We’ve already looked at flu, measles and coughs and colds, now it’s time for mumps, scarlet fever, whooping cough and illnesses of an unknown type. I’ll also briefly look at illnesses at school.
No named character I can think of actually has mumps in Blyton’s books, but I’ve brought it up here because it is mentioned.
Sally Hope is late back to school after Christmas in the third term (Third Year at Malory Towers) as she has been in quarantine for mumps.
In Summer Term at St Clare’s Pat and Isabel have been in contact with a girl who’s come down with mumps, right before they’re due to go back to school. Their mother reminds them that they’ve not had mumps before and tells them you’ll both be in quarantine now – and the quarantine for mumps is rather long. You won’t be able to go back to school at the beginning of the term. In fact, they miss the first three weeks of term due to the quarantine.
None of these girls were actually ill, but it’s interesting to see how just being in contact with someone ill could cause quite a bit of disruption to people’s lives. These quarantines do affect the plot, however, as they allow the girls at school to develop different friendships (for example Darrell and Alicia spend a lot more time together at the start of Third Year, when Sally is absent.)
In Five Are Together Again Joan (sometimes known as Joanna) the Kirrins’ cook has fallen ill with scarlet fever. When the children arrive there from school, they can’t even enter Kirrin Cottage. Poor Joan is carried out to an ambulance and taken to hospital for treatment, and Aunt Fanny talks to them from an open window, explaining that she and Uncle Quentin are in quarantine (though thankfully Timmy isn’t!) The Five can’t stay at Kirrin, so they end up going to stay with the Professor Hayling and his son Tinker and having one last adventure.
As mentioned before Philip is studying at his teacher’s house at the start of The Island of Adventure because he’s missed a lot of school work due to having both scarlet fever and measles earlier in the term.
Bob, a little boy who once live in Rockingdown Manor, died at a young age from scarlet fever. Dinah, Roger and Snubby hear this tale from the woman in the village store, and it explains why the nursery looks like it had been suddenly abandoned before the rest of the house.
Due to whooping cough Betty is also late coming back to school after Christmas in Third Year at Malory Towers. Her best friend Alicia explains that Betty can’t come back for six weeks as she’s only just come down with it.
Interestingly, Blyton had whooping cough as a baby. Her parents were told she would probably not survive the night, but her father refused to accept this. He stayed with her all night long, cradling her in his arms determined she would live – and of course, she did.*
In Five on Kirrin Island Again the children meet Martin, and the Coastguard says He’s been ill, so his father says. Got to have plenty of sea-air and that sort of thing. Martin does appear a bit pale and quiet, but as Mr Curton turns out not to be his father perhaps the convalescence is a smoke-screen for his criminal activities. It shows, though, that in Blyton’s world a holiday after an illness was common enough not to raise any eyebrows.
In The Naughtiest Girl in the School Joan, upset over a letter from her mother, goes out for a walk and gets completely soaked through when it rains heavily. She ends up in the san with a high temperature, and is ill for several days. The doctor merely says she has a chill, but her recovery is impeded as she is worrying about her mother’s letter. Her mother comes to the school, and Joan is able to stop worrying so much and get better.
Bill is new to Malory Towers in Third Year at Malory Towers and she is a day late in arriving as she and her brothers have been in quarantine for something or other according to Miss Peters. It’s not made totally clear but I don’t think she was actually ill, but had been in contact with someone who had been.
Also in Third Year at Malory Towers Mavis, the girl who believed herself destined to become a world-famous singer, does something similar to Joan. She goes out in the evening to a singing contest but misses the bus back. She gets soaked and collapses into a ditch where she is not found until hours later. She is very ill afterwards and loses her magnificent voice as a result.
ILLNESSES AT SCHOOL
At Malory Towers every girl must produce a health certificate each term, and give it to Matron. Presumably it declares the girl hasn’t been in contact with any contagious illnesses. As Darrell says woe betide you if you go down with measles or chicken pox or something if you’ve just handed in a certificate saying you haven’t been near anyone ill! And Matron herself says there is a rule here that girls who forget their health certificate shall be isolated until one is produced.
Matrons at these schools seem to be busy people – not only are they responsible for the bed-linen and the children’s clothes and the all-important health certificates, they also take care of the children’s health. Children go to Matron with sore throats or headaches and they have to either treat them or seek a doctor’s advice. They also nurse sick and injured children in the school sanatoriums.
In Blyton’s books sick children seem to be kept at school to recover rather than being sent home. Alicia recovers from measles in Malory Towers san, Joan is nursed back to health in the Whyteleaf san, and when Sally has appendicitis she is operated on at school!
The schools are quite serious about protecting their pupils’ health, which is understandable given the plethora of nasty, contagious illnesses around in those days. One girl with the measles, un-quarantined, could easily spread it to half the school!
And that brings me to the end of looking at illnesses in Blyton’s books. I hope I haven’t missed any major plot-lines involving illness, but if I have just let me know!
There’s also poor little Jane Teal who is seriously ill with flu in Fifth Formers at St Clare’s. She’s in the first form. She’s one of the younger girls who Angela manipulates, and Mirabel is awful to her because she believes Jane rang the firebell earlier to interrupt her meeting (actually Antoinette did it on Claudine’s suggestion). Plus she does prep under her covers at night, and then Violet and some of her friends send her to Coventry for getting back in good with Angela while Violet was ill. Jane attempts to walk home that night, and ends up locked in a closet by Mam’zelle before finally being taken to the San.
I have only read the St Clare’s books once, so I don’t recall all the fine details so thanks for adding this!