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Appeal for Moray memories ahead of World Polio Day


By Sarah Rollo

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"ONE saved by use of iron lung" is the headline from the Northern Scot of September 6, 1947.

It was read by a community gripped by the fear of an epidemic which saw children placed in isolation, unable to see their distraught families.

During the polio outbreak of the 1940-70s, children were taken into isolation in special hospitals where they could stay for months-on-end.

That included the Spynie 'fever' facility in Elgin where, for many, their only family contact was a glimpse through the window glass.

A report in the Northern Scot of September 6, 1947 tells of the use of an "iron lung" to save the life of a child with polio.
A report in the Northern Scot of September 6, 1947 tells of the use of an "iron lung" to save the life of a child with polio.

Thanks to a global effort, of which Rotary International has been a major player for the last 35 years, the goal of ridding the world of the disease is closer than ever.

Ahead of World Polio Day, on October 24, Elgin Rotary is researching how polio affected the local community.

Donald Lunan, who is involved in the project for Rotary, is using newspaper reports and health board archives as part of the work.

He's also appealing for anyone with memories of the outbreaks to get in touch.

Mr Lunan said: "I've been struck by the parallels between the polio breakouts and our own Covid-19 quarantines and fears.

"The only school classmate I remember dying, of anything, was in my Primary 2 class in Cambuslang, in 1952, and it was polio.

"Back then, we little 6-year-olds just felt sad, then got on with our wide-eyed lives."

For many of those who had polio and survived, it had a lasting impact.

Mr Lunan said: "Local recollections would be gold-dust, but I completely understand if anyone feels reticent about talking about a childhood polio experience.

"For that reason, I would use absolute discretion and names can be removed if that is preferred."

Anyone who can help by sharing their memories is asked to email donaldlunan@btinternet.com or call him on 01343 543438 or 07974 665292.

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