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A new book Dying to be Healthy by local historian ALAN DYER opens up a world of anguish and pain from the past that present generations will find hard to comprehend. Commencing with the harsh conditions experienced by the earliest pioneers while trying to clear their bush blocks around the Kentish district on the North West coast of Tasmania, it goes on to describe how these settlers battled through those early decades without doctors, dentists, chemists, hospitals, undertakers, cemeteries or clergymen. Then comes specific details of 35 early bush nurses or midwives and six local quacks, along with their various bush cures, home remedies and herbal concoctions prescribed to their patients.

Next the book delves into the precarious conditions surrounding childbirth in the early days and ponders why so many mothers and babies tragically died. It also identifies the top ten killer diseases and describes several epidemics that took scores of lives. Like the diphtheria outbreak that claimed the lives of 11 children along the Old Paradise Rd alone, and the polio epidemic that put dozens of Kentish children in hospital. Death dates for hundreds of old pioneers, parents, youth and children are provided along with the wretched complaints that killed them

Dying to be Healthy describes how over the decades, medical advances gradually improved the lifestyle of the Kentish residents. The coming of the first local doctor, the building of the first cottage hospital at Latrobe and the establishment of 13 different home-based baby hospitals in & around Sheffield prior to 1950 were significant developments. The local resident's reactions during two World Wars and the medical benefits that flowed from those global conflicts are also discussed. The life stories of all doctors, dentists and pharmacists that have practiced in Kentish are included, some in considerable detail.

A fascinating feature of the book is the sections marked 'Insight'. They provide intimate, in-depth descriptions of the subject being considered. Like, for instance:

  • the 19th Century alcohol abuse & rows over licensing some early Kentish hotels.
  • local quack 'Dr' W.H. Overton and his Herbal Medicine Co at Duck Marsh.
  • the inside story on Nurse Riley's Baby Hospital 1917 - 1935 by her daughter.
  • the colourful career of Dr Victor Ratten, Tasmania's most controversial medico.
  • how Lorinna's alternative lifestyle folks changed birthing practices in our hospitals.
  • a mother's graphic description of Sheffield's first underwater birth in a bath.
  • dreadful dilemma of farmer forced to care for wife with advanced Alzheimers.

    In telling hundreds of enthralling family stories, this very readable book combines both the horrific and the hilarious. You won't be able to put it down

This is the first time, as far as the author is aware, that a comprehensive health history of an entire community has ever been documented in this detailed and descriptive way. Containing 422 pages, Dying to be Healthy took 3 ½ years to research and write. It has four location maps, 20 informative inserts, 50 sketches of 19th century social life, more than 200 historic and personal photographs along with a very extensive index of local names.

Dying to be Healthy was launched on 9th November 2003 at Tandara Lodge, Sheffield by Kentish Warden Hon Ian Braid.

The book is available from leading Tasmanian bookshops at a cost of $39.90 or direct from the author for $35
plus postage $8

Send payment with all orders to:
Alan Dyer
2 High St
Sheffield
Tas 7306

Phone 03 6491 1477. Email address: adyer@tassie.net.au

ALAN DYER lives with his wife Elsie in the beautiful rural district of Kentish on the North West Coast of Tasmania, where his great grandfather was one of the first to buy land in the late 1850s. Since their retirement as proprietors of Slater's Country Store in Sheffield, Alan has pursued his passion for researching and writing local history. His previous books have included God was their Rock, the Family Chronicle of Thomas Clark, John Dyer and his Descendants and Buttons, Bodices, Braces and Britches. This last book won him The Lillian Watson Family History Award in Tasmania for 2001.

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