Morpathia: The latest article about the Morpeth Dispensary

Mr Frederick Barrow, MRCS, LSA, was the house surgeon of Morpeth Dispensary from October 1873 to December 1876.

By Roger Hawkins
Friday, 29th July 2022, 6:33 pm
The preliminary hearings were held at the Magistrates’ Court.
The preliminary hearings were held at the Magistrates’ Court.

On January 12, 1876 he presented the medical report for 1875 to the annual meeting of Governors and Subscribers. It showed that there had been 449 patients admitted, of whom 390 were cured, 24 relieved, five were irregular and 24 had died, including six above 60 years of age.

We do not have the figures, but the other 18 deaths were probably mostly of young children.

The Dispensary was not incorporated and could not hold property in its own name. Two of the three Trustees had died, so William Orde, Esq. of Nunnykirk and the Rev. Mr Lawson of Longhirst were appointed to act with the one surviving trustee, A.J.B. Cresswell Esq.

The Gilboy brothers lived at Bullers Green.

Mr Orde was also elected a Vice President in the place of his relation Charles William Orde Esq., lately deceased, and Colonel Atkinson of Angerton, a great- nephew of Ralph Atkinson, Esq., the founder of the Dispensary, as another.

Dr Barrow was sociably inclined and enjoyed dancing. On December 13, 1875, the new Masonic Hall was opened in Copper Chare.

It contained two public halls, two dwelling houses of two rooms each for the caretakers and a Lodge room with its own ante-room.

The opening event was a ball under the patronage of Earl and Countess Percy. Upwards of 70 were present, including Dr Barrow.

In February 1876, a spelling bee was held in the Town Hall with proceeds to the Dispensary. The Mayor, aldermen, councillors and other gentlemen donated the prizes so that all the proceeds could go to the Dispensary.

Songs were performed in the intervals and Dr Barrow sang ‘The Manly Heart’ as a duet with Miss Kirkup. The spelling bee raised seven guineas for the Dispensary, equal to about £700 now.

In May, the Morpeth Society of Change Ringers rang a complete peal in Bob minor, 720 changes, when Dr Barrow was the ringer on the treble bell.

“This,” said the Morpeth Herald, “is the first time a complete peal has been rung on the Morpeth bells, as far as is known.”

In July, he was involved with a serious case of assault:

“At Morpeth, between Thursday night the 13th and Friday morning the 14th inst., a savage assault is alleged to have been committed by Michael Gilboy upon his half-brother, James Gilboy.

“It appears from what was seen by Michael Gilboy, seven years of age, son of James Gilboy, that the two men had had some drink on Thursday evening and quarrelled on reaching home, at Buller’s Green, where the parties live in the same house – the one occupying the downstairs and the other the upstairs room of the house.

“Young Gilboy states that he saw his uncle strike his father with a poss-stick on the head, and knock him into a corner. He saw the women-people afterwards washing the blood of (sic) the poss-stick.

“The left eye of James Gilboy was quite closed up, and he is said to be suffering from a fracture of the skull. ... The police went up to Gilboy’s, on Saturday morning, for the purpose of having his deposition taken, but he was then lying insensible.”

On the Monday, at Morpeth Gaol, Dr Barrow told the Bench that he had seen the wounded man when he was first injured, and again on the Sunday. He had recovered consciousness a good deal, but was in a precarious condition and could not appear.

“In reply to Col. Mitford,” the Herald reported, “Dr Barrow said the man was conscious enough to have his deposition taken. ... The prisoner was then taken in

custody to the house of the complainant, and the depositions were taken before the magistrates by Mr. Alderson. ...

“The poss-stick ... was produced at the court by Sergt. Robertson, and is an ordinary four-footed poss-stick, with one of the feet broken off.”

The case came up again on the 24th, when Dr Barrow said the patient was still confined to his bed and not yet out of danger. The prisoner was remanded for another week.

On August 2, it finally came before the magistrates:

“Michael Gilboy, seven years of age, son of the complainant, spoke to seeing the prisoner strike his father on the forehead, above the left eye, with a poss-stick, which made him fall into a corner. …

“Dr Barrow and Sergeant Robertson having been called and given evidence, the Bench sent the prisoner for trial at the Assizes. Prisoner said he remembered nothing at all about the matter. He recollected nothing after being at the White Swan public-house.”

The case was heard at the Newcastle Winter Assizes on December 6, and had an unexpected ending. The Newcastle Daily Chronicle tells all:

“A Brotherly Quarrel. ... The prisoner and the prosecutor are half-brothers and the former lives in the room above the one occupied by his relative.

“James appeared in the witness-box, and pleaded hard that nothing should be done to his brother.

“He said they both had had some drink. He wanted the prisoner to go upstairs to his own house, and took up the poker to give him a ‘bat’ with it to make him go quietly. The prisoner, on the other hand, gave him a knock on the head with a stick, and that was all that passed. There was no enmity between them at all.

“Mr Edge said he was instructed that the assault was more serious than the prosecutor wished to make it appear, but after some discussion he said he could not press the charge, and the jury accordingly returned a verdict of not guilty.”

Morpeth Dispensary – a history, 282 pages, with 27 black-and-white illustrations, is now available at Newgate News, priced £10.