For Jim Beirne, MBE, April 2021 marks a 21 year career milestone as he steps down as Chief Executive of Live Theatre.
Back in 1973, Live Theatre were a touring company presenting new material to new audiences in non-theatre venues. They toured the North East performing in social clubs, community venues and schools and offered what Emeritus Creative Director Max Roberts describes as “an authentic working-class experience that [he’d] never encountered in the theatre before”. A shift towards new writing started in the early to mid-70s when the company moved from its initial home in Gateshead to join Amber Films on the Quayside. Around this time, they started working with writers like Tom Hadaway, a fish-merchant and writer, from North Shields who started to write plays for the Company. Live Theatre moved away from creating their own work and became writer-led in their approach to theatre. Tom Hadaway was the first of many esteemed writers to become a Writer in Residence at Live Theatre, the ranks of which include C.P. Taylor, Lee Hall, Julia Darling and Sean O’Brien.
By 2000, Live Theatre excelled in supporting new writers, but its financial future was uncertain. Jim Beirne joined the company in 2000, and his time as Chief Executive saw him develop a ‘new vision, new direction and a new business model’ for the theatre, and oversee ‘an outstanding programme of work that celebrates and is dedicated to presenting new stories with a strong social and political focus’ (https://www.live.org.uk/blogs-resources/jim-beirne-steps-down-live-theatre-chief-executive-after-21-years-helm). Beirne saw the theatre undergo a full refurbishment which was completed in 2007, and the opening of a series of new developments including St Vincent’s café and The Broad Chare pub, as well as The Schoolhouse, Live Works, Live Tales and Live Garden to create the Live Quarter in Newcastle Quayside. In 2011, Jim received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Northumbria University and in 2012 he was awarded an MBE for his service to theatre. This month, Jim Beirne leaves Live Theatre as a cultural institution with an international reputation as a new writing theatre; known for producing new plays and nurturing creative talent.
More details on our Live Theatre archive, which includes play scripts, photographs, correspondence, and papers relating to the growth and development of the Theatre at their Quayside location, can be found here.
March 1921 marked a key milestone in the history of the Middle East and Iraq, and one in which Gertrude Bell played an important role. The key event was the Cairo Conference, where British officials met to discuss the political situation and agree on the future political makeup of the region.
The conference took place between the 12th and 30th of March in Cairo, Egypt. Key attendees included (Sir) Winston Churchill (at the time Secretary of State for the Colonies), T.E. Lawrence (Special Advisor to the Colonial Office), Sir Percy Cox (High Commissioner of Iraq) and Gertrude Bell herself who had previously been appointed as Oriental Secretary for the High Commissioner of Iraq. Gertrude Bell already had a working relationship with Percy Cox dating back several years to their time spent together in Basra and Baghdad during the First World War where she worked under him using knowledge gained over the preceding years of the local tribal populations and their politics to advise the British leadership.
We know a great deal of Gertrude’s thoughts, opinions and involvement in the conference and middle eastern politics thanks to the letters she wrote throughout her life to family members which were retained, and then passed to Newcastle University after her death in 1926. The university also holds several thousand photographs and diaries chronicling her time travelling and working overseas, often in a great deal of detail.
Gertrude’s letter of the 12th of March 1921 includes detail of her arrival in Cairo and the Semiramis hotel, and her first evening spent reacquainting with some of the other attendees at the conference:
T.E. Lawrence and others met us at the station – I was glad to see him! We retired at once to my bedroom and had an hour’s talk after which I had a long talk with Clementine while Sir P. [Sir Percy Cox] was closetted [sic] with Mr Churchill. The latter I haven’t seen yet, for he was dining out. I had Gen. Clayton to dinner and a good talk, with an amusing evening afterwards.
