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About A Week: Avoid All Sweetmeats

Feeling health conscious after Christmas over-indulgence? Then harken to the advice of Joseph Harker. Peter Hinchliffe tells of a concertina-playing man who was devoted to good eating, good drinking and good health.

Keen to lose weigh following all that Christmas feastingt? Eager to reduce the circumference of your waist line? Here's a tip from old Joseph Harker which may be of help.

Stout people if you are desirous of getting thinner add a teaspoonful of lemon juice to each cup of tea instead of sugar three times a day and avoid all sweetmeats.

Sound advice, penned maybe a hundred years ago in a crabby hand that is almost as difficult to decipher as a foreign language.

Concertina-playing Joseph, who lived in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, was a man devoted to good eating, good drinking and good health.

Throughout his life he noted in his diary recipes for biscuits and cakes, beer, cider and champagne.

He also recorded the ingredients for a wide variety of home-made cure-alls.
Some of his recipes and remedies have been laboriously gathered into a booklet by Marjorie Upson, one of Joseph's granddaughters.

Marjorie, an enthusiastic local historian, says:

"Grandad wrote in pencil and the writing is very hard to follow. When he was a young man he was told by a doctor that he only had six months to live. He thought 'Blow that!" and proceeded to doctor himself. When he died many years later there were so many medicaments in the house that a chemist had to be called in to clear out a cupboard."

The mere mention of the ingredients of some of Joseph's home treatments is enough to frighten illness away:

* Bronchitis gargle and swallow a wine glass full of the following. Boil one pint of water. When cold add quarter of an ounce of tincture of cayenne, 1 dram of choleric ether, 10 drops of sulphuric acid.

* Bad leg ointment - 12 pounds of mutton suet, half a pound of pig leaf. Simmer in a pan, press through a sieve, put back in the pan with 4 ounces resin, 2 ounces turpentine, 1 ounce theobroma. When cooling stir in 1 ounce boric acid.

* Sore throat - 1 dram carbolic acid or fennel, 8 grains of cocaine, half an ounce of glycerine, quarter of an ounce of boracic acid, 20 drops tincture of cayenne, 4 ounces distilled witch hazel and 8 ounces of rose water. Take 1 teaspoonful in 2 dessert spoonfuls of water and spray a little occasionally to the back of the throat.

* Corns - 5 grains extract of cannabis indicus, 30 grains salicylic acid, half an ounce of colodian. Apply with a brush.

Joseph was obviously as concerned with his appearance as he was with his health. Hair was a major worry. His diaries contain instructions for the making of oils, washes, tonics and restorers.

* Hair oil - 1 gill paraffin oil, pennyworth of gum camphor, 1 ounce eucalyptus oil and a few drops of oil of verbena.

* Hair restorer - 20 drops of vinegar of cantharides, 1 ounce of glycerine, two ounces rosewater. Rub in.

* Hair wash to prevent going grey - 1 dram sulphate of iron, 1 grain permanganate of potash. 1 fluid ounce of rectified spirits, 12 drops oil of
rosemary, 1 gill of soft water or rainwater.

Joseph carefully transcribed recipes for beer while also giving thought to the effects of alcohol.

* Drunkenness to cure without them knowing. Dissolve 8 grains of tartar emetic in 4 ounces of boiling water. Let it stand to cool then bottle
for use. Add one teaspoonful to the patient's favourite drink. No taste. A slight sickness may follow.

Joseph's medicinal compounds would now merit a Government warning: DON'T TRY THESE AT HOME OR ANYWHERE ELSE.

However his diaries provide a fascinating insight into how far we've progressed in treating common ailments. Old Joe got out his pots and pans to simmer up dire concoctions which sound as though they were more likely to kill than cure. Now we pop down to the chemists and buy over the counter a bottle of pills or a tube of ointment.

Retired landlord Geoffrey Harker. Joseph's grandson, points out that his diary-keeping forebear was interested in other things besides self-made remedies.

In fact, Joseph once won a national competition by suggesting that lots more trees should be planted because they improved the environment by attracting water.

Jean Storey, of Birchencliffe, Joseph's great-granddaughter, owns the original diaries.

Marjorie Upson produced her booklet as a labour of love and circulated it among her family.

Joseph Harker died in 1940 after a long life. He is buried in Dewsburv Cemetery.


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