Tags

, ,

Lazaret tennis court c1940. In background from left, white male hut, common room (obscured), bath house, dining room (photo courtesy 'Alex')

Lazaret tennis court c1940. In background from left, white male hut, common room (obscured), bath house, dining room (photo courtesy ‘Alex’)

 A visitor (to the island in 1909):

‘The steamer stopped off Peel Island to let us down into a boat… We landed on the rocky beach (at the eastern end of) the island and were soon bumping over the stony road to the part fenced off for the lepers. This was reached after a disagreeable drive of twenty minutes. The first thing to attract our attention was a collection of graves. One was newly dug, ready to receive the corpse of a leper who was in the last stages…Passing on we sighted a large number of South Sea Islanders, all affected with leprosy. These kanakas waved us a hearty welcome.’ (1)

“Alex” (pseudonym) patient at Peel Island:

‘The patients were housed in four distinct compounds ‑ the white women to the west of the main quadrangle, the white men to the east, and the aborigines in two separate compounds (men and women) to the south. In the white compounds the patients were billeted one to a hut, but in the aboriginal compounds, there were two or more to a hut. The women’s huts were the most serviceable and consisted of a bedroom, verandah, and a small kitchen, which contained a wood burning stove for cooking purposes. Women were expected to cook for themselves where possible, but if they were feeling unwell, an attendant would bring them a meal from the main kitchen. The women always dined in their cabins.’ (2)

“Jim” (pseudonym) patient at Peel Island:

‘Before World War II patient management had been relatively simple. Basically it utilized the social stigma surrounding Hansen’s patients (or “Lepers” as they were then known). The term “Leper” immediately invokes Biblical connotations of a person who is unclean and a social outcast, and to contract “Leprosy” was a life sentence of social discrimination and segregation not only for the patient by also for the patient’s family. It was this very real fear of the community’s reprisals against their families that was used to keep unruly patients in check. For it was an easy matter for the Superintendent at Peel to threaten to send the police around to a trouble‑maker’s relatives. Neighbourhood gossips would then quickly broadcast the news of the visit.

‘The other alternative available for patient control at the lazaret was by the use of sanctions ‑ specifically aimed at the issue of visitors’ passes. In the early 1940s each patient was allowed two visitors per month. In previous times it had been more often, but evidently someone had broken the rules and the number had been restricted. Before boarding the Government vessel, visitors were required to show a pass which had been previously applied for by the patient to the Superintendent at Peel. Naturally any misdemeanours on the part of the patient could be used against him when he came to request his visitors’ passes.’ (2)

Rosemary Opala (nee Fielding) (former nurse at Peel Island Lazaret):

‘When invited, we all shared the patients’ social activities such as tennis, concerts, and dances. Ingrained Hospital Protocol, not fear of contagion, was a factor in nurses not further “fraternising with the patients”. I’ve told elsewhere of how we had to hike across to the Horseshoe to swim, instead of using the patients’ jetty at high tide, because it “wasn’t professional” to be seen in our decorous bathers.’ (3)

An early colorised print of the Lazaret tennis court. Recreation Hall behind (photo courtesy Rosemary Opala)

An early colorised print of the Lazaret tennis court. Recreation Hall behind (photo courtesy Rosemary Opala)

References: