Typhoid Outbreak in Lochore

May to July 1903

Newspaper Reports

Typhoid Fever Outbreak near Lochgelly - An alarming outbreak of typhoid fever has occurred in Lochore district, near Lochgelly. Already there are over 20 cases under observation. One death has occurred, and several of the sufferers are in a serious condition. It is feared that the water supply is the cause of the outbreak. [Edinburgh Evening News 27 May 1903]

(By Special Commissioner.) The Fifeshire County authorities have now had their eyes opened to the very serious state of matters existing at Lochore, near Lochgelly. It is no exaggeration to say that for several years past the deadly germs of typhoid (which is synonymous with the enteric familiarised during the recent South African war) have abounded in the district, and) now and again an isolated case occurred, but the present very serious epidemic is a crisis.

As to the cause. For some time the water supply, which comes from a spring on the hillside to the east of Benarty, has been under suspicion, and present inquiries have shown any fears in this direction to have been only too well founded. The water shortly after its rise from the spring percolates through a farm courtyard, and it is subsequent to this that the community in Lochore procure it for domestic purposes. The consequent pollution has already had a fatal result, while some 28 patients are under treatment, and with this number in so small a community the epidemic must be said to be "raging," despite all the efforts of medical skill.

In endeavours to counteract the malignant diseases the authorities in the first place have scoured all the pipes and ditches in neighbourhood with chloride of lime, while a reservoir is being erected above the spring to which the water will be pumped and filtered ere coming to the village. The authorities sent one nurse, but as the epidemic spread from the single row of houses at the Mary Pit (where for a time it was confined) it was found impossible for her to attempt to overtake the necessary duties. But the Fife Coal Company, with much consideration, have sent an additional nurse, and yesterday Mr Carlow, the Managing Director, telegraphed instructions to the medical faculty to take every precaution which might be necessary, and supply all comforts to the sick. Seven or eight cases have been removed to Thornton Hospital, but such outbreaks are very uncommon, and accommodation is limited. The hospital staff, however, are doing all in their power in arranging for more patients.

The disease emanating from the water supply opens up a broad field of discussion for the Comity Council, and it may set them athinking as to the advisability of forming a new water district from Thornton to Lochgelly. In this long stretch the present condition with regard to the water supplies is undoubtedly bad, and what is required as a good gravitation supply from the north. At present springs or pits supply the water, and neither can be said to be a satisfactory method. The hot weather tells on the former, and in the latter case, were anything to go amiss at the pits, the supplies would be entirely cut off, and large communities left waterless.

The larger quantity of water used at Glencraig comes from the pit, but it has to be carted to some of the higher lying houses, and similar conditions prevail at Bowhill. The water here has been several times analysed, and, while extremely hard, has been found to contain no deleterious matter.

In connection with such supplies the miner has a grievance, and one which is well founded. He is obliged to pay 6d a fortnight for his supply, which runs to 12s per year, and one would have to go a very long way to find any one similarly situated in life paying more than a fraction of this sum in a town. The operations of the Coal Company have resulted in the drawing of most of the wells in the district, and with the private feuars it is a matter of Hobson's choice - this or none. They pay 2s 6d per pound of rental.

Some years ago the district was thoroughly surveyed by the county authorities with the view of procuring a gravitation supply - which is now absolutely essential in view of the ever-increasing population - and Benarty was fixed upon as the most suitable site for a reservoir. Plans, it is understood, were at the time drawn up, but owing to opposition on the part of several of the larger proprietors the scheme fell through, and the district today is the poorer. For reasons already given, the sanitary authorities do not look with favour upon what may be called random supplies, and if only 10 ratepayers would sign a requisition - as it is whispered is to be done - the County Council would at least consider the question of a special water area for and Ballingry parishes. 

