Smallpox claimed seven workers on the Isle of Mull

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Smallpox can be traced back to Pharaoh Ramasses V, who died in 1157 BC. When his mummified body was discovered there were traces of it on his remains.

The disease spread worldwide thanks to traders, and in the 11th and 12th centuries it reached Europe.

It was not until the 18th century that Edward Jenner, the English physician and scientist, carried out his experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps, contaminating him with cowpox from a milkmaid.

This was to be the first vaccination in the world. Milkmaids only ever seemed to get a mild form of cowpox and never contracted smallpox. He proved that contracting cowpox gave immunity to the smallpox virus.

Yet it was not until the late 1940s that vaccinations were available to everyone, and smallpox was eradicated worldwide by 1980.

However, during the late Victorian period, there was a curious case of smallpox on the island of Mull.

Dr Alfred Carpenter was staying in Oban when he was told by the medical officer of the town that there had been several cases of the disease on the island.

There had been a case on the south-west of Mull three years previously when the young man had died, and the cottage where he lived was abandoned. Eventually the roof fell.

In 1886, the estate was purchased, and the new landlord arranged to have new cottages built at the site.

A group of men were sent out from Tobermory to tear down the old cottage but seven of them contracted the pox.

Their thinking was that they had disturbed the mattress the boy had died on and the spores had lain dormant for the intervening years, only to enter the workers’ systems when it was disturbed once again.

No other cases had been reported on the island, or on the mainland anywhere near Oban.