The year 1933 for Ireland was a time of change but also of cautious optimism. Fianna Fáil, led by Éamon de Valera, won their first overall majority in Dáil Éireann. Éamon de Valera was welcomed in his own constituency in County Clare where 77 horsemen and 77 torchbearers lit 77 tar barrels in honour of the 77 seats won by the party.
In other politics, the United Ireland movement adopted the title ‘Fine Gael’ and contested the general election as a political party. Also in 1933, Ireland reached out to be more connected with the world: representatives from the Netherlands and Germany arrived in Galway to inspect the site of a proposed new £3 million airport. Ireland shook off British control and the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown was dropped. And away from politics, Ireland’s first parachute jump, executed by Joseph Gilmore, is successful.
In business, the Sugar Manufacture Act provides for nationalisation of the sugar beet processing industry to ensure self-sufficiency. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Almanac without a report on the weather: Ireland had a shocker that year: four people died in a great snowstorm that gripped the country.
As for the predictions, there were some mind-boggling ones. In November’s predictions, the in-house psychic gives the eerie forecast that, “shipping disasters will be registered.”
Interestingly enough, an event thought to be the world’s worst shipping disaster happened that very year. The SS Dzhurma, a Russian ship carrying prisoners to the Gulags, was thought to have come to its end during the winter of 1933-34. At the time it was ferrying 12,000 prisoners. Conditions were horrific. In an account in the 1947 book Forced Labor in Soviet Russia, it was suggested that in the winter of 1933–34 the Dzhurma got trapped in the Arctic ice. It was unable to move on until the spring.
The story alleged that all prisoners died from frost and starvation with later versions indicating that surviving crew members may have resorted to cannibalism to survive. The story was propagated and widely accepted. Today, historians have their doubts about many aspects of the story. However if it was true, this would have been among the worst ship disasters of all time.
This ad is certainly a sign of the times, before it all went horribly wrong. The Irish Sweepstakes were a lottery that was started to raise money for almost-bankrupt Irish hospitals. Ireland at the time had a low population and could not raise the funds to keep hospitals going the way other more densely-populated countries could. And with TB claiming more and more victims, something was needed to plug the fiscal hole and fast. Welcome to Irish Hospitals’ Sweeps. In the public’s imagination, this was a 100% legit operation to raise money for the ailing hospitals of Ireland. And they were convinced because of the way the show was put on: potentially winning tickets were drawn from rotating drums, usually by nurses in uniform. In fact they even used blind children to draw a ticket out of the barrel, so it seemed as though cheating was something they abhorred.
Each ticket was assigned to a horse running in a famous race. Tickets that drew the favourite horses thus stood a higher likelihood of winning, allowing for enormous prizes. Often the ceremony of picking tickets was also accompanied by gards in uniforms, so the legitimacy of it was never questioned.
Many Irish abroad, in America and in the UK bought smuggled tickets, even though such lotteries were illegal in their own countries. This led to many scammers selling counterfeit tickets to the sweepstakes, and none of the money ever came back to Ireland, let alone to the hospitals.
But of course, there was a big problem. The Irish Sweepstakes was a privately-run lottery, something that is wildly illegal today. Some money did filter down into the hospitals, this was true. But it was only one tenth of the TOTAL PROFITS. And that ten per cent was divided between all hospitals in Ireland, so the funds actually going to the hospitals was negligible in comparison. All hospitals were prepared to accept money from the sweepstakes, except the Adelaide Hospital, who not only disagreed with the sweepstakes, but also smelled a rat.
So what happened to the rest of the 90% of the profits? That went into the private bank accounts of the ringleaders of this “legitimate” scam. And the profits were monstrous. Three men behind the Sweepstakes were Dublin bookie Richard Duggan, Welsh-born Captain Spencer Freeman and publican Joseph McGrath. The scale of their wealth-gathering was mind-boggling. Reader’s Digest described the Sweeps as “the greatest bleeding-heart racket in the world.”
So how did the government of the day let this go on? They were blackmailed and bribed by the three men behind the sweepstakes, the core of influential schemers. These racketeers paid off TDs, and ensured that so many loopholes existed in the legal agreements that they didn’t even end up paying tax on their profits. Compare that to the hospitals: they paid 10% tax on what of what little money filtered down to them. These core conmen at the heart of the scandal went on to build empires in Ireland, like Waterford Glass, The Irish Glass Bottle Company, and other companies. When honest politicians and lawmakers discovered what was going and threatened to shut down operations, the men behind the sweepstakes said they would fire thousands of people employed in their spin-off companies if prosecuted. The honest TDs felt powerless to stop them. But eventually it all came tumbling down: not from the gards stepping in – but from the fact that state-run lotteries became legal in countries like the USA and Canada and the UK. And Ireland developed its own state-run lottery, which was a much better contender for people’s money.
