I had a lovely time on Zoom last week with the Ilkeston and District Local History Society. To prepare for the talk I was looked back at Brian Shaw’s childhood in the town and it struck me that the school closures and lockdowns of the current time would have been a much more familiar scenario for children of that era. While researching the book I had delved into the records of the Borough Council and found that in the first few years of the 20th century, Brian’s school was closed for a month due to a smallpox outbreak, three weeks for conjunctivitis, and many other short closures to stem the spread of other infectious diseases such as whooping cough, measles, influenza.
Until the past year these sorts of school closures were pretty much unknown to the current generation of school children, and even to my own generation some thirty to forty years ago. What a difference the advent of vaccines and antibiotics made to a child’s life in only a few decades, and what a relief that we now have the scientific understanding and technology to develop vaccines for new diseases so quickly.