herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Irish bog moss was used to dress war WW1 wounds

Bog moss
Bog moss

A MOSS used to treat wounds at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 became an essential part of World War One, exactly nine centuries later.

Thousands of Irish women were sent to marshes and bogs to collect the Sphagnum moss for surgical dressings because of the shortage of cotton wool.

At one point, 5,000 moss dressings a month were being sent to hospitals and battlefields across Europe from Dublin Port as Ireland became one of the biggest suppliers.

The dried moss had antiseptic and absorbent qualities which could be used to dress a wound and then kept it in place until the injured person arrived at a hospital perhaps two or three days later.

Rest pillows and pads were also made from lower grade moss and used in hospitals 
to provide splint supports 
and pillows for the stumps of amputees.

The moss had to be collected from wet ground, often in very 
bad weather and the dressings were sent to hospitals in places like France, Italy, Egypt and India.

The use of the moss was first promoted by Edinburgh surgeon Charles Walker Cathcart but there are records of it being used nine centuries before at the Battle of Clontarf.

csheehy@herald.ie

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