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Letter to Sir John Monash from the Principal, William Littlejon, of Scotch College (Courtesy Scotch College Archives (Melbourne).

Letter to Sir John Monash from the Principal,
William Littlejon, of Scotch College
(Courtesy Scotch College Archives (Melbourne).

Infectious Disease Epidemics at Geelong College.

Measles 1905
(Annual Report, 1905).

Mumps 1910
Pegasus in June 1910 reported: 'At the time of writing it appears probable that the College is fated to pass through the experience of an epidemic of mumps. It is to be hoped that, if so, the visitation will be less severe than the attack of measles some years ago, when no less than forty of the boarders were incapacitated by the disease.'

Influenza 1919

Measles 1923
Despite Pegasus noting in August 1923 'That we have got through Second Term, with its wet and cold, without any epidemic, ... ' Later that year the December issue of Pegasus under the Debating Society Report noted: ' The Annual Banquet had to be postponed at the end of the second term owing to the outbreak of measles, which (to everyone's disgust? necessitated our departure for the holidays a week earlier.'

Diphtheria 1933

Poliomyelitis 1938
Geelong College did not compete in Public Schools Athletics Competition.

Scarlet Fever 1944
The Centenary History commented that: 'Geelong College did not compete owing to an epidemic of scarlet fever.' Pegasus of December 1943 reported: 'Unfortunately the match against G.G.S., arranged for August 7, was unavoidably cancelled because of a scarlet fever epidemic.' Pegasus in December 1944 further reported: 'The Athletics team was unfortunate in that, though a good one, it was unable to compete at the Combined Sports owing to the scarlet fever in the school. ... The school has been particularly fortunate in the fact that, as far as records show, in all its long history, it had never before had an epidemic of scarlet fever, though there have been occasional single cases. The epidemic was of short duration, but, of necessity, hampered the school's outside activities.'

Scarlet Fever 1947
The Chez Nous issue of 9 December 1947 commented: 'Mr. J. H. Campbell, who has been associated with him in all the Glee Club productions, recalled the torrid time in staging "The Mikado" (1947), when "Yum Yum" played his part only after heroic efforts by Sister Howard to restore him to health had rendered unnecessary the efforts to teach other boys the part on the day of the performance. Only the next week, he said, fifty boys in the school were in hospital with sore throats. In "lolanthe" (1944), scarlet fever in the school had prevented College boys from seeing the performances, and the opera was put on only after permission had been granted by the Health Officer.'

Measles 1954
Pegasus December 1954 noted: 'Fortunately the health of the school has been splendid. For two years now we have suffered no epidemics and there have been only the usual crop of colds and other minor ailments, until the last few weeks of this year when there was a mild outbreak of measles.'

Other mentions of Infectious Diseases.

Pegasus May 1920 'The term has been a pleasantly uneventful one, in the sense that wehave been free from an epidemic of any kind. There have been
several scares of measles, and one or two isolated cases, but the disease has not managed to obtain a permanent hold, and actually, so far, none
of our sporting events has been at all interfered with by sickness.'

Pegasus of August 1920 ' Though we escaped the influenza epidemic this year, there has been a fair amount of sickness during the term. First, a number of boarders developed feverish colds, and then a few cases of measles made their appearance. Fortunately, the preventive measures taken were sufficient to prevent the disease running riot through the school.'

Pegasus August 1922 'As a rule, the Second Term is the most unhealthy of the three, and a year rarely passes without some mild epidemic, such as mumps or measles, interfering, to some extent, with the work of the school. This year, however, we have been exceptionally lucky, and have to report nothing worse than an occasional cold, and a few of those trifling accidents, such as bruised shins and sprained ankles, which seem to be the almost inseparable accompaniments of the football season.'