A word about the typhoid epidemic in conclusion. The medical gentlemen are prosecuting a vigorous campaign, and have hopes of stamping out the disease, though not for some time. [Evening Telegraph 28 May 1903]

TYPHOID IN FIFE. ELEVEN CASES YESTERDAY - The typhoid epidemic at Lochore, near Lochgelly, shows no abatement. Yesterday 11 new cases were reported to the medical authorities, and this brings the total number of patients to close on 40. It will probably be found necessary to procure a temporary hospital for the treatment of some of the cases where there is difficulty in finding proper accommodation in the homes. [Evening Telegraph 29 May 1903]

THE TYPHOID OUTBREAK IN FIFE. OFFICIAL REPORT. STRONG SPEAKING. At a meeting of Kirkcaldy District Committee of Fife County Council, held at Kirkcaldy on Saturday - Mr Neil Ballingal, Markinch, presiding - Dr Nasmyth, Medical Officer of Health for Fife, submitted a report, in which he said that during the month of May to date there had been reported to him 39 cases of infectious disease, of which 56 cases had been of enteric, 21 of the cases being in Mary Row, Lochore. Dr Nasmyth reported that Dr Dickson, Lochgelly, had asked him to inspect Mary Row, as a number of persons had suspicious symptoms of enteric, and 21 cases had been notified. The cause was undoubtedly due to sewage polluted water, the persons having been using the water coming down from a burn to the west of Lochore House. Alongside the burn was an ashpit, which drained into the burn, and which he considered to have been the cause of the outbreak. The water was led into a pipe and into a pond at the Mary Pit, and the people using the water had either it from the pond or the pipe discharging into it. The pipe was at once extended to a spring to the west of the burn, and which he believed to pure water, and the pipe had be continued to the houses at Mary Row. The pipes had been disinfected with chloride of lime. Some of the cases were too ill for removal, and he arranged with the Matron of the Thornton Hospital to get a nurse for them and look after disinfection. The nurse arrived on Monday night, and her services were much appreciated. Mr Carlow, of the Fife Coal Company, had offered to pay all the expenses of the nurse. There had been a separate outbreak at Lochore where there were eight cases, and it was discovered that the branch pipe which supplied Lochore had been polluted from the cattle watering troughs in the field, which had been misused by some of the inhabitants.

Mr Andrew Leitch, Buckhaven, said this was a most horrid report. He did not think there had been such a thing for the last twenty-five years, and that was the time of the smallpox.
How was at that the Sanitary Inspector had allowed this to go on so long. Mr Leitch proceeded to refer to the Fife Coal Company when the Chairman called him to order.
Mr Leitch - I want to know the reason that epidemic has arisen there.
The Clerk.- It has arisen in consequence of the polluted state of the water supply to the houses.
Mr Johnston - The sewage has been allowed to get from the ashpit into the water. How did the Sanitary Inspector not see that before?
The Clerk - It is an isolated place.
Mr Johnston asked if this had not practically been a hotbed of fever.
Dr Nasmyth said that ever since he had anything to do with the District Committee Lochore and its neighbourhood had always been that.
Mr Johnston moved that Committee be appointed to consider the advisability of forming a special water supply district for Lochore, and that the Committee be Mr Budge, Mr Prentice, Mr Fyshe, Rev. Mr Houston, and Mr M’Nemeny.
Mr Prentice, Strathore responded, remarking that he understood this water had been suspicious for some time. He asked the doctor whether the outbreak took place first at the farm or at the row of cottages.
Dr Nasmyth said there had been a good many cases at Lochore for some years, but this outbreak at Mary Row broke out all at once. It was a separate and distinct thing.
Mr Leitch said he also objected to all the pollution coming down the Leven. It was abominable, and with reference to the cattle watering troughs. Dr Nasmyth said that the Sanitary Inspector had actually seen boys using the tubs as conveniences.
Mr Johnston’s motion was then agreed to, and the Committee appointed. [Evening Telegraph 1 June 1903]

FIFE FEVER OUTBREAK, FORTY-TWO CASES. In spite of the energetic measures of the authorities cases of typhoid fever are still springing up at Lochore, near Lochgelly, and there are now forty-two cases notified. One of the May Pit workmen residing at Westfield Rows, Cardenden, is now laid down with what is supposed to be typhoid. At Lochore itself there is also a large list of suspicious cases, and it is believed that the epidemic has by no means exhausted itself. [Evening Telegraph 2 June 1903]

