on which was written the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The parcel was then taken, tied under the wing of a black cock, and buried in a hole dug at the spot where the first fit occurred, by the oldest God-fearing man of the district, who must watch and pray all night by the fire, which must not be let out. Another very universal remedy was drinking water out of the skull of a suicide at dawn. Charms were also lavishly employed against the disease, and I have heard of a woman taking her son from Fort-Augustus to Strathspey to a priest, who gave her a paper for her boy to wear. Unfortunately, a year after the amulet was received, it was unfolded, the words read, and the fits reappeared. It is also said that priests have the power to transfer the fits from day to night; that children born feet first are able to cure the falling sickness; and that power over the ailment is transmitted in families by the “power of words,” to quote the expression in which the information was given me. But, turning to the question so prominently taken up by Dr Masson—the treatment of consumption—I may remark I was much struck by his explanation of the Gaelic name given to the disease, as it seems to me only another instance how accurate was their observation of nature. I have no doubt, indeed, Dr Masson’s explanation of the words he gave is correct, for a stitch in the side, to use a common expression for pleuritic manifestations, may be one of the first symptoms to betray the commencement of this malady; and I may here instance another of the primitive means of diagnosis, given to me by an old Highlander with whom I discussed the disease. If, he said, a person spits on the floor, and the sputum falls flat, it is certain he is consumptive; if, however, the sputum “ takes a start,” it is certain he is free from the disease. Turning, however, to the remedies in the disease, in addition to those mentioned by Dr Masson—good food, mare, and goat’s milk—I may instance the following:—The plant goomri (I merely pronounce the word phonetically) is taken and boiled in a large quantity of water. The decoction is then thrown into a tub, and the person sits over it and steams himself. In a similar way, a steam bath is made by boiling the calf’s herb in a large quantity of water. A decoction of the Asplenium Adiantuni Nigrum, a black spleenwort, is also used in the disease; and, as a forerunner of the much-vaunted chemical food, and showing how instinct often precedes scientific theories, it may be mentioned that the Highlanders believed great benefit was to be derived in consumption by the administration of a jelly made from the scrapings of deer horns. Dr Masson’s reference to the primitive massage exercised amongst the people is extremely interesting; but I question if it is likely to do good in a perfectly declared case of consumption, and I should be inclined to place more dependence on the more primitive methods of good food, mare’s milk, goat’s milk, and plenty of fresh air. Turning now to some of the diseases regarding which I have less information, I may mention that worms were cured by drinking tea made of rue ; that smallpox was thought to be benefitted, if not cured, by whisky, or by whisky and black beer ; that the application of sea-weed to the joint affected removed rheumatism. Warts were removed by applying the fasting spittle to them, by rubbing them with a stone, then placing this in a bag and dropping it on the road. Whenever any one picked it up, the warts disappeared from the person having them, and attacked the finder. Warts were also cured by washing them with pig’s blood, or with the milky juice of the euphorbia. Sores were thought to be beneficially affected by having the Lady’s Mantle applied to them. The common plantain was efficacious when applied to cuts; and the broad-leaved plantain made into a poultice made “ gatherings” disappear. Turning for the moment to surgery, about which I have scant information, I have only to mention that if a person who had the power tied a thread round the fractured part, the fractured bone at once healed. In inflammation of the eye, the eye affected was rubbed by the person who had the power the first thing in the morning, his patient fasting, with a stone on which the operator spat and sprinkled soot. The application was continued until the part recovered—a somewhat rough and ready treatment for so delicate an organ. For the same disease, the eye was washed by a decoction made from the common eyebright, or with water over which a rhyme had been repeated. Milk and cold tea were also favourite applications in such maladies. For a black eye, a slice /f a potato was applied to it; and a similar application was made to the nape of the neck in bleeding from the nose. In regard to toothache, I have heard of many remedies, but the following is the most curious—a caterpillar is taken, rolled up in a cotton cloth and put underneath the tooth. The following charm, which an, aged man told me he had seen used in Glen-Urquhart, and worn by the sufferer, is said to be supremely efficacious :—

St Peter sat on a marble stone,
Jesus Christ came to him alone.
“Peter, what aileth thee to weep?"
“ My Lord and God, it is the toothache.”

