Muriel’s Story by Muriel Gray

It must have been around 1937 that there was a Scarlet Fever outbreak in Keith and I was one of those who fell to the disease. I remember Dr Watt coming to the house where I was lying in a bed in the kitchen and the next thing I remember is being bundled up in blankets and being carried out to the ambulance. This was a horse-drawn affair being pulled by one of Dempster’s shire horses.

The nurse held me on her knee on the way to Turner Memorial Hospital. My memories of the hospital are very vague but one of the things I remember clearest was every morning, or so it seemed, there would be a big glass of this dark liquid liquorice on top of the locker. It was horrible stuff, but we had to drink it.

No visitors were allowed and I can remember my mother standing outside the window waving to me with one hand and wiping the tears with the other and I was doing exactly the same from inside the window.

I can only remember three nurses’ names. There was Nurse Lyle, later to become a Mrs Morris, Nurse Carnll, a darling woman, and a Nurse who terrified me! There were also plenty other children there at the same time but I can only remember two of them, Jessie Strachan and Jean Morrison.

I tasted hare soup while in hospital and couldn’t understand how anything so tasty could be made from “hair”.

After a while I must have felt better because I remember a few of us creeping through to another ward where the beds were very high and it was very dark. We didn’t stay long. I wonder what sort of ward that was?

Bath time was an event. The nurse scrubbed, and I mean scrubbed, our legs, feet and arms to get rid of the peeling skin, a symptom of scarlet fever.

After quite a long time, this was because I had developed kidney trouble and other side-effects of the fever, I was allowed home, where after such a long time everybody was a stranger to me and I refused to speak to anybody.

In an effort to get me to speak my mother told me about Peter Law (burgh yard foreman?) coming to fumigate the house with sulphur candles and dunking all the blankets, bedding and curtains in baths of disinfectant. Just imagine how difficult it must have been to get things dry and usable again without the help of spin dryers and tumble dryers.

This was a stressful period for my parents and myself. Time has moved on and, with advances in medicine, Scarlet Fever, along with the dreaded Diphtheria, have virtually disappeared. My memory has not vanished – the illness and separation from my family is still today crystal clear in my mind.


Muriel and her friends were nursed in a ward within “Turner Memorial Hospital”. At one time there had been a separate Fever Hospital situated on the right-hand side of “Cameron Drive” starting from “Turner Street” behind No 30 Cameron Drive where the “Right of Way” cuts through the houses. It was nicknamed the “Pokey Hospital”, perhaps because smallpox cases were isolated in this wooden building. It was closed after the 1st World War. During the 2nd World War Keith patients were treated in Portsoy hospital.

I can remember the family huddled round a coal fire in a black range and being warm at the front while your back was frozen because most of the heat went up the lum. During the war each house was allowed 1 bag of coal so to supplement this we used to take a hurley and gather sticks wherever they had cut down trees also I can remember collecting cinders from the gas house with a sledge. Sometimes we had a load of sticks delivered these were alright except when they spat on to the fireside rug and burned a hole in it

We also had gas for light and the mantles were very fragile the gas meter took pennies and care had to be taken that all the gases were lit or a bad accident could occur. My mother had a gas cooker, a gas iron and a gas boiler.