Typhoid Outbreak Near Lochgelly - Four new cases of typhoid fever at Lochore, near Lochgelly, were reported yesterday. [Edinburgh Evening News 3 June 1903]

Six deaths from typhoid have occurred in the Lochore district of Fife, and a great increase of cases of fever is reported. [Evening Telegraph 10 June 1903]

THE TYPHOID OUTBREAK IN FIFESHIRE - GREAT INCREASE OF CASES - SIX DEATH'S RECORDED - Notwithstanding the care exercised in the Lochgelly district by those in charge of the fever cases which have not been removed to hospital, there are still numerous cases coming under treatment. The disease has now appeared in the Flockhouse district of Lochore, the water supply to which is different from that to Lochore generally, and this, along with the supply to the Mary Pit Row, makes three contaminated supplies. Six new cases were notified to the sanitary authorities yesterday, giving twelve fresh patients within the last few days, and there are still numerous individuals with suspicious symptoms which may ultimately develop into typhoid. Needless to say everything is being done by the Medical Officer of Health and the Sanitary Inspector to assist the local practitioners to stamp out the outbreak, but the epidemic has had such an excellent chance for full development that more probably will yet be heard of it. So far, six deaths have occurred - four males and two females. [Evening Telegraph 10 June 1903]

THE TYPHOID EPIDEMIC IN FIFE - STEADY SPREAD OF DISEASE - SIX MORE CASES - Yesterday contributed its quota of six fresh cases of typhoid fever in Lochgelly district notified to the sanitary authorities, and what adds to the seriousness of the state of affairs is the fact that the area effected is steadily extending. A new case has occurred at the Shank of Navity, to the north of Lochore while (what is perhaps more serious) a case has also cropped up in Lochgelly itself. It appears that the sufferer in this case, who is a worker in the Wilson and Clyde Coal Company's pit at Glencraig, was engaged beside another collier who comes from Lochore, and from whose flask, filled with the now notorious water, he had refreshed himself. Something approaching a panic exists amongst those who live in the infected area, and the efforts of those who are engaged in fighting the disease are considerably hampered in consequence, as many of the sufferers, through an unreasoning fear of being removed to hospital, conceal their symptoms of illness and put off seeking medical advice until actually compelled to do so by their unfortunate condition. Considerable surprise is expressed in the district that the Committee of the County Council which was appointed to inquire into the outbreak has not yet seen fit to hold a meeting on the spot, it being the feeling that any delay, however slight, is inexcusable in face of the grave nature of the epidemic. It is understood that the suggestion has been made to turn the Ballingry Church Mission Hall into a temporary hospital, as it is situated centrally, and could be easily and rapidly rendered fit for the purpose. Whatever has to be done must be done at once, as, unless the County Council authorities look somewhat ahead and make proper accommodation for rapidly isolating the sufferers as the cases occur the situation, serious as it already is, may become much more so. Naturally the greatest alarm is felt in the neighbouring district, although, fortunately, the case at Westfield Rows, Cardenden, has not so far been followed by others. This row, however, was the site of a typhoid outbreak some fifteen years ago, and has a most unsatisfactory water supply, as owing to some dispute amongst the proprietors the water has to be carried in pails from a considerable distance to the houses. Altogether the outlook is of a very grave nature. The greatest credit is due to the colliery medical officer, Dr D. B. Dickson, and his assistant, Dr Walwork, for the energy they are displaying in their attention to the sufferers, while the service rendered by the fever nurses cannot be ever estimated.

KIRKCALDY HOSPITAL TO RECEIVE PATIENTS - In connection with the serious epidemic of enteric fever at Lochore, near Lochgelly, which is now straining the County Hospital accommodation in the vicinity of Thornton, Kirkcaldy local authority have decided to take in a number of patients to Kirkcaldy Fever Hospital, which is now practically empty. The first patient from the county district has been admitted. [Evening Telegraph 11 June 1903]

The typhoid epidemic in Lochore district, Fifeshire, continues to spread, other nine cases having been added to the already long list of those affected by the disease. [Evening Telegraph 12 June 1903]

The Typhoid Epidemic In Fife -Though there have been twelve additional cases of typhoid notified in the Lochore district of Fife during the last few days, a hopeful feeling prevails that the end of the epidemic is in sight. In all, 101 cases have been recorded. [Edinburgh Evening News 15 June 1903]

THE TYPHOID EPIDEMIC IN LOCHGELLY DISTRICT - Other eight cases of typhoid were reported in the Lochore district yesterday, bringing the total to 109, with eight deaths. Both Thornton and Kirkcaldy hospitals are now full, and arrangements are being made to provide accommodation in the Dunfermline Hospital. Ballingry School Board yesterday resolved to close the public school, the percentage being below 50, owing to the epidemic. There are no additional cases in the burgh of Lochgelly. [Edinburgh Evening News 16 June 1903]

Five new cases of typhoid were reported to the sanitary authorities in the Lochore district yesterday. Three cases have been discovered in Hospital. [Evening Telegraph 19 June 1903]

THE TYPHOID EPIDEMIC IN FIFE - The typhoid fever epidemic in the Lochore district continues to give the authorities a great amount of concern. Yesterday three cases were reported from the village of Kelty. All the three patients are young men, and as Kelty lies some three miles from Lochore, it is difficult to say how the disease has been carried from the one village to the other. Lochore and district are under the Kirkcaldy District Committee of the Fife County Council, but in view of the tax upon the Kirkcaldy and Thornton Hospital the authorities of Dunfermline and West Fife Hospital agreed to admit a number of patients from Lochore districts. Kelty is within the Dunfermline area, however, and in case of the disease spreading the beds which open to Lochore patients may now be limited. Lochore is one of the districts in Fife which is experiencing an unprecedented movement in connection with the development of the coalfields. The foyer is spreading at such a rate that the work at the pits has received a check. [Edinburgh Evening News 20 June 1903]

THE TYPHOID EPIDEMIC IN LOCHGELLY DISTRICT - The typhoid outbreak at Lochore, so far as that village is concerned, shows signs of abatement. Yesterday only three new cases were notified. Owing to the epidemic, the Fife Coal Company experienced difficulty in getting workmen for their large new pit which is at present being sunk there. Work is consequently retarded. The three cases at Kelty and two at Dysart can be directly traced to the original outbreak. The total cases altogether number 131. [Edinburgh Evening News 20 June 1903]

FEVER-STRICKEN LOCHORE - SCENES IN THE DISTRICT - (By Our Special Commissioner.) The other day I spent a few hours in the historical and romantic Lochore, not on a pleasure trip, not on the outlook for ancient relics left behind by the proud Roman legions who, under Agricola, visited the district some twenty centuries ago, but to gather something of the why and wherefore of the dreadful epidemic which at present holds the village in a fatal grip. Gazing on Benarty's rugged height, its verdant slopes, and a fertile land, profuse with sylvan beauties at the foot, one would almost hope to find here the elixir of life; but in decided contrast you get poisonous streams in which lurk the deadly germs of the virulent typhoid.

The water comes from the uplands clear as crystal, as the saying goes, but in the lower reaches it is contaminated, and it looks on the face of it as if the supervision of the authorities has in the near past - not at present by any means - been rather lax. The diagram may convey a truer import than any description in words. When operations were commenced at the Mary Pit and the adjacent row of dwellings erected it was necessary to procure a water supply, and as the stream shown seemed to carry an adequate quantity, a sort of reservoir was constructed; a pipe laid from this to the houses, and there was a supply, the securing of which exacted the minimum of trouble. But it would never do to attack those responsible for this. In theory and practice the quantity might have been all right, but there has been something far wrong as regards

A short distance to the north of this reservoir or dam I have alluded to is Lochore farm steading, and the stream passing in the immediate vicinity, the foul liquid from Refuse Heaps and Ashpits trickled day after day into the channel and mixed with the water which was being used constantly for domestic purposes, the users being meanwhile unconscious of the great risk they were running. The reproduction shows the watershed in the vicinity of the dam where the initial pollution occurred, and on the right hand side may be observed the pipe which at present conveys the supply, approved by the authorities, from a filter higher up the hill. This filter, which is to the back of the farm, gathers the water before it reaches the contaminated area.