For the bile, in addition to the remedies mentioned by previous speakers, I may add an infusion of the inner bark of the barberry. For a disease, if widely spread, as scrofula or king’s evil, the most efficacious means were thought to be being touched by the king, or by the seventh son. The power of the seventh son was, however, greater if a daughter was born before and after the series of sons. The child also who had been "freed” in this manner had the same power, but exercised it in a different way. A sovereign was dropped into a vessel of water, into which he inserted his hand, and over the water a blessing was pronounced, and the sufferer was sprinkled or washed with it, and usually recovered. If, however, the person who had acquired the power had any improper relation with a female, the gift passed from him. I may also state that water so blessed was often sent great distances, and one of my informants told me of a woman belonging to the West Coast suffering from scrofulous sores who was cured by water sent from a boy who had the power, and lived in Inverness. Looking now, however, to some of the common diseases, I may refer to whooping cough, for which the remedies appear to be both numerous and varied; but the most interesting aids against this disease seems to be the following :—If the child is put on the wrong side of the cow when he is suffering from the ailment it will go away. It is also cured if the child is put to nurse in a family in which the husband and wife were of the same name before marriage. Snails were bruised and applied to the legs, and the oil made from them taken as in consumption. A recovery was often effected by putting a “paddock” into a tumbler of water, and getting it to drink out of it, w hen, as my informant stated, it took a start, and the cough disappeared. Children were taken across the water, and carried to a house, at which, if they were offered food, the disease passed away. In both Glen-Urquhart and Lochalsh mare’s milk was a favourite remedy; and, in the latter district, water taken from the clefts of the rocks was thought to be very efficacious. Another, and, I am led to believe, at one time a favourite remedy, was to break off a horn from any homed beast, and drink out of it. Another of the common diseases which attracted special attention was erysipelas or the rose, and from the various modes of treatment proposed for it, I select the following, but, in the first place, I may remark I have met with individuals of a family who had an hereditary power to cure the disease by a “ line in Latin.7’ The commonest and most universal remedy for rose, extending from the South to the North of Scotland, is the application of flour or alum over the affected part, dusted on a red flannel cloth. Another cure was to pull the rose herb, make a poultice of it, adding, however, fresh butter to this. Wild geranium is used for the same purpose, and tea was made of the Stone Cup, a fleshy plant growing on old walls or house tops, and drank in quantity. In some districts, dry barley meal was preferred as an application, instead of the usual flour. Digitalis or foxglove was also applied, but whether in the form of poultice or medicine I forgot to ask my informant. Let me now finally direct your attention to two very common diseases, cough and asthma, for which the remedies are very numerous, but from these I select the following. They all, however, follow, it will be observed, the line of modem treatment, and are tonic or anti-spasmodic. These decoctions are made of the root of the bramble and pennyroyal, and drank. Meal and oil is a very common and extensive remedy Horehound “tea” is given for cough, and is equally used in asthma, as well as a similar preparation of a plant called “ceann 6ir an sgadain.” Coltsfoot tea holds an equal place, but its leaves are more frequently smoked for asthma. In some places a decoction is made from the root of the garden rhubarb, whisky added, and the mixture is drank; and another popular remedy for cold is “sage tea and honey.” Let me now conclude what I have to say by relating an anecdote, in which the old world and modern medicine meet. A distinguished London physician was visiting a family in Strathspey, who had an old and attached female retainer, in whom they were deeply interested. As a special favour, the doctor was asked to break his holiday custom of eschewing medicine, and visit the old woman. He did so; saw there was nothing wrong with her, but pronounced over her some words, which my informant had not heard. To the surprise of everyone, the next morning the old woman paid her usual visit to the big house, and afterwards enjoyed vigorous, robust health for her time of life. A year afterwards, the distinguished physician again spent his holidays in the same district, but was seized with a serious attack of quinsy. His friends were alarmed, and already preparing to send off for help, w hen the old woman, whose illness has been referred to, rushed into the room. She had heard of the physician’s illness, and her gratitude was stirred. She felt she must do something for one who had done so much for her, and hence her appearance. Believing also that the patient, like herself, had faith in charms, she began to repeat some rhyme, waving over the bed a cotton umbrella. The scene was so ridiculous that, forgetting a moment his own troubles, the doctor burst into a fit of laughter. The abscess gave way, and at once all danger was removed.

Let me now conclude what I have to say by repeating what Dr Masson has already pointed out, the great; value of “old world” stories. Those who attentively consider them will see, as I have already stated, that the instincts of primitive peoples are often the forerunners of the advancement of science. I never meet with a tradition, or a superstition, without endeavouring to find an equivalent one amongst other peoples similarly circumstanced, and the true history and development of a race cannot be perfectly understood without the thorough appreciation of such facts as Dr Masson has so admirably brought before us to-night.


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