Busy with conference proceedings, and a visit from her father who had travelled to Cairo to see Gertrude, her next letters were written after the end of the conference whilst travelling back to Baghdad. In a letter to Lieutenant Colonel Frank Balfour Gertrude writes of the conference:
Mr Churchill was admirable, most ready to meet everyone half way and masterly alike in guiding a big meeting and in conducting the small political committees into which we broke up. Not the least favourable circumstance was that Sir Percy and I, coming out with a definite programme, found when we came to open our packets that it coincided exactly with that which the S. of S. had brought with him. The general line adopted is, I am convinced, the only right one, the only line which gives real hope of success. We are now going back to find Baghdad, I expect, at a fever pitch of excitement, to square the Naqib and to convince Saiyid Talib, if he is convinceable, that his hopes are doomed to disappointment – it’s a disappointment which will be confined to himself. But I feel certain that we shall have the current of Nationalist opinion in our favour and I’ve no doubt of success.
As Gertrude suggests in her letter written on the 25th of March, the plan that was agreed for the future of Middle East and in particular the formation of the country of Iraq aligned closely with her own vision and ideas including the appointment of Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi as the first king of Iraq. Indeed a month later on the 17th of April, when back in Baghdad, Gertrude wrote to her father saying “I’m happy in helping to forward what I profoundly Bellieve [sic] to be the best thing for this country and the wish of the best of its people”. In the same letter she also described her role in the arrest and subsequent exile of Talib al-Naqib who had objected to the British plan for Iraq and threatened a rebellion.
While the extent to which her input influenced the eventual solution can be debated, that the solution she advocated closely reflected the outcome of the conference is reflected in her writing from the time of the conference and the preceding months and years.
Gertrude Bell achieved much as a woman in the early 20th Century, including exploits in mountaineering, travelling and recording middle eastern culture and archaeology, enabled greatly by her privileged upbringing which allowed her the time, finances and social connections to develop her interests. Despite her many remarkable achievements in spheres dominated by men, she was also a prominent anti-suffrage campaigner. This aspect of Gertrude Bell’s life has been explored through an online exhibition curated by a student studying an English Literature ‘Exhibiting Texts’ module and can be found here.
Transcripts of Gertrude Bell’s letters and diaries, and the digitised versions of Gertrude Bell’s collection of photographs can be found on our dedicated Gertrude Bell website by clicking here.
Other blog posts focussing Gertrude Bell and her archive include a post featuring a letter written in 1920 including her thoughts on the Middle Eastern political situation at the time, found here, and a longer post exploring Gertrude’s involvement in the the First World War, found here.
Of course, this year has been a bit different, and while we hope to welcome you all back to our reading room soon, in the meantime you might be interested to know you can still access our content using our Virtual Reading Room service.
However we appreciate that you might find it easier just now to work from resources which are remotely accessible, and so we wanted to highlight the following content from our collections, all of which is available online.
If you have any questions about these resources, or using Special Collections and Archives more generally, you can get in touch with us using Library Help.
Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #1: Gertrude Bell Archive
Gertrude Bell was an archaeologist, explorer and diplomat in the early 20th Century. Bell initially travelled in the Middle East to support her interest in archaeology, and gained substantial knowledge of languages and Arab cultures. This led to British Intelligence asking her to support their work with her knowledge of the region and the people who lived there during the First World War. After the war, Bell continued to work in a diplomatic position, and was extremely influential in the establishment of Modern day Iraq.
Bell frequently wrote to her family at home, as well as keeping extensive diaries and taking many photographs. Copies of the photographs and transcripts of the diaries and letters are freely available on a dedicated website.
‘Broadside’ is a term applied to cheaply printed, single sided sheets of paper. Often used to convey news or political opinions, they are a valuable insight into popular culture. Special Collections and Archives has a substantial collection of mostly 19th Century Broadsides, most of which are digitized and available to view and search online. The majority of them were produced here in the North East, and provide a fascinating insight into contemporary concerns and local events, but also how information was communicated. As well as electioneering ephemera and propaganda, the broadsides include reward notices for the capture of criminals, announcements of events, and entertainment in the form of comic and tragic songs, known as ‘Broadside Ballads’.
Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #3: Jane Loraine’s Recipe Book
Dating from the 1680s this manuscript (handwritten) recipe book includes recipes for food and medicinal products. The handwriting suggests multiple authors, but the majority has been attributed to Jane Loraine, a member of the Loraine family from Kirkharle, in Northumberland. The value of recipe books as sources for subjects beyond food history is still being explored, but it provides opportunities to explore subjects as diverse as gender issues (as examples of women’s writing) and empire (exploring ingredient availability).
Jane Loraine’s Recipe Book is available in full on CollectionsCaptured, but has also been adapted into a searchable digital edition which provides transcripts, contextual information and signposts wider reading.
Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #4: Local Illustrations
Our Local Illustration Collection brings together engravings and other illustrations from the 18th and 19th Century which depict landmarks and landscapes from the North East. They offer the opportunity to explore changes in the region during a period of vast technological change, but also how urban and rural landscapes were depicted. Insights into contemporary society can also be taken from the figures which appear in the images.
Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #5: Trevelyan Family Albums
The Trevelyan family were based at Wallington Hall Northumberland, now a National Trust property. The property was donated to the Trust by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, a Member of Parliament, Education Secretary and campaigner against Britain’s involvement in World War I. Trevelyan’s wife Mary Trevelyan (nee Bell – half-sister of Gertrude Bell), kept family photograph albums and scrapbooks from the late 19th Century until her death in 1965. They provide an insight into the life of a politically active landed family in the North East in the early 20th Century. The albums offer the opportunity to explore gender roles and childhood in the aristocracy, travel and empire (through albums depicting Charles’ ‘Grand Tour’ to North America, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand) and the activity of collecting and memorialising family life.
Many of the photograph albums can be browsed and text searched on our Page Turners platform, and cover nearly 70 years of family life.
Newcastle University acquired the archive of Bloodaxe Books in 2013, an archive dating back to 1978 and the beginnings of this internationally important poetry publisher. The Poetics of the Archive offers innovative ways to explore digitised content from this archive. Through BOOKS, you can browse a library of Bloodaxe’s titles and a wealth of digitised poetry in process towards its final published form. WORDS uses the text of the digitized items to suggest links, whilst SHAPES allows you to view or interact with the shape poems make on the page. DATA takes you beyond this archive to discover where else Bloodaxe authors have been published. In the GALLERY and RESEARCH sections you will be able to link to new works that animate and respond creatively to the archive (interviews, films, photos, artwork, texts).
The Courier Archive is a website containing over 70 years of back issues of Newcastle University’s student paper, The Courier. All the issues are text searchable and downloadable as PDFs. They provide the opportunity to explore campus life at the University, but also to track wider social change.
The book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin was one of the first English-language children’s book to discuss male homosexuality and inadvertently played a significant role in one of the most difficult and controversial episodes in the history of the struggle for equality for LGBT people in the UK.
Written by Danish author Susanne Bösche and first published in Danish in 1981, the book was published in English in 1983 by Gay Men’s Press, intended to help reduce anti-gay prejudice and to be a resource to facilitate discussion with children about homosexuality.
Special Collections’ copy of Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin is held in the Alderson (Brian) Collection of children’s books, and demonstrates how a book may become politicised owing to its content and the context in which it is viewed, in this particular book’s case, having become a weapon in a war over the teaching of sexuality in schools.
The story describes a few days in the life of five-year-old Jenny, her father, Martin, and his partner Eric who lives with them. Jenny’s mother Karen lives nearby and often visits. It covers their various day-to-day activities, including going to the laundrette together; playing a game of lotto; preparing a surprise birthday party for Eric; and Eric and Martin having a minor argument and making up. There is also a conversation with a passer-by who expresses homophobic disgust when meeting the family in the street, the subject of a later discussion between Eric and Jenny.
