'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Events, dear boy, Events - or - A Ripple in the Pond

A Ripple in the Pond

A small update on Dr Motley.

This morning (20 August 2020) I received a charming letter in the post from North Yorkshire from an 88 year old lady, Mrs Betty Verrill nee Hunter. 

Betty wrote:

Dear Peter Hoffmann,

Here is another ‘ripple in the pond of memory.’

Annette Motley was at my school – George Square a.k.a. George Watson’s Ladies’ College. She was a year above me, well liked, I think, and popular due to her high-jump expertise! We had no playground, so lunchtimes were spent indoors dancing to records, doing gymnastics or playing musical instruments.

After telling my great-grandsons of my adventures in Dreghorn Woods in the 1930s and 1940s I went on the internet and found your fascinating writings.

I was never in Annette’s house (had our own doctor in Colinton) but remember passing her gate and maybe we were walking over to the Braid Burn? There was entertainment there and we sat on tiered grass banks.

As soon as I read Annette’s name I could picture her flying over the high jump at school. She wasn’t particularly dark-skinned either – just a nice girl, one of us.

I left Scotland at 18 in 1950 (most reluctantly) for a Civil Service post in Surrey – a boring Surtax job – but that was where I met my husband David, a Yorkshireman, who died a week short of our 60th anniversary in 2016.

Kind regards.

Betty Verrill

As previously written there wasn’t a great deal of information on Dr Motley's daughter ‘Annette Junior’ other than some of her unhappiness and bad fortune in later years as described by her children. So Betty’s letter provides a small insight into a happier time.

Within previous vignettes on Dr Motley I referred to some of the vicissitudes that as a mixed race married couple from different backgrounds the couple may have suffered from, from prejudiced individuals so it was a small balm to hear something so very positive from Betty providing a small insight into happier care-free times in Annette’s life.

The letter propelled me to undertake further research into Dr Motley – as we both said – when you throw a pebble into a pool you never quite know where the ripples will go!

After some sleuthing I’m pleased to recount that I’ve unearthed one or two small pieces of further information to help to illuminate some of the legendary Dr Motley’s story of when he first came to the United Kingdom.

Twenty-one year old Arthur Phillip (A.P.) Motley B.Sc. set out from New York and stepped upon Scotland’s shores at Glasgow for presumably the first occasion on the 28th September 1928. He had travelled as a student on the Anchor Steamline ship ‘Caledonia’ – rather appropriate as he sought out a new life in Scotland to train as a doctor. 

The Italian Smoking Room on board the S.S. Caledonia

But perhaps at that stage he had little intention of settling in Scotland and building a new life for himself and instead he would simply return to America. But as Harold Macmillan reputedly once said ‘events, dear boy, events’.

On the ship’s passenger list his occupation is recorded as being a student however his name is mis-spelt as ‘Matley Arthur’. And further, his address and therefore first abode is listed as Ramsay Lodge Edinburgh – what a wonderful introduction to the capital to be accommodated at the top of The Royal Mile with its astonishing views over the city.

He needed to pass the University of Edinburgh’s Preliminary Examination in Arts and its Pre-Registration Examination in Elementary Science and was registered on December 12th 1927. By the time he had arrived in Edinburgh he had graduated B.Sc. from the renowned black university Lincoln, Pennsylvania, in the same year, 1928.

Although he only moved to Edinburgh in the autumn of 1928 by the following year – aged around only twenty-two - in October 1929 - he married his wife Annette aged approximately eighteen. Come early the following year on the 5th of February 1930 their daughter Annette Junior was born which suggests Annette was already four months pregnant when they wed.

One would need the pen of a skilled and imaginative novelist to do the story justice but it can’t but raise comparisons with A.P.’s illegitimate son Lewie born three years earlier in 1925 when he would have been around eighteen having just left L’Overture High School McAlester Oklahoma.

Perhaps if he were to have married the lady it would have prevented him from going into further education – one of those major crossroads in life – and if he had not done so and gone on that journey there would have been no Dr Motley in Oxgangs and the lives of thousands of his patients would have been very different and we who knew and loved him, well our lives would have been very different.

