The last major pandemic, the so-called Spanish flu in 1918, killed 50 million people worldwide, including three friends of my grandmother who was 15 years old at the time. Her words are below.
Minnie Duffy (1903-1999) was my mother’s mother, born in Accrington, the fifth of six children. She was a cotton weaver in the mills, working four looms, and had three children. This is an extract from our family history book:
“One Friday evening in 1918 Minnie was playing the piano and three of her friends were singing along with her. By Sunday she was the only one still alive.
‘That was the flu,’ Minnie said [to our mother in her final years]. ‘You could see someone walking towards you normally, start to stagger then fall down. By the time you reached him he were dead. It was so fast.’
The girls took longer to die, she told me, because their father kept them sitting up in bed. Flat, their lungs filled with fluid and they drowned very quickly. But even sitting up, they still died. (page 16)”
ISBN 978 099 352 6725