That the 1980s was a time of rising negative sentiments towards homosexuality in the UK is well-documented. In 1986 a copy of Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin was made available by the Inner London Education Authority in a teachers’ centre specifically for the use of teachers who wanted to know more about gay or lesbian parents. In response to this, various national newspapers inaccurately reported that the book was being made available in school libraries.
The ensuing controversy, including the condemnation of the book’s availability by the Secretary of State for Education, resulted in fear that the book was being used as “homosexual propaganda”, and made a major contribution towards the Conservative Government’s subsequent passing of the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which forbade the promotion of homosexuality by local government and in schools in England, Wales and Scotland.
Attitudes towards sexuality and sexual minorities have shifted a great deal over the decades since the passing of Section 28, which was reviled by many far beyond the gay community itself. Now largely held to have been an unnecessary and unjust assault on civil rights, the legislation was repealed in 2003, and in 2009 the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron apologised publicly for it.
Bösche, Susanne. Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin (Gay Men’s Press, 1983)
This blog was inspired by the simple question of ‘who was the first woman to gain a medical degree from the College of Medicine at Newcastle?’ In fact not so simple a question! The history of women’s medical education in Britain is a complex, fraught, and litigious one as women were forced to fight separately for access to medical education; for access to the medical profession; and for access to various closed branches of medicine. Rather than one ‘first woman’ there are therefore a group of several ‘first women’, as the College of Medicine at Newcastle expanded the award of its medical degrees firstly to women who had already received a medical education at non-degree awarding women’s medical colleges; then opening it’s medical programme to women, and finally admitting women to the various higher medical degrees and specialisms.
Thank you to research volunteer (and retired member of Library staff!) Alan Callender for this blog piece and for all of the hours of painstaking research behind it. Information was gathered using our collection of student registers and medical college class lists (Newcastle University Archive) together with information kindly given through family research.
Women’s access to the medical profession in the Nineteenth Century
By the mid-19th Century there were two significant barriers to British women becoming doctors – firstly access to a medical education, and secondly access to the registration process that enabled them to practice.
In 1834 when the ‘School of Medicine and Surgery at Newcastle’ was established, women were barred from a British medical education. However, until the middle of the century it was possible to gain a medical education abroad and return to practice in Britain without registration. The gradual opening of medical education to women in both Europe and the USA during this period increasingly made this route viable (for those with money to travel).
1858 Medical Act – The Creation of the Medical Register and a new barrier for women. This Act sought to professionalise medicine by formalising the educational requirements to practice medicine in Britain. However, by placing registration in the hands of those institutions who already prohibited women’s medical education, it acted as an insurmountable barrier to British women wishing to practice medicine. In 1865 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) used a loophole to force the Society of Apothecaries to grant her registration. The society promptly closed this route and with it any options for women to legally practice medicine in Britain.
1869 the ‘Edinburgh Seven’ attempt to gain a medical education at a British University. In 1869 a group of seven women led by Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1913) gained admittance to Edinburgh University and were allowed to attend some medical classes and take some medical examinations. As they progressed controversy grew as various sympathetic supporters (including much of the public press) pitted against opponents to the idea of women doctors. The fight was long and complex as Sophia Jex-Blake fought to access various routes, whilst the University responded each time by trying to close these routes. Eventually in 1873 the women lost their campaign. Despite having completed their medical degree courses the High Court ruled that Edinburgh University could not be forced to award medical degrees to women.
1874 The first British Medical College for Women is established. In 1874 Sophia Jex-Blake and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson founded the London School of Medicine for Women. Finally women had access to a medical education. However the College could not award degrees, and for students of the college the bar on medical registration still remained.
1877 A route to the registration of female doctors is established. In 1876, the ‘Enabling Act’ was passed which stated that the nineteen British medical examining bodies were permitted to accept women candidates but were not compelled to do so. In 1877, the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland became the first British medical qualification body to admit women for examination. In the same year, an agreement was reached with the Royal Free Hospital that allowed students at the London School of Medicine for Women to complete their clinical studies there.
The 1870s and 1880s and the growth of women’s medical schools. Once a route for both the education and registration of women had been established, three further colleges of medicine for women were established: 1886 Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women; 1888 Medical College for Women Edinburgh; 1890 Glasgow School of Medicine for Women (Queen Margaret College).
1880s and 1890s Women begin to access University education. Meanwhile, in 1867 the establishment of the North of England Council for Promoting Higher Education for Women had started the movement for opening university lectures to women, and by the 1880s and 1890s women were increasingly allowed to study at British universities. However, despite gaining admittance, and even passing university examinations, women were not allowed to be awarded degrees. This was significant for women wishing to study to medicine, as the refusal to award a degree meant an effective bar to the profession. In 1878 the University of London finally granted a supplementary charter to enable the admission of women to degree programmes, followed in 1895 by Durham University (the College of Medicine at Newcastle having by this time become a college of Durham University).
1890s and 1900s The growth of regional co-educational medical education. The opening of degrees to women in British universities did not necessarily mean that these women were allowed access to medical courses. In fact the University of London, the first University to grant women access to its degrees, did not admit women to its Medical Faculty for a further 39 years. Interestingly however, Durham started to accept women onto their medical degrees immediately. And in line with Durham various other northern universities also began to open their medical schools to women in the early 1900s. Equally significantly, most did not create a separate medical school for women as the early Scottish colleges had done. For women this was the start of a trend towards both co-educational medical training for men and women, and the growth of the role of regional universities in providing women with medical training.
Many other barriers were to present themselves over the next century, but we’ll stop there for now! And celebrate our pioneering medical graduates:
Our first female medical student 1892
The first female student – Edith Blanche Joel – appears on the student register at the College of Medicine. She appears again during the academic years of 1893/4 and 1894/5. However, at this time she would not have been permitted to graduate.
Our first women MBBS’s (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery), 1898 and 1902
In 1896 three students from the London School of Medicine for Women, unable to graduate from this institution, registered at the College of Medicine at Newcastle to complete their medical degrees: Grace Harwood Stewart, Margaret Joyce, and Claudia Anita Prout. All three take their medical examinations and graduate in 1898. In 1896 Mary Evelyn De Russett also appears on the student register as a first year. In April 1902 she became the first female medical student to graduate who had undertaken all of her medical training at Newcastle.
Grace Harwood Stewart (Billings) (1873 – 1957) was born at Portishead in Somerset, one of nine children to James and Louisa Stewart. Following her graduation from the Newcastle, she registered as a medical practitioner on 11 November 1898. Grace married Frederick Walter Billings, a builder, in 1899 and the same year established her medical practice at 3 Pittville Parade Cheltenham – the first woman to set up a medical practice in Gloucestershire. She went on to have a remarkable career and in addition to running her own practice was also a medical officer of the Cheltenham Infant Welfare Association and, a pioneer in family planning, she eventually set up the Cheltenham Municipal Women’s Welfare Clinic. During the First World War she was in charge of the St Martin’s V.A.D Hospital and was a locum anaesthetist at the Cheltenham General Hospital. Grace retired in 1936. Her daughter, Brenda, became a GP in Cheltenham and then School Medical Officer for Gloucestershire County Council. Her son, Stewart, had a distinguished naval career, becoming a Rear Admiral. He was awarded the CBE in 1953. She died on the 13 June 1957 at the Douro Nursing Home in Cheltenham aged 84. A great biography of Grace with some fabulous details about her amazing life can be seen here.
Margaret Joyce was born in Blackfordby, Burton-on-Trent in 1873. Following her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a Medical Practitioner on 18 November 1898. Margaret was in practice in Burton-on-Trent, and then became House Surgeon at the New Hospital for Women in London. She was subsequently in practice for many years in Liverpool and then Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Margaret died on 28 August 1966 at Syston in Leicestershire.
Claudia Anita Prout Rowse (Bell) was born in Hackney, London in 1873, one of five children. Following her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a medical practitioner on 15 November 1898. Claudia married Hubert Bell, a shipping agent in Chinkiang, China in 1910. The marriage register states that Claudia had been resident in China for 12 years at this point. Claudia died on 30 October 1950 at Reigate, Surrey.
