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26th January 2007 at 00:00
An exhibition that opens in Aberdeen tomorrow and runs until May 13 takes visitors back to the days when chemists made their own pills and potions; when poison and leeches were kept in ceramic jars, and hand-blown bottles labelled in gold were displayed in mahogany cases.

This is the first time in 20 years that an exhibition of items from the extensive George Shepherd Pharmaceutical Collection has gone on display to the public.

"George Shepherd began his apprenticeship as a chemist in Aberdeen in the 1930s with Davidson Kay and went on to become manager of their group of shops," says curator Mike Dey, who is based at the city's Maritime Museum where the show has been mounted. "He worked in the business for 50 years and during that time became interested in the history of pharmacy. So when the shops were being modernised in the 1950s and 1960s, he collected a lot of material."

George Shepherd retired in the mid-Eighties, not long after Mike Dey began working for Aberdeen Museums. His intention, says Mr Dey, was to start writing down some of the stories from his time as a pharmacist. Sadly, he died before he could begin that project.

"But one of the anecdotes he told me dates from the mid-1930s, just after he started his apprenticeship, when leeches were still being used for medicinal purposes," says Mr Day.

"He and a colleague were called out to attend to a fascist who had been involved in an anti-fascist riot in Aberdeen. He wanted a leech to be used to draw the blood from the bruising around a black eye he had received."

A bottle labelled "Leeches" is one of the dozens of items that features in the show alongside pill makers, powder sifters, mortars and pestles (used to grind up and blend ingredients) plus photographs of shop interiors and promotional material.

Schools' activities connected to the exhibition are planned for National Science Week in March.

Further information from education officer, Lynsey Keenan, Aberdeen Maritime Museum, T 01224 337710

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