As my father contracted polio, or poliomyelitis as it formally known, at a young age, it is one of the crippling diseases of which the McCleland family is well aware. Before the advent of vaccines in the 1940s, this scourge could not be prevented and the treatments bordered upon the barbaric. About 10% of the victims ultimately succumbed to it. Fortunately, my father’s malady was less severe as it only affected one foot. Nevertheless, one leg was shorter than the other which precluded normal sporting and other activities.
This is the chronicle of that devastating disease, now largely forgotten.
Main picture: A polio patient in an iron lung in 1938
Amongst the many traits of the people half a century ago were loyalty, loyalty to one’s family and fealty to one’s employer. Because of this, one never got divorced however dysfunctional the marriage or toxic the employer.
In my father’s case, it meant spending his whole working life for bosses that he disrespected and conditions under which he felt exploited.
Spare a thought for one such employee, Harry Clifford McCleland, in this milieu.
Main picture: Main Entrance to Yard of JJ Ruddy & Sons in Lindsay Road
Never once did my father ever discuss his involvement in WW2 let alone regale us with stories of the war. Today I bemoan the fact that he was not more open & forthright about his participation; any vignette, however mundane, would have provided an insight into what he had to endure, what was risible and what was hilarious.
Despite the fact that he had contracted polio as a youngster, and hence was technically not eligible for military service, yet he duly and dutifully volunteered.
Military duties comprise two categories: active service and non-active service. The latter encompasses experiences such as how they survived on a litre of water per day, the scorching heat or the cloying oppressively, hot southerly khamsin winds. In my father’s case, being an artificer and a driver precluded him from direct contact with the enemy. Nevertheless, all of his other experiences could have provided a valuable peep into a lost world.
This blog is solely based upon his Military Record which Steve Groeneveld, a running friend, has been able to obtain from the military in Pretoria.
Main picture: Harry Clifford McCleland in military attire