Further to this and as I reflected on A.P’s journey taken, there came a different twist in the road – one of those situations that was there – not hidden – but as far as I had been concerned, hidden in plain sight.

Because he had gone to the University of Edinburgh I had simply assumed that he had graduated from that esteemed institution – MB, ChB or MD. However, in fact he didn’t graduate at all begging the question that he may have failed those ferociously tough and much feared exams.

I’m unaware of how many years he spent at the University of Edinburgh but from some of my earlier research we do know he was listed as being a medical intern at the Royal Hospital Edinburgh in 1935. An intern is normally someone who has completed a medical degree but is not yet able to practice, which if that premise is correct adds to the mystery – perhaps his B.Sc. allowed him to do so?

But what we do know (from The Medical Directory) is that he passed the L.M.S.S.A. (Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery of the Society of Apothecaries) examination in 1939 – a surprising five years later - which allowed him to thereafter practice medicine.

The Society of Apothecaries, under a charter granted by King James, was authorised to license doctors in Britain.  The Society does not, however, operate any medical schools.  Rather, they conduct exams, and if the applicant passes the test, they are licensed to practice medicine. Apparently, people who fail their university medical exams often took the Society of Apothecaries test.’

And thus ‘the LMSSA functioned as an alternative to the usual system and was frequently used by graduates of foreign medical schools who wished to practice in Britain, as well as by people who failed their exams at British universities.  Apparently, there was little scope for retaking a failed exam.   The last Society of Apothecaries exam was given in 1999 and the Society's legal authority to certify doctors was revoked in 2008.  People already holding LMSSAs are allowed to continue to practice medicine.’ Peter Richards described it as non university examinations as ‘convenient insurance policies or late lifebelts.’

Going back to Dr Motley’s period as an intern in 1935, he, Annette and Annette Junior were living at 275 Leith Walk. That period - 1928 to 1935 begs such questions as to how the young A.P. was able to fund his travel to Scotland, the cost of studying here, living expenses etc. etc. Did he receive a scholarship? I suspect not. But looking back it must have been expensive and a challenge for him to support his young family - perhaps he had to work in part time jobs – a heavy burden when combined with onerous studies.

Between 1935 and 1939 the family moved out to the south of the city to Colinton Mains, set in the lea of the Pentland Hills, one of the newly developed areas of the city as Edinburgh began to spread her wings. Their new home was at 356 Colinton Mains Road, one of the Gumley houses. The family remained there until just before 1960 when he and Annette moved into the medical practice at McAlester Cottage which was listed as number 250 Oxgangs Road North in the 1960 Electoral Roll and as number 300 in the following Electoral Roll in 1965.

One further interesting snippet from The Medical Directory is that it lists him as having been the Honorary Medical Officer at Colinton Mains First Aid Post. Without having the knowledge that reference begs further questions. What were First Aid Posts? And what were Honorary Medical Officers? Given that he had qualified in 1939 when he became fully qualified to practice medicine was that his starting date in this post or was it from before then? Whatever, it paved the way for him to open his Oxgangs practice at McAlester Cottage, presumably after the Second World War.

I may be wrong, but the house – McAlester Cottage (clearly re-named by Dr Motley after he purchased it to remind him of his home and upbringing in America) - was designed by the architect A.A. Foot in 1927 for a J.C. Gibson Esq.

Passing the L.M.S.S.A enabled Dr Motley to join the army in 1941 in the R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps). He was appointed as a Lieutenant on the 27th September 1941 and whilst serving would have been a Captain. 

He was awarded the War Medal 1939-1945 and the 1939-45 Star for operational service.

So, with grateful thanks to Betty’s ‘ripple in the pond’ has helped to facilitate adding some further fascinating little snippets into the legendary and much loved Dr Motley’s story and of his earlier journey through life including when he first stepped onto Scottish shores – of his subsequent marriage to Annette and the birth of their daughter Annette Junior and a small insight into her teenage life – and also that he didn’t graduate from the University of Edinburgh.

I await to see what further ripples this small vignette makes – I’m sure there must be more water to flow under the bridge!

1 comment:

Linda said...

Aww what a great man he was. My very first Dr.
So kind and patient.