TBIThe Bottle Imp Issue 15
Editorial: Their Knife in Your Glands
The Scots have a peculiar relationship with medicine. On the one hand, we have pioneered many of the most important developments in medical science: world-shaking highlights include, but are by no means limited to, the clinical trial; the general anaesthetic; the hypodermic syringe; penicillin; beta-blockers; ultrasound scanners; full-body MRI; the Glasgow coma scale; and apoptosis. On the other, we might consider the deep-fried Mars bar; alcoholism; and the phrase “just an ordinary sword”. It is remarkable that so much effort has been expended in the fight against sickness and untimely death by a nation whose people sometimes seem to pursue those ends with such wanton abandon. Scotland’s medial schools blossomed in the Enlightenment, and Scottish doctors and surgeons came to dominate the field. It’s not surprising, then, that there should be such an overlap in Scotland between leeches and letters. […] [more]
The Citadel by A.J. Cronin by Sir Kenneth Calman The Citadel has a particular emphasis on two areas. First, the work of the doctor in a poor community and how his work is transformed as the doctor moves to London and private practice. Second is the impact that the novel had on the delivery of health services in the United Kingdom. This is particularly important in terms of the content, geographical location and timing of the book and its translation into a film. This article will first briefly discuss the author, A. J. Cronin, then the basis of the novel, its wider impact and finally the more general issue of literature and medicine.[…] [more]
Hercules Rollock and the Edinburgh Plague of 1585 by Karen Jillings Due to the overwhelming social and psychological devastation it caused, plague was an evocative subject for pre-modern writers and poets in Scotland as elsewhere. […] This article discusses De Peste Edinburgi & reliqua late Scotia grassante anno 1585: Nania, a neglected poem which focuses, as the title indicates, on an epidemic that afflicted Edinburgh and much of the rest of the country in 1585. Its author was the scholar and advocate Hercules Rollock, who gained renown as the author of some forty neo-Latin poems, virtually all of which became included posthumously in Sir John Scot and Arthur Johnston’s anthology, the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum of 1637. […] [more]
Dr Hornbook—and Death by David Purdie From a medical viewpoint, Dr Hornbook provides a fascinating insight into the eighteenth century practice of medicine in rural areas by unlicensed operators. Death, envisioned by Burns as a loquacious mobile skeleton toting a scythe and a ‘leister’ or dart, intercepts the poet as he is weaving home from a heavy night at the local inn. Since the problem is not the length of the road, but rather the width of it, the poet is happy to sit down for a blether with Death, who is far from happy. […] [more]
Sick of Scottish Literature? by Gavin Miller In his book Bad Vibrations, Kennaway reminds us that ‘by the end of the eighteenth century the idea that music could over-stimulate a vulnerable nervous system, leading to illness, immorality and even death had become firmly established’. […] Music, in our day, is generally regarded as at least medically harmless if not positively therapeutic, and things seems likely to stay that way. But what if a great reversal occurred not with respect to music, but with our view on literature? What if literature came to be known as a cause of illness—whether as a whole, or in particular genres, canons, and works? […] [more]
Memorialising the Death and Legacy of Robert Fergusson: Romantic Sympathy and Enlightenment Medical Improvement by Rhona Brown Although he died in 1774, well before the culmination of Romanticism, Fergusson’s legend is largely a post-Romantic construction. His is an archetypal story of doomed youthful genius and Romantic isolation, bearing parallels with the legends of the poet’s English contemporary, Thomas Chatterton and Romantic successor, John Keats. This much is well-documented. Less well-known is the role played by Dr. Andrew Duncan Senior (1744-1828) in Fergusson’s story and legacy. Described by his biographer, John Chalmers, as a ‘Physician of the Enlightenment’, Duncan treated Fergusson during his final illness at home and incarceration in Edinburgh’s ‘Bedlam’ asylum. An analysis of their relationship clearly demonstrates that Fergusson possesses a little-known but lasting and concrete legacy which stretches far beyond literary influence and is anything b! ut ‘tragic’. […] [more]
