Document of the Month - April

Medical Bill to Robert Craigie from Dr Thomas Lucas, 22nd December 1795

This bill, sent by Dr Thomas Lucas to his client, Robert Craigie, gives details of the treatment of Craigie's daughter for venereal disease between the 21st November and the 16th December 1795. The treatment is both gruesome and dangerous. It begins with 'opening a venereal bubo' (sore or blister)in the unfortunate woman's groin and then continues with the application of 'mercurial ointment' and the prescribing of pills containing mercury for the patient to take orally.

Lucas then moves on to prescribing 'cooling powders' and an 'opening infusion' before resorting to the mercury ointment again and then 'mercurial solution'. Mercury was routinely used in the treatment of syphilis at this time and it is clear from the presence of the bubo or blister described in the bill that this is likely to be what ailed Craigie's daughter.

The treatment did not work, and as mercury is very poisonous, often resulted in the death of the patient. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics in the mid 20th century, there was no other treatment for this disease, so Lucas here is following the best course of treatment that he has for his patient.

Dr Thomas Lucas (1756 - 1822) was a physician and surgeon who lived at his house 'Marieville' that he built himself on Upper Bridge Street in Stirling. The Archives holds 2 volumes of his diary dating from between 1808 and 1821. The second volume, beginning in 1815 is recorded as 'Volume 3' in Lucas' handwriting on the first page so it would appear that there was a first volume that might have covered the period of this bill but that this has not survived.

The diaries give a detailed account of certain aspects of the Doctor's life in Stirling and provide a rich picture of local life at the beginning of the 19th century. More details about Dr Lucas and the full text of the diaries may be found on the Council Archives blog featuring these records.

This item was found in the papers of a local solicitor, Mathie McLuckie and Lupton by one of our volunteers, Darren Ferrier