Long before our time, it was the Spanish flu, born in the trenches of the First World War in 1918, that hit the world – and Sooke. Two kindly grandmothers joined forces to provide both herbal remedies and comfort, as this scourge took its toll on stricken sufferers in our community.
After her husband was lost at sea in 1888, Mary Ann “Granny” Caffery moved to East Sooke from Prevost Island with her seven children, close to her sister Susan.
Right across the road from the Cafferys was Ragley Farm, home of Lady Emily Walker, her husband Rev. Reginald Walker and their children, who had arrived in Sooke from their parish of Frant in Britain in 1912.
Lady Emily, a descendant of Britain’s famous Seymour family, while accustomed to satin ball gowns, a tiara and being addressed as “Your Ladyship,” had readily taken to her new Canadian life, and of necessity, even worked in the fields.
Grannie Caffery had grown up with the knowledge of local traditional treatments for illnesses, with considerable knowledge of herbs.
While Grannie searched for the treasured plants and gathered her herbs, it was neighbour Lady Emily, owner of a touring car, who was able to drive her to the various locations where folks were ill with the flu. In a community with very limited medical resources, the succor provided by the two grandmothers was much appreciated.
During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, where Lady Emily cared for local townspeople, it is believed that there was not a great loss of life in our community, but worldwide was another story. It was in fact the worst pandemic in modern history. Records indicate that from 1918 to 1920, possibly 500 million people became infected with the Spanish flu, with many tens of millions succumbing to the disease.