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Not for the squeamish: Museum looks at army medical practices of 18th century
A quack surgeon of the 18th century. (Wikimedia Commons)

Barbara Worthy
Special to The Lake Report

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum's virtual presentation, “The First Cut is the Deepest,” takes a look at medical practice in the army during the Regency Period.

This fascinating subject might not be for the faint-hearted or squeamish as military medical practice in the 18th century was not exactly sophisticated. And it included a lot of improvisation – and whiskey.

Tune in to the online lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. and be ready for your toes to curl.

In the presentation, Scott Finlay explores surgical training in the 18th century, the various medical substances used at that time, and will display some of the surgeons' tools of the trade.

Staples of the doctors' toolbox were leeches, bone saws, chisels, pliers, clamps and drills – and not an anaesthetic in sight. That’s where the whiskey came in useful. 

And much of the immediate "nursing" of the wounded and dying on the battlefield was left to camp followers – the wives and women who followed their men in battle. 

The life of a soldier in military camps in this era would have been dirty, cramped, bleak and a perfect place for disease and illness to spread. Hardly a place for battle wounds to heal.

But everything they learned in those harsh conditions would influence the future of medical care.

Finlay has been an interpretation officer and corporate events co-ordinator with Parks Canada since 2010. He is well-known in Niagara for his portrayal of Gen. Isaac Brock in many re-enactments and is a popular emcee for community events.

As a professional corporate entertainer, facilitator and creative director for 25 years, Finlay has performed at more than 1,000 conferences and participated in numerous corporate videos and television presentations.

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