This, I have dealt with at length, is the root of the evil, but since the pestilence made its unwelcome and abhorrent appearance and the authorities have fully awakened to the sense of the great danger in which large numbers of the ratepayers were placed, close scrutiny of several other of the random sources of supply peculiar to the parishes of Ballingry and Auchterderran has brought to light the fact that they also suffered from pollution only less glaring in effect than at the first place mentioned.

Summary measures were adopted in these cases, and while several were at once condemned ethers were subjected to careful filtration. Chloride of lime was also largely used in disinfecting the ditches in; the neighbourhood, but many of these are yet in a fetid condition. All the village smells of disinfectants, and while it is all for good, no one would care how soon it was gone if that also could be taken as a sign of the epidemic having taken fright. The Mary Row, which is some distance from Lochore village proper, consists of as smart-looking and tidy houses as are met with in any colliery district, and here it was that some three weeks ago the fever originated. The houses were only occupied about a year ago, and of the 16 only one escaped the affliction. When first 10 then 20 cases were notified from this row the situation, to say the least of it, became alarming, but when disease began to number its victims here and there all over the district, and the total in three short weeks had topped the hundred by 10 and the deaths numbered 8, alarm gave place to the gravest fears; men indulged in earnest conversations about what best should be done to protect their families, and the constant and withal foreboding visits of the Fever Hospital ambulance fairly "got upon the nerves of the women."

In Caravan Row a severe attack was felt, and a glance at the outside very soon convinces one that indoors, in presence of the fever, the circumstances must be very, very trying. The houses here are odd-looking structures, and because of their striking similarity to caravans has the name of the street been derived. Several of the buildings in this quarter are very "ramshackle” erections of brick, and do not reflect credit on the proprietors, who, as is too often the case in mining villages, evidently care not a straw for hygienic principles. 


It has been a trying time for the medical gentlemen, but ungrudgingly they work at all hours. Although cases are still occurring, there is reason to believe that the end of the epidemic is now within sight, and should this earnest anticipation prove correct it will be an immense relief to all concerned. The Fife Coal Company, it is gratifying to observe are showing a tangible interest in the welfare of the patients.

Lochore, at present in so evil prominence, has in its day been a place of no small importance in the country's history. Situated in the parish of Ballingry, some two miles to the south of the eastern or "sluices" end of Loch Leven, it was, before the utilitarian pitheads and brick chimneys sprung up like ugly excrescences on the face of the country side, a place with great pretension to natural beauty. The massive ruins of Lochore Castle (which once stood on an island surrounded by the waters of Loch Ore before these were drained in the earlier part of last century) are now confronted at a distance of about a quarter of a mile by the Mary Pit, affording a striking contrast of the old and the new. The castle was built in 1160 by Duncan de Lochore, Ballingry and Auchterderran parishes together forming the barony of Lochore.

It is interesting to note that this ancient conjunction is likely to be re-established by the proposed joint scheme for a water supply to the two parishes. This scheme the County Council are at present considering, and, as has been so often said in these columns, let there be no delay, for an adequate gravitation water supply for the rapidly growing district is an absolute essential to the health and general welfare of the inhabitants.

Taking up the thread of my story again about the barony of Lochore, the estate in much later years was acquired by Mr Syme, the father of the famous Edinburgh surgeon, and it was sold in 1813 to Mr Jobson, whose daughter was married to the eldest son of Sir Walter Scott. At Lochore House, now divided up into accommodation for colliery managers, the Wizard of the North frequently resided, and it was here that, his novel "The Abbot” was in great part written. It is quite close to the old mansion house that the farm steading stands where the accumulated filth of the ashpit contaminated tho water and distributed disease broadcast to the unfortunate inhabitants. [Evening Telegraph 20 June 1903]

MORE FEVER CASES IN FIFE. The epidemic of typhoid fever in the Lochgelly district has not been quite got under. After a lapse of several days two fresh cases were notified yesterday, one in the village of Glencraig, which has been comparatively immune from the fever, and the other at Lochore, the original scene of the outbreak. The total cases now number 140 and the deaths 13. There are still some dangerous cases in the hospital. [Edinburgh Evening News 30 June 1903]

