Recovering from illness in Blyton’s books, part 2

Part one covered the flu, and this blog will look at measles, coughs and colds. Not all of these illnesses lead to holidays and/or adventures, though the other illnesses still contribute to their stories’ plots.


The measles (or as Mam’zelle Dupont would say the measle) appear in at least seven books!


The book begins opens with the Trent/Mannering children all having had the measles. Philip came down with them as soon as the hols started, and passed it on to Dinah, then Lucy-Ann and finally Jack. They’ve mostly recovered by the time the book starts, but they’ve already missed the start of term. Their doctor recommends that they go away ‘for a change.’ Dinah, especially, is not to do any school-work as she ignored his orders and read while she was ill, and as a result is left with watery, light-sensitive eyes. Dinah grumps about going away at first, as she loves the summer term, as does Philip who is sure he’d have been near the top of his class.

They soon change their tune when Bill offers to take them on a holiday to the islands of Scotland. This is convenient, as he has to drop ‘out of sight’ for a while and it gives Mrs Mannering a well-deserved rest – especially useful as she comes down with measles the morning after Bill arrives! Bill says he has had measles “dozens of times,” (I suspect he’s exaggerating slightly!) to which Lucy-Ann replies “but you can only have measles once.” But of course Philip has had measles before – he is at Mr Roy’s house getting extra tuition over the summer at the start of The Island of Adventure because he had measles right after scarlet fever and  missed most of his school-work that term.


Pat and Mary are at the Holiday House as they have had both chicken-pox and measles recently. They have recovered but their mother suggests a holiday I wouldn’t want them to go on an exciting trip like [America] – they want to laze about by the sea somewhere.


As mentioned in part one the Cherry Tree Farm children had measles as well as the flu and bad coughs before being sent away for six months on a farm.


Alicia starts to feel ill during the School Cert. exams. She can’t think straight and develops a head-ache. She can’t sleep that night, and goes through the rest of the week worrying about what’s wrong with her brains. During the final exam she faints over her desk and is taken to the san where Matron diagnosis measles. Alicia noticed she had a rash but she thought was just a heat rash. She is put to bed for a week and is not allowed any visitors during that time. She doesn’t pass the exams, but is allowed to move up with the rest of her form and re-do the tests later.


Claudine is a week late arriving at St Clare’s because she has had the measles.


Two of Prince Paul’s brothers in Baronia have caught measles and cannot come to England for a few weeks. This gives the Arnold children and Paul time to have an adventure in the castle before it is over-run by Baronion royalty and servants.


In the story Mr Pink-Whistle’s Party (in the book of the same name) Mr Pink-Whistle meets a kind young girl called Merry who helps people cross the road outside her house. Later, she is very upset as a friend of hers has come down with measles, and now Merry is to be quarantined for three weeks in case she has caught them. This means she can’t help people across the road, and she will miss a lovely birthday party. This is the reason for Mr Pink-Whistle throwing the party in the title of the story.


Wilfrid’s sister has the measles, and that is why he is staying with his grandmother and thus around during the Five’s penultimate adventure.


To modern readers it might seem strange that so many of these children had the measles. But in 1948 (the year Sea was published) there were almost 400,000 cases of measles reported in England and Wales, resulting in 327 deaths. In 2008 there were just over 5,000 reported cases of measles and just two deaths*. So Blyton’s frequent usage of the measles probably wasn’t  unreasonable for the times.


Plain old coughs and colds are actually quite rarely featured – perhaps they were not considered serious enough for many holidays!


The Famous Five were sent to Magga Glen in Fix after the four children had a bad cold. Dick said that the Christmas holidays were the worst [they’ve] ever had. They were so bad they spent Christmas day in bed and couldn’t even eat anything! Dr Drew visits once they’re back on their feet (though their legs don’t feel like they belong to them yet) and suggests they get away somewhere hilly, not too far from the sea. Somewhere really bracing, but not too cold – where the snow will lie to get rid of their coughs before going back to school. The Five are certainly not themselves – they’re exhausted after their car journey to Magga Glen and sleep for twelve hours that night – though their appetites have returned by the time they’re on their way. Thankfully by now the food no longer tastes like cardboard! Their coughs start to get better after just a day at Magga farm, and their legs are more steady so they can have a wander round – but poor George is obviously not quite herself just yet as she sheds a few tears after Timmy’s scuffle with the farm dogs. Conveniently the Five are absolutely fine by the time they move into the hillside cabin and start their adventure!


George  has a cold at the start of Five Have a Wonderful Time and can’t join the others at Faynights Castle at first. Her mother blames it on bathing in the third week of April and staying in the water too long.


As above, coughs were part of the reason the children were sent to Cherry Tree Farm.

And I think that’s all there is to say about the measles and coughs/colds. If I’ve missed out anyone who’s had those in the books just give me a ticking off in the comments. There will be a part three which will look at mumps, scarlet fever, whooping cough and being ill at school.

*Measles statistics from The Health Protection Agency.
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2 Responses to Recovering from illness in Blyton’s books, part 2

  1. Francis says:

    Thank you Fiona. I do remember as a child getting all the childhood deseases including the measles (as did my sister). We all expected to get them – it was our way of getting innoculated! The worst thing was Tonselitis which came back again and again until I had the removes (with adenoids). Your article stirred plent of memories!


  2. chrissie777 says:

    Hello Francis,

    I got middle ear infections over and over again. No fun!



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