Sunday, March 15, 2020

Corvid-19 (Day 3 of self-isolation)

Way back in the summer of 1956 my parents took the remarkable step of isolating all 5 (we were eventually 6) of their children on an island off the coast of West Cork.

For the entire summer.

There was an epidemic of polio in 1956 and they took the preventive strategy of isolating their children from it. Self isolating in other words before it was too late.

This island was primitive, no running water, no toilets, no electricity. And we had to share a very small cabin with another family with 5 children who had taken the same precautions.

But we managed. We roamed the island, played cricket (a lot) and obscure ball games that still come back to me, read every book and piece of paper we found and wondered why our parents were reacting so strongly to something quite vague and invisible. We were 4 to a bed - tops and tails, youngest sleeping with the parents.and meals were in shifts for 14 people, young kids first then the older children and adults. Simple food from local farmers, milk picked up at milking time along with the eggs. We played indoor games when it rained and were marched off to the cliffs to cool off if we got petulant and truculent.
"You're not the only one feeling like this, we all have to get along or none of us do."

Close quarters alright.

And only in hindsight do I thank my parents, for when we finally got back to the city we saw how other children had been affected with this disease. We saw leg braces while many were in iron lungs in the hospitals, permanently crippled.

Mum and dad struck a brave, preemptive strike for the safety of their children, at who knows what cost - 4 parents, 10 children in a tiny, isolated cottage, dear gawd - but we were so very, very fortunate in their concern and love.

And a part of my heart has always remained there. We were right on this beach, the scene of daily cricket (called rounders) and all the swimming we could handle. You can actually see the rusty red roof of the cabin (long in disuse now) just up from the strand.


  1. What sensible, innovative parents you had. And an incredibly beautiful spot to be isolated in.
    "You're not the only one feeling like this, we all have to get along or none of us do."
    How true that is - and something I wish (how I wish) that the wider community realised.

  2. Wow! This is a marvellous tribute to your wise and wonderful [parents.It is also an inspiration to parents and families right at this present moment! Thank you so very ,very much for sharing. Let's hope others will be 'self' aside and act as wisely ..for the good of others .

  3. I also wanted to share something someone posted early this morning.,
    Breaking News:

    Going outdoors Not Cancelled
    Music Not Cancelled
    Family Not Cancelled
    Reading Not Cancelled
    Friends Not Cancelled
    Singing Not Cancelled
    Laughing Not Cancelled
    Hope Not Cancelled


  4. It was nice that you had the whole island to yourself and could go outside to play. Back it up a bit and think how you would have felt had you not been allowed outdoors. That's the concern I have for the students to whom I read each week. Many live in cramped apartments with little to no technology, no art supplies or books, in unsafe neighborhoods.

  5. It must have been a wonderful summer for you kids; not so much for your parents. But swimming? It must have been cold, cold, cold.

  6. That was very smart of your parents to isolate their family as they did. Bravo for them!

  7. I was seven or eight when I saw an iron lung on a relative's TV. I ran out of the room.
    Most parents took "precautions". Terrible illness.

  8. Polio was, nay still is a terrible thing. It must not have been easy for your parents. I assume they weren't with you and I wonder how they knew it was safe for you to return.

  9. Your parents were smart. I remember a later epidemic in the 60s, a classmate was away from school for two years and came back eventually in year 7 with walking sticks and hand braces and had to still sleep in a body brace at night apparently. but I don't remember anyone else affected. We all had government sponsored doses of Salk vaccine, the trucks came around to all the schools and we went in by classes and the truck stayed for weekends for other people to get their doses.

  10. P.S. that's a beautiful island and a very pretty beach.

  11. Your family were very lucky to have been able to self-isolate in that way. My son in TO fears for his job and his mortgage, has a father-in-law trapped in a hotspot for covid-19 and no way to get out, children home without school, daycare, community centres, libraries, museums... TO homeless shelters closed because insufficient volunteers to staff them... fundraising groups for the homeless shut down too. Churches closed to the homeless... not exactly best time of year to be stuck outdoors.

  12. Thank you for sharing this story. We all needed it right now.

  13. That's tremendous that your parents were savvy enough to isolate the whole family to avoid being swept up in the polio epidemic. I don't remember my parents doing any self-isolating in 1956. Perhaps they were just "hoping for the best".

  14. Love that beach video!

    Yes, polio was one of the worst dreads, back in the day - diptheria too, as I recall. The nearest experience I had, as a child, to a kind of isolation, was being evacuated to live with my grandparents, in the countryside, during the worst part of World War 2. Parents lived in an east coast city-port often bombed. So, I came into this world a month or two before a world-wide crisis - maybe I shall leave it close to a different kind of world-wide crisis. :-( Stay safe, WWW. Hugs. x

  15. Loved your interesting story and such a beautiful place to be isolated and yet have others to play with. My family was on Long Island, NY at that time and I only remember lining up to get the vaccine. But I do remember the Asian Flu and how bad that was. Am thankful today for technology helping us know what is going on (even if depressing)and the sunshine lets me know that spring is close and we can get outside.


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