Fears of a smallpox epidemic 1905


Dr Patterson's reply to a request to have smallpox patients admitted to Ramelton Fever hospital.

Ramelton, May 21st, 1905

Dear Sir,

Subject to the approval of the Hospital Committee, and if we had room, I personally would have no objection to the admission of fever patients from your union. You must however understand that our space is limited, and that we are under promise to take in fever patients from Milford Union while the outbreak of smallpox continues. At the most we could only take in 26 patients. In laying your query before the Hospital Committee, I would like to be able to give them more particulars. For instance, the Hospital is supposed to be for my district alone, and up to the present during 27 years no cases from outside the district have been admitted except as paying patients; our funds are always small and it would add much to our expenses to admit fever patients, so will you please say if your Board would be prepared to pay anything for the keep of any patients you might send. Roughly speaking, it would come to 1/6 a day for each patient, and a little more if stimulants were required.

Yours faithfully,

John Patterson


Woodbank Terrace


There was great concern that the number of people infected by the smallpox epedemic would necessitate the use of tents as ancillary field hospitals. This letter from a landowner in Letterkenny stipulates the conditions under which he will let his field for that purpose.


Dear Sir,

I am willing to let the field at a reasonable price known as "The Militia Field" for the erection of tents thereon for the treatment of smallpox patients, the field to be let with right to graze thereon retained until the first case is about to arrive.

Yours very truly,

Stuart Russell

R D Watters, esq.,

Clerk of Union, etc.,


A common scourge of the C19, smallpox was characterized by a rash that spread over the body, turning into pus-filled blisters that left pitted scars. Complications included blindness, pneumonia and kidney damage. Smallpox was eradicated through an international vaccination programme, with the last known naturally-occurring case being in Somalia in 1977.

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