I Beat the Spanish Flu and I'd Beat Sars Too!; PENSIONER RECALLS HORROR VIRUS THAT KILLED 60 MILLION

The People (London, England), May 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

I Beat the Spanish Flu and I'd Beat Sars Too!; PENSIONER RECALLS HORROR VIRUS THAT KILLED 60 MILLION


Byline: TOM PRENDEVILLE

THIS is the little old lady who has no fear of the Sars bug - because she contracted and survived something worse.

Donegal-born Molly Deery, 97, says her memories of a terrible virus which killed 20,000 people in Ireland after the Great War are clear as day.

The horrific Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 affected half of the world - and makes SARS look like a common cold.

Ireland was completely unprepared and totally unable to take the illness on.

And people like Molly, who believes she may have had the condition, were very lucky to survive.

Molly, who now lives in Dublin, was 12 when the deadly flu broke out.

Born in Lifford, Co Donegal in 1906, Molly recalls events in the small community of Ardara.

"It hit very hard and the people were very fearful and frightened of it," she told the Irish People.

"You see the people had no idea what caused it. I'm not sure of the exact numbers of victims as we didn't read newspapers in them times.

"It was a terrible, terrible flu though, and people were told to keep to one side of the road if someone in a house had it.

"In one house alone three people died of it. Quite a few had it, it was all about the place."

The 1918 epidemic killed over 60 million people worldwide and was the worst disaster to have ever hit the planet.

It began in February and lasted until the spring of the following year before finally petering out.

Forgotten now, many of the Irish who died lie in unmarked graves in overgrown cemeteries throughout the countryside.

Life in Ireland in the early 20th century was a very different thing than now.

Within living memory, over one million had died of cholera epidemics.

Infant mortality soared and fatal diseases such as galloping consumption levelled the poor.

Some 70,000 had also lost their lives in the Great War. With so much death about, it's hardly surprising that people choose to forget an exotic sounding flu epidemic.

Molly recalls coming down with the dreaded flu herself.

"I think I got a touch of it myself, but it might only have been a cold I don't really know," she explains.

"When the outbreak happened there was all sorts of wild theories going about with some people thinking that it was the end of the world or something. That was a common thing you would hear," she added.

Although most people were terrified of the mysterious flu virus, the job of visiting all the afflicted houses fell to the local doctor. A fearless medic by the name of Dr Falvey:

"He was a great man for diagnosing complaints and he used to visit every house, no matter what ailed them. …

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