When Polio Hit The Children Of Rye

By Paul Vincent

At Christmas I always hear from a friend originally from East Guldeford but now in Scotland, who I met at the age of five when we were both Polio victims in the Buchanan Hospital in St Leonards. Fortunately we both escaped relatively unscathed but that was not true of many local children in Rye. There was a girl who lived in Winchelsea Road who for years wore callipers but I don’t remember her name nor do I recall the name of the boy from Camber who ended in an Iron Lung but who would not have survived. I do recall going to remedial exercise classes in a room above the Co-op, almost directly opposite your family shop in Cinque Ports Street ! My sister dragged me home from primary school through the Market when I wouldn’t walk …. a month in isolation in the Buchanan Hospital followed, where other local child Polio victims were not so lucky, wearing callipers or tragically relying on an iron lung. Praise be to SALK vaccine & almost global eradication. Paul Vincent

I recorded this horrible chapter for my own purposes and accept it may be too sensitive to publish but in away its almost as much part of local history as the Rye Harbour Lifeboat Disaster albeit on a much different scale. You are no doubt aware that it has been a goal of Bill Gates, the Philanthropic billionaire from Microsoft and the International Rotary Club to eradicate the disease globally. The last I heard is that it still persists in a few war torn third world countries that reject intervention and unless those centres can be expunged the disease can regenerate.

John Beckenham from Camber was the lad who lived out the rest of his life in an iron lung. I am not sure but I believe he lived into his forties. There were several articles about him in national newspapers but there is nothing about him on the internet Ed.


From the February 2018 “Rye’s Own”

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