The news today ( June 25th 2018 ) that a war-time British chaplain nicknamed ‘Woodbine Willie’ gave troops ‘one final gasper’ to sick and dying soldiers on the frontline grasped my attention. And reminded me of my childhood.
Woodbines, which were strong and unfiltered, were not widely available on the Western Front and were considered as gold dust in the trenches. The cigarette’s classic, intricate green and orange packets featured heavily in my childhood memories. They were primarily aimed at the working man and my father’s tab of choice. And that news report was the catalyst for this post, which has nothing to do with metal detecting.
A long, long time ago when I was but a lad growing up in a County Durham mining village, I was conscious of the fact that my parents – and it seemed everybody else’s mam and dad – were very concerned about something called ‘inner cleanliness’. As well as taking their Carter’s Little Liver Pills and Dr White’s Compo, they were also ardent supporters of Mr Beecham’s renowned pills.
Can you remember them in the cute round ‘worth a guinea a box?’ Perhaps not. He declared that they cured constipation, headaches, dizziness or swimming in the head, wind, pain, spasms in the stomach, pains in the back, restlessness, insomnia, indigestion, want of appetite, maladies of indiscretion, urinary disorders, menstrual derangements etcetera, etcetera. And I haven’t included everything! Why they are not still available at the chemists I don’t know! We had a parody we used to sing about this ‘quackery’.
The advertising slogan, ‘Worth a guinea a box,’ was taken from an unsolicited testimonial and in 1912 they were sold for just over a shilling per box. The success of the product was greatly assisted by the sheer magnitude of the marketing and the fact that advertising at the time was uncontrolled.
The British Medical Association analysed the pills and found them to consist of aloes, ginger and soap; the ingredients cost rather less than an old penny. After over 150 years, production finally stopped in 1998. Many other proprietary medicines went the same way.
I’m reminded of the term ‘Snake Oil’ referring to worthless medicine substances and should be familiar to you if, like me, you watched so many Gene Autry, Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy films at the Saturday matinee. There always seemed to be a travelling medicine man rolling into town and putting on a show. In the past I have written about this quackery. ( See A Detectorists Medical Quackery Find, Dr Scholl’s Foot Eazer, A Necklace and Sugar Plums, and Harlene for the Hair )
But it couldn’t happen today, could it? Yes.
Tesco and Snake Oil
The giant supermarket Tesco is encouraging its customers to buy snake oil. Well no, not exactly – just ‘snake liquid’. I was looking at the ‘Healthy Living’ section on their website and was directed to a US company called ‘Wild Earth Animal Essences’. And guess what? They are selling not only snake liquid, but also bear, beaver, bison, butterfly and every other animal liquid. I was so worried about the wanton slaughter of so many animals, but was reassured to read that no animal parts were used, not even the reproductive ones that Chinese men seem to prefer. And what do the liquids do? Err … they ‘help people around the world deepen their connection with themselves’. Yup, that’s what I thought too!
The long awaited book by Karen is due to be published soon. Can’t wait. You can check it out and pre-order HERE.
I am really excited about the publication of my latest medieval thriller, A GATHERING OF GHOSTS on September 6th. It’s set in 1316, in the wild landscape of Dartmoor, which few travellers dared to cross for fear of being attacked by outlaws or drowning in the sucking mires … Karen