I have been cranking up the random news generator again, and today it has taken me back to the 6th August 1887, and a report in the pages of the Brighouse Echo which, once again, proves that there is little new happening in the world. It tells the case of a certain Sam Kellet, a coal miner from Wyke, which is a village between Brighouse and Bradford. The bailiffs had turned up at his house in order to seize property to meet the unpaid fines which the magistrates had awarded against him for refusing to have his child vaccinated. The whole process of the seizure and sale of goods (“four chairs, two tables and a kitchen dresser”) was watched by a crowd of 50 to 60 people. Mr John Rushforth, of Brighouse, president of the Wyke Anti-Vaccination Society, “mounted a wall and addressed the crowd, vigorously condemning the laws relating to vaccination”.
In the 1880s, thousands of people through Britain took to the streets and mounted opposition to laws that had been introduced to make vaccination against smallpox compulsory. A century later, vaccination against the disease eventually led to its worldwide eradication. If, and when, we get a vaccine against COVID19, let us hope it is as successful, and that the efforts of the modern-day equivalents of Mssrs Kellet and Rushforth are as unsuccessful.
ANTI-VACCINATION AT WYKE – On Saturday morning excitement was caused at Wyke by the seizure and sale of certain household effects belonging to Sam Kellett, collier, Garden Fields, under a distress warrant, which had been issued in consequence of Kellet having neglected to comply with a magistrate’s order to have his child vaccinated. The services of Mr Jonathan Benson, auctioneer, Calverley, had been secured, and the sale of the goods “marked” was effected without hindrance from the crowd, which numbered about fifty and sixty persons, mostly women. The amount of fines and costs incurred by various processes of the Court amounted to 33s, and that sum was raised by the sale of four chairs, two tables, and a kitchen dresser. The dresser and a table were bought in on behalf of Kellett by Mr John Rushforth, of Brighouse, president of the Wyke Anti-Vaccination Society. Kellett himself bought in the chairs and the other table. Sales were to have been effected at two houses in the district, but one of the men paid in at the last moment. The sale was conducted amid a running commentary on the evils of vaccination, and Mr Rushforth afterwards mounted a wall and addressed the crowd, vigorously condemning the laws relating to vaccination.