The Roses of Eyam – A Parable For Our Time

By Bernie Bell

Eyam is a village in the Derbyshire Dales, which is best known for the selfless, courageous actions of its inhabitants during an outbreak of the bubonic plague in the early 17th Century.

The story goes that, in 1665, a parcel of flea-infested clothes arrived from London for the village tailor.  Within a week, various members of his household were dying.

The infection spread, and, by May 1666,  the villagers needed to make decisions, and take actions, to try to prevent it from spreading to the surrounding area. The most drastic decision, was to quarantine the entire village.

The plague took 14 months to run its course, with many fatalities.

The villagers could not have survived in isolation, and people from the surrounding area brought them food, which was left on several large stones, well away from the village.  The villagers could then collect the food, without endangering their benefactors.

In 1973, there was a film made for television about the story of The Roses of Eyam.

And why ‘roses’?  Because one of the first signs of the plague, was the appearance of a rash which looked like a ring of roses.  We’re familiar with the nursery rhyme ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’…

A pocket full o’ posies
A-tissue! A-tissue!
We all fall down.”

But do we realise what it’s about?  People used to carry posies of herbs to act as preventatives – maybe some worked.

I’m not trying to scare folk – CORONAVIRUS IS NOT THE PLAGUE!!!  I thought  I’d tell this tale of the selflessness of the villagers, as…. a parable for our time.  Take actions to safeguard your own welfare in this situation, but please, also, think about the effect your actions might have on others.

Ring a ring a Roses by Myles Birket Foster

Ring a ring a Roses by Myles Birket Foster

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3 replies »

  1. I read about Gordon Ramsay and his family going to their second home in Cornwall to escape the virus . He’s the most recent in a succession of inconsiderate **** who have flouted the rules, to suit themselves. What is it with these public figures – they seem to think the rules don’t apply to them? If anything, they should be setting a good example, as folk are aware of their behaviour.

    Some might say, that they have a right to stay in their own house – it’s not the staying there that matters, it’s the travelling there, at a time when folk really, really should be staying put.

    The actions of these….people, got me thinking about the tale of the people of Eyam, and how they were so very, very selfless in their actions.

  2. PS There are many forms of ‘Front-line’ workers in these times – it’s worth remembering that we are the ultimate ‘Front-line’ – us, the people, the public. If we all follow the guidelines – that is the biggest, strongest Front-line.
    It’s in our hands – on our hands.

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