Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H.
The Author of "Common Plants and Their Uses in Medicine" was born at Whittle-le-Woods, November 24th, 1847. He died November 8th, 1920, at Bolton, the sphere of his labours for nearly half a century. His studies of Botany date from a boy, when he accompanied his father on botanical rambles, this being a common pastime among the working classes of Lancashire. His knowledge of herbs, their medicinal properties, and mode of application in disease, was indeed marvellous; and his passing away removes from our midst one who has done more than most others for Herbalism in Lancashire. Next to the care and welfare of his patients, the chief feature of his work was the training of young men, many of whom are members of the National Association of Medical Herbalists, and all of whom are ever ready to bear testimony to the knowledge received from him and his lively interest in their progress as Herbal Doctors. One of these students, Mr. T. Ramsden, sent the following appreciation for the readers of the "Herb Doctor," a journal which Mr. Hool edited with such conspicuous ability during the last five years of his life, and which has represented the cause of non-poisonous herbal medication for nearly two decades. Mr. Ramsden writes:—
"I first became acquainted with Mr. Hool thirty years ago, when he came to Hindley to lecture to the Star Botanical Society, and he opened my eyes to the wonders of the botanical kingdom in every direction, and gave a joy to life, and a love of the plant world that will remain with me until the end.
I have pleasant recollections of our regular Sunday rambles, when a number of us, headed by our departed friend, travelled into the country and there spent the day seeking different varieties of plants, and having their names and their classes and orders explained to us by our teacher; this was followed by the evening meeting, where they were passed around, their names and medicinal properties given, and instances related in which they had been the means of restoring sufferers to health who had been pronounced incurable by the orthodox medical practitioners.
With tireless energy our late friend would lecture every Sunday in some Lancashire town, after attending to his business for the previous six days; and I will be bold enough to say that in every town in Lancashire where Herbalism is established, the men in practice are indebted to R. L. Hool either for first stimulating their interest in the calling, or else for having been taught by him something valuable in the curing art.
As one of the old school of Herbalists, many of his dogmatic assertions jarred upon the young practitioners of to-day, and we are apt to overlook the fact that the source of his knowledge from the world of books, when he began to take an interest in Herbalism, was of a very limited character. But with the introduction of the American Physio-Medical literature [This is the name under which the American Herbalists are registered by the State, and implies that such practice is in harmony with physiological laws—eschewing the use of poisons.] by Mr. W. H. Webb, our field of research has been considerably widened, and we have facilities for our studies that were undreamt of in Mr. Hool's days. When we realise that he had not the advantage of a teacher to make the rough path smooth, but was practically self-taught, then we obtain a glimpse of the colossal task our friend set himself in undertaking to acquire his wonderful knowledge of the botanic kingdom, the results being equal to that of a university training.
In penning these few lines I know I am echoing the sentiments of thousands of working-men botanists who have enshrined in their hearts and minds the memory of our departed friend. To these men our friend will never die, but will live in the teaching he gave them and the example he set, and they will carry on the good work towards a saner, and a safer, and a more humane treatment of disease than is at present established in the orthodox system of mineral drugging and inoculations of disease and its products.
"Great men never die: they live on in their teachings."
R. L. Hool to thousands of his fellow-citizens was a truly great man, and although his body lies mouldering in the grave, his thoughts and work go marching on."
This is the testimony of one who had a lifelong friendship with Mr. Hool, and we assure our readers it is no exaggeration in claiming for him a knowledge equal to that of a University training. Dr. Sarah A. Webb was not slow in recognising his sterling worth during the seven years' active collaboration with him in the Work, and often spoke of his abilities as being equal to "one of their own Professors at the Physio-Medical College in Chicago, U.S.A."
Mr. Hool was very zealous in keeping the herbal practice of medicine on safe lines, hence he was an unflinching advocate for the use of non-poisonous herbs only; and he is hailed by his successor in practice as the sole discoverer of the styptic properties of Bur-marigold (Bidens tripartita), which he consistently used in conjunction with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), for bleeding Piles. He always maintained that, as an astringent, in this most distressing complaint it excelled all others of a like nature; doing the necessary healing of the opened blood vessels, without causing Constipation, this being the plant's peculiar property. Again, he never tired extolling the virtues of Chickweed. It was his pet plant, possessing, as it does, antiseptic, cooling, and potent healing properties; and he used it internally as well as externally.
For all cases of septic poisoning, he ordered Chickweed fomentations, and he administered an ointment made from the same herb, as do all his pupils, many of whom are now full members of the N.A.M.H.
