Memories of hell
Maurice O’Callaghan, St John ambulance volunteer
One house I went to was in Grey Lynn, where we found a man who had been dead three days. His body was in the bed, and his wife was lying in the same bed, not dead but driven out of her mind by the fact that she was lying in bed with a dead husband and could not get up. We had to get the husband buried and an order from the health authorities for the woman to be placed in Avondale Mental Hospital.
Grace Stewart, from Papakura
My father, myself and my twin sisters caught the flu. Another sister who was delicate nursed the twins whilst my mother nursed father and me, and she never caught it. I was then about 17 years of age. Until then I was very healthy and robust...[but] I never regained my usual health. My fingers and fingernails went black. My tongue was covered in some sort of fungus half an inch thick, which I would scrape off and then rinse my mouth every morning. The pain in the whole of my body was unbearable.
Jean Forrester, St John volunteer who helped at the temporary influenza hospital in the Seddon Memorial Technical College in Auckland
[One man] was delirious and kept asking if it was four o’clock, as he was going to die then. Four o’clock came and went but he did not die then. He just couldn’t accept that he hadn’t died, and became so deranged in his ravings that he was removed to the mental hospital.
Irma Pickett’s father worked for the Auckland Harbour Board
One day before I got sick I had been sent to the shops on a message. I was a very nosy child so I was interested on the way home to see a big furniture van stop in Wellington St and men were bringing out of houses what seemed to be rolled up rugs, and then I saw feet sticking out at one end. Another time on my way home I was passing an old shop and saw a note in pencil stuck to the door which said ‘For God’s sake help us.’ I told my mother who rang the police. I heard later that a family of five were dead, some found on the floor. The house at the back of the shop had to be hosed out by the Fire Brigade
Bert Ingley was a cadet in the Customs Department in Wellington
I woke from a most disturbed sleep with some sort of irritation in my nose, and when I switched on the light I found that blood was beginning to pour from both nostrils. I tumbled out of bed to the wash stand, half filled the basin with water from the jug, placed the basin on the chair beside the bed, and got back under the blankets. After a while the bleeding stopped, but by this time the basin appeared to be full of blood. The only after-effect was the shedding of all my hair. I became quite bald for a time. I also became extremely hungry during my convalescence, and lived only for food and yet more food.
Geoffrey Rice, right, has interviewed Kiwis – see inset story – about the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak which lead to the use of zinc sulphate inhalations, above, and Govt-issued medicines, above.
Grace Stewart and Bert Ingley.