Marvellous medicines, curious chemists and peaky pets


If your budgie was looking a bit peaky about the beak, just the thing. Very probably from Ecob’s, the bottle never seems to have been opened. Item shared by Lynn Lynn and photographed by David Evans.

Here’s an odd little one for a Saturday afternoon, that I’m hoping will generate some discussion, and act as a precursor to a fascinating and eclectic collection of material donated to the blog recently by new year quiz whizz Lynn Link via the young David Evans.

These two rather old medicines – one remarkably for your pet budgie – are believed to have both originated from Ecob’s Chemist in Walsall Wood – the Kurboil certainly did from the label.

I have been in touch with David Evans via my parents in law with some lovely old snippets of Walsall Wood history via my Grandad who kept three old biscuit tins full of paperwork including newspaper cuttings, shop receipts, dog licenses, payslips, tax everything from 1942 to 1970s.

There was a receipt there for my mom’s first bike and my little trike bike from when I was one.  This information only came to light when my Gran passed away before Christmas she was 93 years old and had lived in Walsall Wood all her life.  It was sad she would never talk about her early life much.

I will find out some photographs and more information to pass to David Evans hopefully he will put it all together to make a good story of life in the Wood.

There is indeed a great collection of stuff and I thank Lynn for her generous and thoughtful donations, and David’s work to tie them together – this stuff is invaluable and I’ll be featuring more over the coming weeks.

I’d be interested in what readers remember of pills, potions and tonics that were sold by local chemists. In a time before antibiotics and modern painkillers, the community chemist was often the purveyor of a variety of home-brew exotic medicines of varying efficacy. Who remembers Gentian Violet and the kids with purple feet, hands or heads as a result? Iodine perhaps? Zam-buk? (Incredibly, still available in some form).

Liniments were often popular with local sportsmen. Who made the best?

And did your budgie, dog, pigeon or cat frequently need a pick-me-up? Who made it and what was it?

On that subject, recently on a picture of Lichfield, Aer Reg commented on a local vet whose existence I was debating with a friend just the other day: Steele Bodger. Although his name sounds like an obscure leatherwork tool, this well respected animal doctor had a practice in Brownhills near Co-op corner on the Lichfield Road.

He was prominent enough to have his own Wikipedia entry which says:

Steele-Bodger was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, the son of Harry Steele-Bodger, also a noted vet, and the elder brother of Micky Steele-Bodger, another vet and also England international rugby player. He was educated at Shrewsbury School before reading Natural Sciences at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and qualifying as a vet at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School, University of Edinburgh. He practised as a Veterinary Surgeon in Lichfield from 1948 until 1977 and then for two years in Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

In 1979 Steele-Bodger was appointed Professor of Veterinary Clinical Studies at the University of Cambridge, a post which he held until 1990.

Steele-Bodger was President of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association in 1962, President of the British Veterinary Association in 1965-66 and President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1972-73. He was awarded the CBE in 1980.

Steele-Bodger married Anne Finlayson in 1948 and they had three daughters. He died in Monmouth on 17 September 2008

Please folks, any memories or comments on the above welcome, and as ever, my thanks to Lynn and David. I hear from Lynn that the beer prize went down well with her husband!

Feel free to join the conversation: comment here please, or email me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.


Kurboil, as supplied by Ecob’s Chemist in Walsall Wood. Boils were much more of a thing in the grimy-aired days of yore. A remarkable artefact belonging to Lynn Lynk as photographed by David Evans.

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7 Responses to Marvellous medicines, curious chemists and peaky pets

  1. davidoakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Another real treat coming our way, thanks to Lynne and David. I can understand the Kurboil preparation coming from Ecob’s, but I would plump for Headley’s for the budgerigar tonic. Mr. Ecob, a dispensing chemist, ran a very spartan establishment, with little to show, within the shop, other than little ornamental boxes, with the latin names for various drugs, imprinted in the front drawer. Never saw hide nor hair of any tendency towards animal treatment. Headley’s had a glorious mish-mash of anything to do with animals. Shop window never seemed big enough to contain the variety of goods on offer. However, I can be wrong. There can be exceptions to any rule.
    Childhood disorders were commonplace in the period under discussion. Cinder water for wind was the common restorative. A red-hot cinder was taken from the fire and placed in a glass of cold tap-water. After the hissing and bubbling had died away, a small amount of this treated water was fed to the child, easing the discomfort. At a later date, Gripe Water was introduced as a chemical alternative. ‘Cradle Powders’ were selected for soothing early teething problems, to be replaced later by ‘Bablets’. And Fennings Fever Cure was in everyone’s medicine cabinet. Sets your teeth on edge just to think of it !
    Adolescence was a difficult time for mothers. Head lice, nits, impetigo and scabies, were difficult to keep at bay, due to close proximity at school and poor diet. I would say that every house, with youngsters, had its share of the problem at one time or another. Various remedies were recommended by Nurse Moore, the district nurse and by word-of-mouth by the ‘mom dynasty’, with us kids being at the ‘sharp end’. Two preparations immediately spring to mind, Condy’s Fluid for washing and bathing, and a horrible square block which turned the water black, and for which, mercifully, I have forgotten the name, for treating the hair. Suffice it for me to say that we named it ‘dead dog’ on account of its horrible smell. Our family had four children at the time, and the ‘dead dog’ bathing routine, every Saturday night, must have given my poor mom, muscles like Popeye, and the shrieking protests must have been heard five houses down. Terrible times !!
    For the grown-up fraternity, a common cure-all was Thermogene Medicated Wadding for lumbago, rheumatics and bodily aches and pains, particularly outdoor manual workers. I, myself used Elliman’s Rubbing Oils, but you try to get them nowadays ! There was also a preparation which came in a small, round tin, labelled ‘Rub-u. Rub it on an affected part, and feel it getting hotter, and hotter, and – ouch! Hotter !!

  2. Derek Slatcher says:

    The only special medican i can recall was Elliots mixture special for babies when teething. It was originally done by a chemist in Bloxwich, but was widlely used. My mothers and mother in laws’s family all were bought up on it so was I. when i had children of my own the first three were given it but when it came to the youngest the chemist had sold out to a large firm. We went there and asked for it, but they said we have not made it because it had unsuitable ingredients in it. Probably an illegal drug. Anyway we all survived our doses. it might have been opium.

    Derek Slatcher

  3. I remember a cure all my mom used when we were kids was a “Bread Poultice” which was hot and was wrapped around whatever it was that needed treating….boy did it pong!!!.

  4. aerreg says:

    in humour non prescription hot bottle for carbunkle indian brandy carter little liver pills aspro canphorated oil campha block scots emulsion fennigs fever cure alum block licourice and clorodine rocks alum cena pods very moving syrup of figs tinture of quinine rose water irodene gought stop drinking port and for pets flowers of sulfer to prevent ear canker finaly if in doubt when the children had gone to bed get the dear old doctors book out if it was a bad back FIRE BRAND

  5. Pedro says:


    Practical trials prove that Kurboil Tablets definitely relieve skin eruptions and prevent their re-occurence. This simple treatment consists of a compound Tin Tablet which promotes a healthy codition of the skin and reduces eruptions of long standing.

    Tubes of 50 cartoned.
    Retail 1/3
    7/6 per dozen.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    who can ever forget those Little Liver Pills!
    kind regards

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