NOSTALGIA: Friday night was time for syrup of figs

Delia Daws (nee Towers), aged 81, of Kendal, recalls medicines in the 1930s and 1940s


For the first four years of my life I lived with my family above my father’s chemist shop, Kirkland Drug Stores, Tudor House, next to Abbot Hall gates.

He was a dispensing chemist and I remember him making up bottles of medicine out of powders kept in rows of wooden boxes, all with Latin names.

Before the National Health Service was formed, every visit to the doctor had to be paid for, so people were pleased he could sell them medicines reasonably.

My mother always kept a good stock in her cupboard. Every Friday night my brother and I were given a dose of Syrup of Figs - to ‘clean us out for the weekend’.

Once a month it was a vile-tasting worm cake - ‘in case we got worms’. I kept mine under my tongue and spat it out when she wasn’t looking.

Ears were washed out regularly with warm olive oil.

Worst of all was the iodine bottle - the slightest cut, graze or sore knee was dabbed till we couldn’t stand the stinging.

Funnily enough all I ever caught was measles, when we were all ready to go to the Grand Trade Exhibition at Glasgow. This had to be put off, much to my father’s annoyance.

When the war broke out my father was called up and the shop had to go. This meant our supply of medicines dwindled and the dosing came to an end.


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