Mad Martins

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Cure for Cholera



The Philosopher’s Cure for the Cholera Morbus:

Let a few heads of garlic be applied to the soles of the feet of the afflicted, and steep garlic among brandy, then add half an ounce of pepper well-mixed in a glass of the brandy; let it be taken inwardly, which will completely warm the inside. Then, to warm the outside, I order the afflicted to be laid in a good warm bed, a pair of good blankets well warmed at the fire, laid under them, and three pair of well-warmed blankets laid above them, and a rug above all; then, by the heat of the inside, occasioned by the brandy, garlic and pepper, and garlic at the soles of the feet, the heat will be great; then the warm blankets on the outside will warm the body outwardly, which will cause the blood to circulate and run; and they must also add a hot sand-bag to the soles of the feet, and the garlic to be between the feet and the hot sand-bag.”

(Words: William Martin / Tune: ‘Derwentwater’s Farewell’ - Trad. arr. Glenn Miller)

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Additional Text

In 1832 William’s wife died at the age of sixty. Honouring her deathbed request he wore her ring for the rest of his lonely life. For some time after her death he lived at the Church Bank cottage alone, subsisting on boiled horse beans seasoned with salt, which he claimed “contained all the elements of healthy nutriment for human beings”. And his restless imagination proceeded to pour out a flood of ideas, apparently undiminished. He was now turning his mind to medicinal matters and the Wallsend Cholera Epidemic of 1832 gave him a good deal of food for thought.


Recording Credits

Keith Armstrong - Spoken Word
Glenn Miller - Accordion


Robert Cruikshank's Random Shots (No 2) A Cholera Patient
[coloured etching], Robert Cruikshank, c1832.
Yale University.

Foreground - The Appearance After Death of a Victim to the Indian Cholera,
who died at Sunderland
[lithograph], anon., 1832.

Background - Cholera [printed poster], anon., 1832.


Foreground - Death's Dispensary [cartoon], George Pinwell, 1866.
London: Fun Magazine.

Background - Cholera [printed poster], anon., 1831.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: J. Clark