V is for Victim#atozchallenge

V.jpg  I planned to call this post ‘Virus’ and then talk about an illness my father had as a young boy. Having googled it, I’ve just discovered his illness was not caused by a virus but an infection. So, quick reshuffle. Let’s say he was Victim of a nasty disease, which was not a Virus!   Satisfied that my obligations to the letter V are taken care of (phew!)  I can move on with the story.

In 1933 my Dad had rheumatic fever. He was 13 at the time. He was very ill for the best part of a year, and his mother feared that he wouldn’t pull through. She had ten children. If you saw our house, you’d wonder where ten children, two parents, and a granny actually fitted!

Dad was so sick, his bed was moved downstairs to the parlour. One day an elderly neighbour called to the house. Dad overheard her talking to his mother. They were talking about him. Essentially, what the old lady was recommending was that dad should be taken outdoors and beaten with a stick. His mother should then call upon the fairies to take this sick child and bring the real Joe back.

Thankfully his mother had far too much sense to heed such nonsense. I don’t know anything about the old lady. Maybe she was a bit mad. The scary thing is that her advice derived from a superstitious belief about ‘changelings.’ I mentioned in my post yesterday that the Irish fairies were a pretty dark bunch.  A commonly held belief in earlier times was that the fairies sometimes took children and replaced them with one of their own. The replacement would be odd or sickly or just not right. The implications for any child suffering from a developmental disorder were terrifying. Apparently the last known case of the murder of a suspected changeling occurred in 1884. changeling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridget_Cleary

Interestingly, the late 19th century and early twentieth century saw a burgeoning of academic and literary interest in the cultures and traditions of Ireland. The literary revival was an important time and it directly fed into the growing nationalist movement. The following is an excerpt from a poem written during this time by one of our great national poets, W.B Yeats.
The Stolen Child
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Whilst this is a beautiful and haunting evocation of our culture, it is one sided. The other side of the coin is the cruelty and ignorance that went hand in hand with some of the fairy beliefs.  The fact that, as late, as 1933, it was conceivable that a parent be advised to beat a sick child, as a piece of folk wisdom is deeply shocking.
My dad made a full recovery from the fever. One small addendum, though. He had a relapse in his early twenties. It occurred just after he had enlisted in the British army during the second world war. As a result of the relapse, he was deemed unfit for service. He was disgusted. It wasn’t that he wanted to fight- he just wanted the opportunity to travel and the army was his ticket to France.
Who knows what would have happened if he went. He might have been fine. He might not.
So, back to the letter V. V is also for vagaries of fortune.
The rheumatic fever that nearly killed him, might well have saved him.  I’m just happy  Joe wasn’t stolen away from us before his time, in a war he would have hated.


23 thoughts on “V is for Victim#atozchallenge

  1. There are probably similar stories of children being beaten because they were thought to be possessed by the devil.
    You said it so perfectly with the statement that it is deeply shocking a parent would be advised to beat a sick child.
    Fortunately this story has a happy ending 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a Supernatural fan, I have heard and read up on changelings before. When it comes to superstitions, I understand only too well. My great grandmother had to hide my father when he was about 5 and send him away to live with relatives because he was meant to be offered as a sacrifice to eliminate the badluck that had struck their homestead.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing that story, and so vividly. The first I heard of the changelings was with Outlander (the TV series, not the books, I haven’t read the books yet, I’m saving them for when the series is over. I’m weird that way). I had no idea the superstition persisted so long! I’m glad your grandmother didn’t listen.

    A Bit to Read

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness! I’d heard about changelings, but I didn’t know about being beaten for it! I’m glad your grandmother was a sensible woman. Poor kids – bad enough being sick, but then to get beat for it, on top of that, wow. How sad.

    I’m glad your father recovered. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful post filled with inter-woven ideas. (And all from a prompt of the letter V!) I am reading some of your other posts, now and trying to catch up, but this one I read twice. You both look so happy in that photo!


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