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Is it Medicine or is it Magic?
Tuesday 16th March, 2010

One thing is for certain, Peter Watson weaved his magic for the members of Wigan Family and Local History Society at their meeting on Monday evening 15 March. Twenty three members and eight visitors sat spellbound in the function room of the Bowling Green Hotel, Wigan Lane. Peter took us back over a thousand years before the Norman Conquest to look at the art of curing ailments and afflictions.

For instance a sharp pain like Lumbago or cramp would be thought to have been caused by being shot with an arrow by an Elf. What else would cause a stabbing pain? He produced a couple of recipes for cures written in Anglo Saxon, which he read out. Then it was the turn of the audience repeating the words after Peter. It was something to behold a room full of people in a pub on Wigan Lane speaking in a language that would have been last used in this area over a thousand years ago.

Tying knots in string three times or wrapping it around the afflicted body part three times before burning it was only one of the many examples of magic used. Why did the number three feature so prominently? Three is a magic number. That was a thousand years ago... wouldn’t happen to-day would it? How often do we get tablets from the Doctor that says take one three times a day? Is it Medicine or is it Magic?

As we moved through the years to the present we looked at the ridiculous and downright dangerous claims for some of the Edwardian and Victorian medicines. “Dr Williams Pink Pills for Pale People” was one example, it contained nothing more than sugar and chalk and dye but people bought it.

Did it work? Well we know now of the Placebo effect so if it didn’t kill you it probably did make you feel better. One thing’s for sure, I won’t complain about the NHS again. After taking a number of questions Peter was thanked by the Chairman and received a hearty round of applause.

Secretary Sharon Weir is arranging a visit to the Family History Research Centre Church of Latter Day Saints in Chorley. This will be on a Wednesday or Friday Evening as they're open until 9pm or Saturday morning. The visit will be restricted to members only as we are only allowed 10 people per visit.

The Chairman reported the increase in charges for Birth, Marriage and Death certificates from the GRO. Basically they have gone up from £7.00 to £9.00.

The next meeting will be on Monday 19th April in the Bowling Green Hotel - 7.30 for 8pm. The speaker will be Peter Morgan and the topic is "A History of Autographs".

All are welcome and we look forward to greeting you on the 19th April.


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