The Medical Kailyard by Megan Coyer Two Scottish Tales of Medical Compassion may actually rather get it right in focusing upon the ability of compassion to motivate further progress. Rita Charon, in her seminal work, Narrative Medicine, continually returns to the concept of medical practitioners being ‘moved to action’ through an understanding of their patient’s stories, and this concept itself may be seen as having Scottish roots. As Lawrence McCullough’s scholarship has evidenced, John Gregory (1724–73) incorporates David Hume’s declaration that ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions’ into his Lectures on the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician (1772), a text widely considered to be the first modern work of medical ethics in the Western world. […] [more]
Medicine in Edinburgh: A Photographic Essay by Vikki McCraw From where the castle sits grinning on its rock, a spine runs down the length of Edinburgh, all knobs and cobbles. Ribs arch off to north and south, threaded through with ducts and drains and channels. With all its fat flensed off, laid out beside it in soft smug folds, the Old Town offers up a skeletal prospect, its thorny architecture the product of slow accretions: a city built by lithiasis. A medical town, then, lying in the shadow-zone between life and death. Might such long familiarity make Edinburgh an unfeeling place? Callous, even? Or does Edinburgh’s cool reserve come from the internalised understanding that all things share one common and inexorable fate? Vikki McCraw gives us a set of images—thin slices of geography and time—to help us with our diagnosis. [more]
Profile Column: An Interview with Jackie Kay by JP O’Malley
“Why did you become a writer?”
Well for many reasons. When you are adopted, like I was, you have another self, and you come with another story. I think I initially became a writer to understand that. I already had this kind of alter-ego, and I think alter-egos and doppelgangers are good food for a writer. I would describe my childhood as a very happy one. However, as a black child, growing up in a very white environment, I was also the victim of racist bullying, one of the ways I dealt with that was through writing. […] [more]
Profile Column: Bringing Scottish and Irish Studies Together Our long-term research has encouraged us to make plans, over the last two years, to develop a general interest in Scottish and Irish studies at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA, where we have been based for many years within its Department of Anthropology. We have started a Scottish and Irish Studies Unit in the University, and our aim is to develop this unit both within the University and outside of it. […] [more]
Scots Word of the Season: Croup by Maggie Scott William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine (1769) notes that the disease was typically called croup on the East coast, but was typically known as the chock or stuffing in the West of Scotland. Chock was included in Jamieson’s Supplement to his dictionary (1825), and shows a specialised use of Scots chock ‘choke’. Both chock and stuffing emphasise the croup sufferer’s difficulty breathing. These alternate names appear to have fallen out of use in Scots, unless of course readers know better. Do let us know! […] [more]
Gaelic Place Names: Occupational Terms by Alison Grant Not all place-name elements describe the landscape in which they are found. Some of them describe instead the occupants of the landscape and their various roles within their respective communities. For example, the Gaelic word gobha means ‘a smith, a blacksmith’, and is found in many place-names across Scotland, including Ballygown ‘smith’s farm’ on the islands of Arran and Mull, Balnagown also meaning ‘smith’s farm’ in Easter Ross […] Another Gaelic word for a smith is ceàrd, although this term also has the wider meanings of ‘craftsman’ and ‘tinker’, and when used in place-names it often refers to sites used by travelling people who sold or mended metal goods. Examples include Bealach nan Ceaird ‘tinker’s pass’ on the isle of Arran, Geata Cheàrd ‘gate of the tinkers’ on the isle of Islay […] [more]
New Publications consists of two pages — one featuring new Scottish Fiction and Poetry, and one featuring Non-Fiction and Criticism.
Book Reviews This issue reviews:
Conferences When we hear about them, you hear about them! The Conferences page is updated with each issue, and now covers events from June 2014–October 2014.
Previous issues are available in our online archive.
Contact us with any comments or queries.
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