THE FEVER EPIDEMIC IN FIFESHIRE. THREE FRESH CASES. The epidemic of typhoid fever in Lochgelly district has not been quite got under. After a lapse of a good many days two fresh cases have been notified - one in the village of Glencraig which has been comparatively immune from the fever, and the other at Lochore, the original scene of the outbreak. The total cases now number over 140, and the deaths 13. There are still some dangerous cases in the hospital. A case has also been notified at Kirkcaldy. The patient, a man named Robert Morris, residing at Maryhall Street, was at once removed to the Fever Hospital. [Evening Telegraph 1 July 1903]

THE TYPHOID EPIDEMIC - ANOTHER DEATH. The typhoid fever epidemic at Lochore, Lochgelly, still continues, though fortunately the state of matters now is much less alarming than hitherto. During last week six new cases altogether were notified. On Friday another death took place, bringing the death-roll to 14. There is some talk of organising an indignation meeting in the district to protest against the alleged laxity in the initial stage of the epidemic. [Evening Telegraph 6 July 1903]

FIFESHIRE FEVER EPIDEMIC - Two More Deaths - Two more deaths occurred yesterday from typhoid fever at Lochore, and during the week altogether four new cases have been notified. As the polluted water supply is now entirely done away with, it is difficult to understand the continued spread of the epidemic. The district in circumference of three or four miles has a curious odour, arising from disinfectants. A considerable number of people have left the district since the epidemic broke out, any many houses are vacant. [Evening Telegraph 10 July 1903]

FIFE FEVER EPIDEMIC. RELIEF FUND STARTED. A relief fund is being started in aid of those who have suffered through the epidemic of typhoid fever at Lochore, Lochgelly. Practically every family in the village has been affected, and while the Fife Coal Company have granted advances of money, there is considerable distress in the district, fully 150 cases have been sent to the hospital and 15 have died. No fresh cases have been reported this week, but there are several suspicious cases being investigated. [Evening Telegraph 15 July 1903]

The typhoid epidemic at Lochore has now been entirely suppressed. [Edinburgh Evening News 24 July 1903]

LOCHORE TYPHOID EPIDEMIC SUPPRESSED. The typhoid epidemic at Lochore, Lochgelly, has been entirely suppressed. The special staff of nurses who were brought into requisition fully two months ago have now left. Since the original water supply was cut off, the fever has gradually lessened, and during the last fortnight there was only one new case. From this it may be deduced that the water was the source of the fever. The total cases number 152, and the deaths 16. [Edinburgh Evening News 24 July 1903]

THE FEVER EPIDEMIC IN FIFE - PUBLIC INQUIRY REFUSED - At a meeting of the Executive of the Fife Miners' Association at Dunfermline yesterday, a letter, dated 9th September, was read from the secretary to the Local Government Board, in reply to representations regarding the recent fever epidemic at Lochore. The letter was as follows: "I have to state that the Local Government Board have been in communication with the Local Authority and the county medical officer, and they are informed (1) that Lochore has been formed into a special water supply district, (2) that the Fife Coal Company has laid a new service pipe and constructed a new filter, (3) that the temporary gravitation supply provided by the coal company is now in use for Mary Pit Row and Chapel of Lochore Dairy, (4) that the water required for domestic purposes at Lochore Rows, Crossbill, Castle Bridge Row, &c., is being carted by the company and private feuars from Ballingry School gravitation supply, Glencraig Colliery, (5) that the quality of the water which is being supplied at present is satisfactory and that the quantity is sufficient for all domestic purposes, and that ashpits, &c, have been constructed by the coal company, and that a new system of drainage is being provided and is now nearly finished. In the circumstances, therefore, the Board see no reason in the meantime to depart from the decision intimated in the last sentence of their letter to you of 11th July." The letter referred to stated that there was no present intention of holding a public inquiry. The delegates expressed much indignation because the Local Government Board have refused to proceed further in their inquiries in order to affix responsibility on those who might be considered to be blameworthy. A resolution condemnatory of the attitude of the Local Government Board was adopted. [Edinburgh Evening News 18 September 1903]