The fact that the sweeps were allowed to continue for so long was an outrageous disgrace, and it certainly sullied Ireland’s image around the world as a country of conmen and rogues. However the Old Moore’s Almanac of 1933 certainly benefited! The ad taken out of the Irish Sweepstakes held the prize position of page 5, a very expensive position, and it was a full page ad. So the hospitals may have been ripped off, but Old Moore did okay out of it.
Lessons have been learned to never mix charity fundraising with private business, hopefully the lessons will stay in memory for a long time.
DON’T WEAR A TRUSS!
This ad was EVERYWHERE in 1933! A truss is still used in medicine today, to keep hernias in place before surgery. However today’s trusses are usually made of elasticated bandages and don’t resemble the trusses of 1933! A hernia is a protrusion of an organ through a wall that usually keeps it in. It is typically painful and bulging, but can be fixed by surgery. However back in 1933, surgery wasn’t always an option. So people turned to somewhat rickety contraptions to ease their hernia pain.
Trusses available were usually big metal devices, sometimes loaded with springs, bound with leather, that didn’t fit very well. They used a pad against the skin and some sort of belt to hold it in position. The cure seemed worse than the ailment, that’s for sure. This ad tells readers to not wear a truss, and to write away for an information booklet telling you how to avoid a truss. Many of these old “information books” are now available on non-profit websites to read and enjoy! In this particular case, even though the advertisement advises the reader to not wear a truss, they ARE selling trusses…although apparently, they are wildly different to “drugstore trusses.” Of course their product is backed up by “science” and by many anecdotes from the mysterious Mrs P. Kelly of Rathfarnham and shadowy Mr Z. Murphy from Blessington. In other words, they were selling trusses, which probably weren’t that much different than conventional trusses of the time. Aren’t you glad you live in an era of ACTUAL science rather than unsubstantiated claims of science?
Lion Ointment has been around for more than 100 years. Now called Burgess Lion Ointment, this well-known salve is used for treating dry, cracked split skin. Today the ingredients are fairly run-of-the-mill, with the main ingredient being petrolatum. The raw material for petrolatum was discovered in 1859 in Pennsylvania, United States, on some of the country’s first oil rigs. Workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs because it caused them to malfunction, but they used it on cuts and burns because it hastened healing.
Robert Chesebrough was a young chemist whose previous work of distilling fuel from the oil of sperm whales had been rendered obsolete by petroleum. So he went to Pennsylvania to see if the new materials had commercial potential. Chesebrough took the unrefined black wax back to his laboratory to refine it and explore potential uses. Chesebrough discovered that by distilling it, he could create a light-coloured gel. Chesebrough patented the process of making petroleum jelly in 1872. He then travelled around New York demonstrating the product to encourage sales by burning his skin with acid or an open flame, then spreading the ointment on his injuries and showing his past injuries healed, he claimed, by his miracle product. He opened his first factory in 1870 in Brooklyn using the name Vaseline. But petrolatum was used in other products too, like Lion Ointment. And today’s science backs it up: petrolatum’s effectiveness in accelerating wound healing stems from its sealing effect on cuts and burns. This inhibits germs from getting into the wound and keeps the injured area supple by preventing the skin’s moisture from evaporating.
But (and there is always a but) back when this advertisement ran in the Old Moore’s Almanac, Lion Ointment was a different concoction altogether. A rather horrifying one by today’s standards. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the ingredient list of the 1933 Lion Ointment listed one of the main elements as lead oleate, or lead plaster. We all know lead is an utter disaster for humans, especially children. It interferes with the development of the nervous system and is therefore particularly toxic to children, causing potentially permanent learning and behaviour disorders. However back in the day, Lion Ointment was merrily recommended for babies and children, as well as for every ailment known to man including venereal disease. Obviously over time as the dangers of lead became known, the lead was phased out and the level of petrolatum was jacked up, along with other ingredients like beeswax and pine oil. If you find an old tin of Lion Ointment in granny’s attic, you might want to donate it to the bin and go buy the latest version.
HOW TO GET A PERFECT NOSE
Yes this ACTUALLY appeared in the magazine in 1933. You could buy a nose-shaper. Of course you wouldn’t wear it out on a hot date. Oh no, you’d wear it around the house with only your 15 or 16 siblings to laugh at you. You could, apparently, over time, shape your unimpressive honker into something fit for movie stardom. I think the best medicine in this case is to learn to love your nose. Seriously if we catch any of you wearing this there will be big trouble.