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Wellington Town Hall during the influenza pandemic


Emergency ambulances alongside the Wellington Town Hall during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Cures and treatments

The acting district health officer, Dr Robert Makgill, made himself unpopular among some in Wellington when he closed ‘bars, breweries and wine and spirit merchants’ during the pandemic. Relief workers had lobbied for the measure, arguing that men were returning home too drunk to look after their families. But it was opposed by regular patrons and some (male) doctors who recommended the use of ‘alcoholic stimulants for influenza sufferers'. In response to the outcry, it was agreed that ‘small quantities of spirits’ would be given out at the Wellington Town Hall to people with ‘a doctor's signed authority’. The Town Hall became known as the ‘Town Hall Bar’.

Alcohol was one of a variety of ‘personal preventatives’ used during the pandemic. Others included camphor bags, quinine tablets, garlic and onions, kerosene sprinkled on sugar, the smoking of tobacco, and the burning (and breathing in) of sulfur. See image of Christchurch medical depot where alcohol was dispensed.


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PAColl-7489-69
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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Wellington Town Hall during the influenza pandemic, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated