The Impact of the Scarlet Fever Around Auchindrain

We maybe think of this period of self-isolation and schools being shut as something no one has had to cope with before. Yet we know from the Log Books of Furnace School, where the children of Auchindrain were educated, that this is actually nothing new.


We read in the Log Books for the 1880s that Scarlet Fever reared its ugly head almost every winter, with 1882 and 1883 being particularly bad in Furnace. An outbreak in late September 1882 meant a visit from the Sanitary Inspector was called for. He advised that any affected child must be kept off school. This was then extended to any child in an affected family. Sadly, in December of that year, the Log Book notes that an extended lunch break was given to the children so that the teacher and pupil teacher could attend the funeral of a child who had died the previous weekend.



The following year, around the end of November, two more families were reported as having Scarlet Fever. The school was cleaned and disinfected as a precaution. These must have been more serious cases than the previous year, because the School Board decided to shut the school for 8 days to “guard against the spreading of Scarletina (Scarlet Fever) in the area.”  This 8-day closure turned into 16 days, and even when the school reopened, so few children appeared that they were set homework and sent away again.


Two weeks later there was a new outbreak, which affected attendance for the next 5 or 6 weeks. Only 3 weeks after that there was another case and then twice more before the end of the school year, each time with a gap of about 6 weeks in between.


Perhaps if they had insisted on a longer closure or more social distancing as we are seeing now, more children could have been spared an unpleasant illness for which, at the time, there was little medicine could do.