Parkinson's Disease and me

My blog about my experience with Parkinson's Disease

Carson’s palsy

on January 1, 2016


Along with millions of other people worldwide this Christmas I watched the final episode of Downton Abbey on TV. I was intrigued to see that the butler, Mr. Carson, had to end his career through what looked very much like the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. His hand shook so much he could no longer pour the wine without spilling it. When questioned about the problem he said he knew that it was “the palsy” and that his father and grandfather had both had it too.

I thought there would be lots of mention of this in the Parkinson’s news as Downton has been such a worldwide hit but I found very little mention. It always seems to raise the profile of the disease when it affects someone well known. So I did a little research on the internet which revealed that Carson probably had an Essential Tremor rather than Parkinson’s. It seems the Downton creator, Julian Fellowes is also suffering from the condition Essential Tremor and initially he feared it was the start of Parkinson’s Disease. Medical experts say the condition, often abbreviated to ET, affects around four out of 100 adults aged over 40. There is no cure for the tremors, which may become so severe that the whole body shakes. I learned that the tremor is an action tremor whereas Parkinson’s is a resting tremor. Lord Julian Fellowes has since committed to helping other sufferers by becoming president of the National Tremor Foundation.

Perhaps Mr Carson’s problem will in some way help raise the profile and funding of neurological disorders in general in the coming year.

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9 responses to “Carson’s palsy

  1. Jellywoman says:

    We too thought, as soon as a tremor was mentioned, that it would be PD. Don’t you find that since being diagnosed, it comes us everywhere! And often at its very bleakest. But it wasn’t really a Parkie tremor, was it? More side to side than a rolling one.

    My grandad used to have ET, we reckon, and my dad now has a bit of a tremor. Dad says my grandad’s brother used to clear up at the snooker hall because, despite the tremor, Grandad was nifty on the cue. His brother used to pretend not to know him, then encourage others to bet against him. They’d look at the tremor and take the bet. And lose.

    Happy New Year to you. May ’16! leave us as it finds us.

  2. elspethmck says:

    Happy New Year, I too thought Carson had Parkinson’s in that last episode. It was interesting to read what you had found out. I have a friend with ET which other family members have as well.

  3. stacey says:

    I am under the impression that he has Huntington’s. Mentioning that his father and grandfather both had it sounds like it’s a genetically passed disease. And looking up ET it looks like that is genetically passed too. Very interesting! Since Julian is familiar with that, my guess is you’re right. Parkinson’s is only genetically passed in about 15% of cases, whereas something like Huntington’s it’s 100% and according to my little google search ET is usually passed genetically, but they haven’t found the genetic marker that causes it yet.

  4. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether Carson had Parkinson’s, ET, or something else. I have Parkinson’s, and it irked me that Carson had to give up his job just because he couldn’t pour a bottle of champagne. His job involved much more than that – he was managing a huge household, with a great number of important visitors, an extensive household staff, and a gazillion square feet of castle. His mind still seemed OK, and it was a repository for so much information about how to run the household, how to deal with daily albeit minor crises. It seemed to me ridiculous and cruel that he couldn’t continue to work – even if it was his decision. And his stepping down from his job ran counter to a major theme of the series, which was the expansion of opportunity for many (most?) of the characters. Many of the female characters were getting interesting jobs; one of the male household staff became a teacher; class barriers were breaking down. It was not a happy ending for me. Furthermore, I now envision Carson sitting at home all day and quickly losing his mind and throwing in the towel.

    BTW I like your website.

    • aquarius331 says:

      Interesting comment. My own first reaction was that anything that raises the profile of Parrkinson’s helps. Julian Fellowes, himself, doesn’t seem to have slowed down despite him own palsy. His Dr Thorne is currently on ITV. I read that he is creating The Gilded Age, which will be essentially an American Downton Abbey and Belgravia. The latter is not a new television series, but rather a serialised novel, distributed via an app in installments the way Dickens’ novels use to be shared with the public.

      Thanks for comment re my blog!

  5. Monica Baxter says:

    I have essential tremor; I’ve had it since birth, although it is getting worse as I age. I am fifty-
    eight. I found the character of Carson developing essential tremor very interesting and considering the time period (1920s), I think the family treated Carson well.

    Essential tremor can be maddening and challenging, but it is NOT Parkinson’s Disease. Both conditions require much more research. By the way, Katharine Hepburn had essential tremor.

  6. Carol Vasecka says:

    My mother suffered from what was called “essential tremor”, but did prove to be Parkinson’s after about 8 years. By that time, medication was no help. Be warned, its not always just “essential tremor”! Get checked!!!

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