The following tribute also appeared in the "Herb Doctor" from Mr. Joseph Watmore, F.N.A.M.H., a botanic practitioner of Long standing. Mr. Watmore wrote:—
"I remember well the first time I met our veteran friend—it was at the N.A.M.H. Conference held in Leicester, 1910—and heard him make a few remarks during the afternoon session. I at once concluded he was a type of that rugged, honest, determined 'Medical Herbalist' with whom I became acquainted some forty years before, at a Conference held in London. At the conclusion of the afternoon session most of us had a ride round the town on the trams, which were placed at our service by the Corporation. On re-assembling in the evening in the Assembly Hall, great was my surprise to see a number of freshly-gathered plant specimens spread out on a long table, these having been gathered by Mr. Hool and others whilst we had been surveying. When our friend had finished naming and describing the specimens, giving their order, names (Latin and English), and therapeutic action, mentioning cases in practice by the way, I knew that "a master" had been speaking. He was that rare combination—Medical Herbalist and Scientific Botanist. I have seen and heard him many times since then, and though I have heard some of the Professors of Scientific Botany, men of academic distinction, our dear old comrade, as a scientific botanist, was the king of them all to me. I cannot picture him as a voluminous reader or as a 'bookworm.' He had a fine gift for diagnosis, born of intuition—a sure sign of genius—a power and force resulting from observation and experience. A well-furnished consulting room was never the place for him: the élite of society had no charms. No, he was born of the people, he lived with and amongst them; his best work was done for them.
Methinks many a professional brother has cause to remember him; to help and advise in cases of doubt and difficulty was to call from him his best. He was a very cheerful giver, a living example of 'Such as I have, give I unto thee.'
I could never imagine him as a platform orator—one who could hold his audience spellbound—yet can understand his force and power in the open air. His knowledge and experience, given in simple language, would be as 'a tale that is told.' Those of us who have grown old in the service will treasure pleasant memories of our fellow-worker; we shall not see his like again. Amongst Herbalists he was unique! His life's work will be an inspiration to our younger brethren; it will encourage and enthuse them. "The good men do lives after them." Let us follow in his footsteps, then we may be sure his life shall not have been lived in vain.
'Sleep on, brave heart! Thy rest be sweet.
The Evergreens of Memory adorn thy resting-place.'"
His friends were very varied. This was due not to his high educational training—which was very meagre from a scholastic standpoint—but from his strenuous studies; he gained such knowledge that he could converse and hold his own with the most learned on the subject of Botany. This wonderful attainment was most in evidence when he was describing plants at the various classes (see Mr. Ramsden's tribute), giving "Class" and "Order" "both in the Natural and the Linnean Systems of plant classification with perfect accuracy, and without referring to books. He thus often baffled men of scientific training.
An Educationalist and Scholastic Author of no mean standing—an M.A. of Oxford University—bore the following testimony to Mr. Hool's ability:—
"I am indeed grieved to hear that Mr. Hool has passed away. I was planning a letter to him to tell him that he was right in his views on electrical treatment when, at your meeting in the Botanical Laboratory at Southport in 1914, a young Medical Electrician gave a lecture on 'Electrical Treatment of the Human Body.' I told Mr. Hool then that very soon no batteries would be needed, as all electrical treatment would come from vegetables, fruits, herbs, animals, the earth and her atmosphere, and the cosmos generally. Quite recent work has shown that varied electrical potentials are to be derived from plants, animals, and minerals, the atmosphere, the ocean, the cosmos. So now the way is clear, apart from mechanical electricity, which destroys life. The young electro medico said such an idea was 'ridiculous and impracticable.' I wish Mr. Hool could know about it! His death is a great loss. He was so sincere and knew what he knew. 'To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge' ('Chinese Wisdom'). He was one of the wise of the earth."
Much more might be said if space would permit, but one feature of his life and character ought not to be overlooked, and that was his courage in defending the cause he loved and for which he spent himself so unstintingly. Inquests had no terrors for Mr. Hool, and it was a treat, to hear him tell how on one occasion he held up the Court by refusing to give further evidence until the Coroner altered the evidence which he (Mr. Hool) held had been incorrectly taken down; and when relating this incident Mr. Hool would say, with that quiet, exulting laugh (all his own), "And he had to do it." His invariable advice to students was, "Stick to your patients so long as they desire your services." It is indeed difficult to do justice to the great value of his work for the twin causes of reform in medicine and freedom from doctorcraft; his help and judgment on difficult questions proved invaluable on many occasions. If ever a man loved his work and stood by the principles he professed, it was Richard Lawrence Hool, and it is indeed a pleasure to be able to place on record the fact that the knowledge he imparted to others lives on, not only in this volume—where he "being dead yet speaketh"—but as a living force in the work of the Lancashire Branch of the National Association of Medical Herbalists. Whose members are animated by his spirit and are determined to do all that in them lies to carry on the good work of healing and reform in Bolton and neighbourhood, with a good conscience relieving suffering humanity, post-mortem or no post-mortem, inquest or no inquest, and taking the consequences, whatever they may be.
W. H. Webb.