Medicine Chest of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Physician (Dr. Stuart Thriepland) Talk
The 'Culloden Medicine Chest of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Physician' Photo Courtesy of The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
It is a delight to be given the opportunity to speak about the importance of the contents of the Thriepland Chest, belonging to the 'Culloden Physician' Dr. Stuart Thriepland, in the context of 18th Century Medicine at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre on Saturday 9th July at 1pm.
The inventory of the chest is largely based on the contents of the first Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia (Pharmacopoeia Edinburgensis), with a few later additions. The first Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia illustrates the transition of the time period from earlier forms of traditional medicine and folk-remedies to the modern orthodox practices we know today, which involve the use of pharmaceuticals.
Among the pages of the 1699 dispensary aid, we can find traces of superstitious folk-cures, such as insects 'Cantharides' and the use of animal products, like beaver glands 'Pulvis Castor rusic' as well as native medicinal plants of the Highlands such as Rhodiola Rosea - 'Ol Rhod Ros', used as a mood enhancer and anti-depressant and Valeriana officinalis- Valerian root, used as a sedative and to promote sleep. These herbs were well-known to the lay people of the Highlands, and frequently used by those who relied on their own knowledge of medical herbs growing nearby for their health and wellbeing. Many of those in the further reaches of the Highlands and Islands could not easily access the care of orthodox physicians, and depended upon the wisdom of the lay healers, wise-women and apothecaries in their locale.
The chest also contains minerals and metals such as Borax, Sulphur and Mercury, moving towards a basic understanding of pharmacy, which would lead to the creation of pharmaceuticals in the future.
What is interesting is the combination of folk tradition, herbal medicine and native medicinals in the 18th Century, which were first accepted by the orthodox and highly-regarded physicians of the time, and later rejected for a movement towards the more exotic or laboratory-produced medicines.
In my talk at Culloden, I'll be looking at the changes in Medicine at the time of Culloden, and also some of the remedies referred to in the Historic Series 'Outlander', which is based surrounding events of the '45 Jacobite Rebellion. We'll be looking at some of the native medicinal plants which have played an important part in medical history and those which are still used by herbalists and physicians today.
Was Bonnie Prince Charlie in good hands with the medicines available?
We'll take a closer look on Saturday at Culloden...