Introducing Four Local Treasures: The Hazells and the Hilliers (and some early Australian medicines)

Mr Sid and Mrs Maree Hillier pictured in their Gunning home recently with their historic bottle of medicinal turpentine. Well over 70 years ago a young Sid was bed ridden for a fortnight with a very serious gash to the leg suffered when he was impaled by a cut sapling stem while riding his bike home from school. He owes his return to full health and mobility to this very efficacious and versatile product. The bottle they are displaying is the same one used by Sid’s mother to treat his injury at the time – and it still retains a good amount of aromatic turpentine today.

In recent weeks I have had the pleasure and privilege of talking with three local people who know a lot about our district history, having lived through many decades of it themselves. Mr Sid and Mrs Maree Hillier and Mr Harold Hazell have been helping me learn about their lives and times in the Gunning district generally but particularly for the Oolong and Lade Vale areas where I also live.

Mr Harold Hazell who has lived at "Chain of Ponds" in the Oolong district all his life. Here Harold is pictured at the site of his old alma mater, the former Lade Vale School which we will revisit in a story or two during the year. Note the ingenuity and adaptability of the Australian farmer which Harold demonstrates in this photo – although he has an excellent walking stick crafted from native wattle at home, here Harold sports a bespoke walking aid made from modern poly pipe – very light with just the right amount of give in it for the man about town.

Harold, Sid, and Maree have been very generous with their time and I am very grateful to them. I hope you will be also as you see a number of stories written with their help appearing on the GDHS blog spot this year. While there won't be any definitive studies sparking major reassessments of Australian history, I think you will find some things to delight and surprise. Subjects to be covered should include “Feral Pest and Weed Control Before the Nanny State”, “Four Oolong Oologists: 1888-1998”, “The Hidden Costs of Taking Up Bushranging – Dunn and Gilbert on the Old Gap Road" and more.

Sid and Maree’s Oil of Turpentine - Seriously Good Stuff 

This oil of turpentine was distilled and decanted into bottles made of a material called milk glass. It was produced by the Hartwig Kantorowicz company, famous in Poland (where it began in 1823) and Europe for its liqueurs, spirits and fruit juices. Hartwig Kantorowicz  was also well known in the wider world. Sid's bottle shown here most probably comes from the company's Hamburg factory which operated under the same name from the late 1870s to December 1920.  Although it does not have an expiry or "best before" date,  judging by the aroma it is still good today.

Turpentine and petroleum distillates similar to kerosene have been used medicinally since ancient times and are still trusted as folk remedies today. They were used in ancient Babylon to treat stomach problems, inflammations and ulcers. Sid, of course, is living proof of the efficacy of oil of turpentine for treating wounds.

The following advertorial, taken from the from the "Bundaberg Mail and Burnett Advertiser" of June 1916 but also seen in lots of other papers around this time, tells you just how good this stuff is.
One of the most useful drugs you can keep in the house is oil of turpentine— the oil distilled by the aid of steam from the resinous material which exudes from certain species of fir-tree. Resin left after the distillation forms the basis of an official ointment, recommended for broken chilblains, ulcerated legs, and the like. It is interesting to remember that the precious amber, dear to smokers, and often seen around fair ladies' necks is the fossil resin of extinct species of firs. 
The oil of turpentine forms the best local application tor lumbago, rheumatism, stiff or sprained joints, and forms the chief constituent of many well known patent embrocations or liniments; You may add it to olive oil in the proportion of one part turpentine to five parts of olive oil, and rub it in well at bed time.  It acts best it you warm the mixture before use. Or you may add one part of turpentine to five or six methylated spirit, and use as a liniment, well shaking up beforehand. 
If you want a counter irritant to your chest. or elsewhere — doing the work, of the familiar mustard plaster—you heat a piece of flannel, pour a little turpentine on it, and hold it firmly against the skin for ten minutes.

But Wait - There's More

Oil of turpentine was also recommended as a vermifuge (an intestinal worm killer) for both sheep and children. In October 1871 a correspondent signing himself "Paterfamilias", knowing how good this product was for ridding sheep of worms, wrote to the editor of the  "Queenslander"asking if "rectified spirits of turpentine would also be of service in the case of children." This father of four children, all of whom suffered from worms, had tried several supposed remedies without success and was anxious to learn what dosage would work in children.

An expert adviser contacted by the paper said:
I use oil of turpentine in the following proportions: - for children, from a quarter to half an ounce; for adults from half to one ounce, repeated once a fortnight. If the effect is not satisfactory after two doses, see a medical man.
Sid is blessed with an excellent memory and, so far as he can recollect, his mother used oil of turpentine as a wound dressing and disinfectant only.  He was never dosed with it internally so cannot vouch for its value as a vermifuge.

Harold too can be relied upon for his accounts of the past.  Oil of turpentine never featured in the Hazell family medicine cupboard but, in passing, Harold can attest to the usefulness of kerosene as a dandruff treatment.

These mint condition bottles of  Hartwig Kantorowicz stomach bitters show the type of label that would once have adorned the Hillier Oil of Turpentine bottle. These excellent examples could well sell for a lot of money.  Others, resembling Sid's in appearance, sell for $30 - $40 US but I doubt any of them are still half full of the original product.
Photo copyright Ferdinand Meyer V of (used with permission).


Sid is a living testimonial to the effectiveness of medicinal oil of turpentine and the reports of its benefits by late colonial and early federation newspaper correspondents are compelling.  But kiddies, please do not attempt self treatment at home - particularly with mineral turps purchased from Bunnings or Woolies.  They are entirely different products.