Wok­ing­ham PROBUS Club

The Wokingham Paper - - SOCIETY - DAVID HUNTER

WOK­ING­HAM PROBUS Club mem­bers gath­ered at John Nike Cen­tre, Brack­nell, on Wednesday ,

Septem­ber 5, to hear a fas­ci­nat­ing talk on nine­teenth cen­tury patent medicines by Gra­ham Har­ri­son.

En­ti­tled Poi­sons for Medicines- Vic­to­rian Phar­ma­cists and

Quack Doc­tors,

Gra­ham’s pre­sen­ta­tion de­scribed a grim ar­ray of “over the counter” medicines, many based on po­tent poi­sons and nar­cotics which were foisted upon the gen­eral pub­lic who had no re­course to free health care as we en­joy to­day.

Arsenic, opium, strych­nine, co­caine and heroin all played their part in this “kill or cure” cul­ture.

Some prod­ucts were for­tu­nately merely harm­less, just a “con”, some were bizarre like slimming by in­gest­ing tape­worms, and some in re­duced po­tency sur­vived into the 20th cen­tury like Dr Col­lis Browne’s mix­ture. Some also re­main in folk­lore like the leg­endary Ly­dia’s Veg­etable Com­pound sold by Ly­dia Pinkham, “Lily the Pink” in the pop­u­lar song. Ef­fi­ca­cious in ev­ery case!

En­livened by ex­am­ples of con­tem­po­rary press ad­ver­tise­ments and his al­most sin­is­ter col­lec­tion of old coloured medicine bot­tles, the au­di­ence was both en­thralled and hor­ri­fied but came away with a def­i­nite ap­pre­ci­a­tion of our mod­ern health ser­vice and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal con­trol leg­is­la­tion.

Our pho­to­graph shows Gra­ham, right, with PROBUS Chair­man John Bri­ault,

PROBUS is a meet­ing place for re­tired or semi-re­tired pro­fes­sional and busi­ness peo­ple of ei­ther sex who as­sem­ble monthly in an in­for­mal and friendly at­mos­phere for so­cial chat, a pleas­ant lunch and a talk on a gen­eral in­ter­est topic.

New mem­bers will be most wel­come. Fees are mod­est, lunches good value and the com­pany friendly with a wide range of ex­pe­ri­ences and in­ter­ests from their var­ied work­ing lives.

Meet­ings are on the first Wednesday of the month at 12.30 for 1pm lunch, with a talk usu­ally fol­low­ing. The meet­ing place is John Nike Leisure­s­port, John Nike Way, Brack­nell RG12 8TN.

The next pre­sen­ta­tion in our pro­gramme, on Oc­to­ber 3, is a pre­sen­ta­tion on the writer Charles Dick­ens and his lesser known in­ter­est of per­form­ing con­jur­ing tricks – with demon­stra­tions!

Prospec­tive mem­bers will be most wel­come to come and meet us, by prior ar­range­ment please, and try us out with­out obli­ga­tion. Please con­tact our Sec­re­tary, Hugh Demp­ster, on 01189 730332 or email hughdemp­ster66@gmail.com

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