Would Nell McCann have been an avid social media maven if she were still alive today? What if she were sharing everyday Westport occurrences on Facebook or Twitter?
Nell probably had no idea that her words would one day become a great insight into our village’s past, an invaluable tool for genealogical research, and a fantastic source of local history which is enjoyed and appreciated by hundreds of people. Just like the students (and most adults) of today share their lives with friends and followers, Nell recorded similar entries into her own personal diary that we still enjoy reading today.
Each entry could very easily be posted onto Facebook today, and it would not seem at all out of the ordinary for someone to share their thoughts and musings with the world. What would seem unusual, however, are the illnesses that would shut down not only the schools, but a large part of the village.
Below is a sample of school-related journal postings that could be deemed ‘Facebook worthy’:
“Scarlet Fever in the Convent School Pupils Oct 1913”
Keeping pupils out of school, or even closing the schools, due to epidemics was very common in the early part of the 1900s. Even when vaccinations were available, not everyone could afford them, so things like Scarlet Fever traveled quickly through the village.
“Died at his home here of Tubercular Meningitis after a short Illness, Mr Burton Taggart (Principal of High School) at the age of 37 his funeral Conducted By The Masons & I.O.O.F was largely attended & the profusions of Flowers which was laid on his Casket Testified to The high Esteem in which he was held” (1915)
Burton Taggart, once the principal of the public school, died of Tubercular Meningitis, a form of TB.
“Churches, Schools, Pool Rooms closed down Tight, for about 3 weeks on Account of The Flu Epidemic, Beginning the 20 of Oct & lasting until Nov 18th” (1918)
The students that didn’t have the flu must have been rejoicing when the schools were closed down for three weeks in 1918: the Spanish Flu that hit Canada in 1918 killed about 50,000 Canadians (including many from Westport) and was carried across the world by returning soldiers from WWI. One of Westport’s pool halls that would have been closed down for the epidemic was located on Church Street.