Pegasus in August 1949 opined:' Despite epidemics and rumours of epidemics, work and sport in the Preparatory School have proceeded fairly smoothly. Precautions against poliomyelitis prevented the holding of the usual cricket fixtures, the combined Sports meeting and the Cross-Country run but all the other sporting events were held as usual. ' In the next issue of Pegasus in December 1949, in the Preparatory School Headmaster's Annual Report he commented ' The incidence of poliomyelitis during the year naturally has caused many parents much alarm. We have been mindful of this and, by keeping in close contact with the School's Medical Officer and the Health Authorities, have followed along what were regarded as perfectly safe lines, though entirely free from any signs of panic. For this reason we have departed from our usual custom and replaced Speech Night with a more or less quiet presentation of prizes. We have forsaken the confines of the Morrison Hall and journeyed to the open spaces of the playing fields - a portion of the School more important in many ways than the class room.'


In 1924, Pegasus published one student's version of his medical quarantine (probably Denison George Sander (1907-1974):

'Though the recent epidemic has been somewhat of a blight on our little community, I feel that it would be mere selfishness on my part not to unfold the joys of our isolation to my less fortunate school-fellows. Now, isolation is a strange word, and, to those who have not yet been numbered amongst the ranks of the isolated, contains a certain amount of mystery. I must hasten then to dispel all your doubts on the subject, for it is indeed a valuable experience, and, like measles, everyone should have it, and that, soon.

I went into hospital with full confidence that within two days I should happily resume my studies. Imagine then my consternation on hearing that six other boys and myself were to spend ten days in isolation. My first thoughts were that it was a kind of refrigeration process which removed the germs. My mind set at rest on this point, I gave myself up to gloomy contemplation of my predicament. Look at the study I should miss - ten days without a look at my books! for it was clear that, being isolated, I couldn't have my books brought to me. Thank goodness two of those ten days were a Saturday and a Sunday; that brought it down to eight. Then, of course, our form master was sick; that would certainly set the class back two days and make it six I was missing; and what was that rumour about the senior classes going up to Melbourne to see a match? Only five days then -, a school week - what was that! I mightn't have done much work, perhaps next to nothing, in that time; so I was missing nothing. There, that cleared up, and we 're none the worse off.

Having seen what I wasn't going to do through isolation, it now remained to be seen what I was to do. There was always reading; hadn't some kind benefactor, in his pity for us, brought a goodly pile of magazines? Yes, that was it; I would read, and thus keep myself amused. Then there were quoits; I would read and play quoits alternately. What did sister say about the wood-box being empty? "Yes, certainly, sister, I'll chop some." At last I was settled. I would chop some wood every morning, whether the box was full or empty; and with reading and quoits - oh, yes, I would fill in time alright.

In this manner our isolation drew steadily towards its close, in which time we learnt to open our mouths when we awoke in the morning to receive a thermometer, even as a fledgling would a worm ; and to live in wholesome respect for the bell in the neighbouring yard. For living in close proximity to that bell taught us all its little eccentricities. Again, it gave me infinite pleasure, I don't know why, to see my less fortunate school-fellows being driven from the precincts of the hospital, whenever they came to throw gibes, which their envious eyes belied. Still, though they failed to realize it, it was undoubtedly for their own good. Isolation wards receive no visitors.

Now must I put up my pen, for, if I were to endeavour to fully expound the pleasures of my recent experience, I fear that I would have neither time nor paper in sufficiency. But this I will say, when such a chance presents itself to you - take it. 1 hadn't the option, or I might not have done as I did; but now I never tire of recalling thoughts of isolation.


Sources: Pegasus June 1910 p4; Pegasus May 1920 p3; Pegasus August 1922 p3; Pegasus August 1923 p3; Pegasus December 1923 p32; Pegasus August 1924 pp64-65; Pegasus December 1943 p42; Pegasus December 1944 p7; Pegasus December 1949 p28, 29; Pegasus December 1954 p9; 'The Geelong College 1861-1961' (Centenary History) p155; Letter to John Monash (Scotch College Archive (Melbourne).
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