My name is rare. In Ireland and abroad we had a slight renaissance in recent years but now all people called Brunkard are related. The point of the post is not to give the full familial lineage. It to flag that modern medicine has perhaps saved us (Brunkard or not) from extinction and that right now, forces of narcissism, greed and old fashioned stupidity, are ranging against the modern miracle of scientific medicine and dishonouring the memory of those who did not live in such fortunate times.
It is telling that the detractors of vaccines and pharmacology are more often than not inhabitants of the first world. It is pure decadent privilege to deny the strides we’ve made in prolonging human life. The figures are plain. In any case, idiots don’t like facts and figures and take succour in their poor choices from emotive stories gleaned from YouTube and blogs that sell alternative medicine.
As a dabbling genealogist this upsets me as I know how things were and the figures of the various disease outbreaks in Ireland aren’t just figures to me, they’re the reason why there are so of us with this surname.
By 1900 there were two families called Brunkard in north county Dublin. One in Grallagh, (our cousins) and one in Oldtown being my great grandfather (then unmarried) and his elder brother John Brunkard.
John Brunkard has the single largest foot print in newspapers of anyone in our families as he was a champion athlete, running and cycling. His exploits were reported on nearly weekly in the late 19th century. He died in 1902 before his 30th birthday of tuberculosis.
To our cousins in Grallagh. William Brunkard married Catherine Davis in 1900. They had five children, three girls and two boys. Mary, the eldest succumbed to tuberculosis in May 1924, her sister Kate had to report the death.
By the following March her little brother William succumbed, his brother Thomas informing the registrar.
And in June the youngest daughter Julia died:
Kate died just before Christmas that year of the disease.
A family of seven reduced to three. It’s hard to know when their father William first showed signs of the disease. He may have been suffering through the deaths of his children. He fell to TB in 1928, nearly four years after his son and namesake.
Thomas lived with his mother and worked in the farm until she herself died of pneumonia in 1936. After burying his family, he was admitted to St Brendan’s Hospital in Grangegorman where he died in 1979 aged 76. His whole life defined by those deaths from a disease that we manage with a vaccine and antibiotics. The cost to his mental health was total.
So when I see some idiotic point of view using false reasoning, jingoistic pseudo science etc. to promote some ludicrous alternative to medicine that has made my family’s story archaic it angers me. I think of one of the very few people to have the same name as me losing absolutely everything.
I also fear for the children of parents with such ludicrous anti-medicine beliefs. Because we are privileged to live through better times does not mean that we can’t return to mass death from disease. The compelling nature of charismatic snake oil sales men might resurrect the demons that made my name so rare if we let it.