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Aug 27

19th Century Home Remedies by Gail MacMillan

ImageIt’s a pleasure to welcome back fellow Canadian author, Gail MacMillan.

“To cure asthma, eat field mice fried in butter.  If your throat is sore, wrap dirty socks around it.”

Reading home remedies such as these used in New Brunswick in the early 1800’s  gave me the idea for “Heather for a Highlander.”  What about a doctor of that period as the hero; a doctor (born in the Highlands) educated at Edinburgh University who’d served as physician on a privateer ship during the War of 1812 and then settled in the backwoods of New Brunswick.  This doctor would be a clever, broad minded individual willing to see the merit in local remedies that brought positive results, ready to eschew those such as the pair mentioned above, and open to the medical and spiritual practices of the local First Nations people.  As a result, his practice would grow until he was in need of an assistant.

The task of finding this person he describes as having to be literate, clever, capable of doing work on his farm, ready and willing to assist him in all his medical procedures as well as cook and keep his house he assigns to his sea captain brother.  After searching up and down the lengths of England for this paragon, Captain Jamie MacTavish is about to despair when he stumbles upon just such an individual.  Only problem this person is a young woman, a tavern wench fleeing a murder charge.

Well, Jamie is desperate.  He’s lost a wager to his brother and the only way of regaining his losses is to bring back an assistant that fits his brother’s list of requirements.  So Heather Grey sets out for New Brunswick with the captain, about to become “Heather for a Highlander”.HeatherforaHighlander_w8769_750 (2)

Using my beloved homeland the valley of the Miramichi River as a backdrop together with researching medical practices of the period made this story a joy to write.  Heather and Dr. William MacTavish took over early in the writing as did Captain Jamie and Heather’s devil-may-care companion Lady Julia (Jewels).  These characters took the story line bit in their imaginary teeth and galloped off to tell the tale.  I hated to write “The End” and am considering a sequel…the tale of Captain Jamie MacTavish and the woman who will become his notorious partner…Jewels, formerly the Lady Julia.

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19 comments

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  1. Linda Hall

    I’m always fascinated by these old home remedies. I can see why it sparked a book! So enjoyed ‘meeting’ you today and reading about your latest book.

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Thanks, Linda. Yes, it was an experience. Makes a person grateful for today’s medicines.

  2. Pat Amsden

    What a great concept for a book. Your doctor sounds amazing while Heather sounds intriguing. I can see sparks flying between these two!

    1. Gail MacMillan

      I must admit, it was a fun idea to develop. Thanks for your comment, Pam

  3. Lana Williams

    What an interesting premise for a story! Remedies like that make the story sound even better! Fascinating. Tweeted as well!

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Thanks for tweeting, Lana. I did enjoy writing the story. It was a learning experience that makes a person appreciate today’s doctors and medical practices.

  4. Judy Baker

    Good post, things I didn’t know. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Gail MacMillan

      It was a learning experience. Amazingly enough, I recall my grandmother advocating some of the less outrageous ones. Thanks for taking time to comment, Judy.

  5. E. Ayers

    Oh what fun! Love when stories come together so quickly. Dirty socks? I think we were using garlic. LOL

    Adds real meaning to only the strong survive!

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Yes, the dirty sock treatment gave me pause as did the boiled sheep droppings. And we think some medicines today smell and taste bad!!
      Thanks for commenting.

  6. Melissa Keir

    Great post. I know that many of the old remedies were great but those two sound a little off. I think that many doctors of the time, had to pick and choose what was good practice and what wasn’t.

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Some of them must have worked or maybe it was just the very strong that survived. Definitely it was a time for doctors to rely on common sense. Thanks for commenting, Melissa

  7. Mimi Barbour

    Hi Gail,
    Not sure I wanna eat fried mice even cooked in butter for asthma. I do know I love reading your books though and so I’m happy to wish you well with the newest Heather for a Highlander. xo

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Thanks, Mimi. You’re always there for me and it’s so very much appreciated.

  8. Gail MacMillan

    Thanks, Linda. Yes, it was an experience. Makes a person grateful for today’s medicines.

  9. Stella MacLean

    Gail, this is fascinating. I remember our family doctor also dispensed medications from his office pharmacy. He’d make up the concoctions himself while you waited.
    Stella
    To Protect Her Son

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Thanks, Stella. You’re definitely an expert in the health care area. It was interesting to learn about old remedies. I think a few of them actually did have some value.

  10. Norah Wilson

    Gail, you sold me on the book at the first mention of “medical”. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

    1. Gail MacMillan

      Wow, Norah! High praise from a professional like you. Thanks so much.

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