Mary Evelyn De Russett (Howie) was born in Blackheath c.1872, although the family later moved the Tynemouth. Following her graduation from Newcastle, she registered as a medical practitioner on 9 May 1902. Mary married a doctor in 1902, John Coulson Howie, and together they ran a practice in Glasgow. After John’s death in 1912 the family moved to Newport. In 1920 she was appointed Maternity and Child Welfare Medical Officer for Durham County, a post which she held until her retirement. It should be noted that this post was open to her only because she was a widow, the Civil Service Marriage Bar prohibiting the employment of married women until it was abolished in 1946. Mary died in the Leazes Hospital in Newcastle on 7 September 1946.
Our first Women MDs (Doctor of Medicine), 1903and 1906
An MD is a higher doctorate or research doctorate. In 1903 Selina Fitzherbert Fox, became the first woman to graduate with an MD from Newcastle. Selina had undertaken her initial training at the London School of Medicine for Women before transferring to Newcastle to complete her MBBS in 1899 and then proceeding to her MD. In 1906 Sophia Bangham Jackson became the first woman to gain her MD who had undertaken all of her medical training at the Newcastle College.
Selina Fitzherbert Fox was born in 1871. After her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a medical practitioner on 10 May 1899. Selina worked as an Assistant Medical Officer for the Zanana Bible and Medical Mission between 1900 and 1901 but returned to Britain because of ill health. She settled in Bermondsey and worked at the Church Missionary Society’s medical centre until it closed. As there was still the need for medical care for women and children in the area, Selina founded the Bermondsey Medical Mission in 1904 and was awarded an M.B.E for her work as its founder and director on 1 January 1938. Selina died at Bermondsey Medical Mission Hospital on 27 December 1958. A family blog about Selina and the campaign for a Blue Plaque to honour her can be seen here and here.
Sophia Bangham Jackson (Smith) was born in Finsbury Park in 1877. Following her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a medical practitioner on 12 November 1904. Sophie practiced in Thornton Heath, Chingford and then Selsden. She married Frederick B Smith in 1939 and died on 18 January 1952 at Selsden.
Our first women to be awarded a Bachelor of Hygiene, 1902 and 1909
In September 1902 Emeline Da Cunha, who had gained her Licence in Medical Surgery from Bombay University in 1894, became one of two ‘first women’ to be awarded a Bachelor of Hygiene from the College of Medicine at Newcastle. Joining her was Esther Molyneux Stuart who had undertaken her initial medical training at Edinburgh University. The first woman to be awarded a Bachelor of Hygiene who had completed all of her undergraduate training in Newcastle was Gertrude Ethel O’Brien who gained her MB in 1908 and subsequently her Bachelor of Hygiene and Diploma in Public Health in 1909.
Emeline Da Cunha was born in Panjim, India in 1873 and was awarded her initial Licence in Medicine and Surgery at Bombay University in 1894, funded by the Medical Women for India Fund. She later graduated from Newcastle with a B.Hy in 1902 and registered as a medical practitioner in England on 30 September 1901. From entries in the Medical Register it would appear that Emeline then returned to India to continue her career.
Esther Molyneux Stuart (Parkinson) was born in Liverpool on 19 January 1877. Esther registered as a medical practitioner on 4 August 1899 following her graduation from Edinburgh University, and in 1902 graduated from Newcastle with her B.Hy. She married Thomas Parkinson in 1903 and died on 19 September 1912 at Benton in Northumberland.
Following her graduation from Newcastle Gertrude Ethel O’Brien (Bartlett) registered as a medical practitioner on 15 August 1908. She married Robert Bartlett, and died on 19 February 1953 in Barnet.
Our first women to be awarded a Diploma in Public Health, 1908and 1909
In April 1908 Lilian Mary Chesney (M.B. Ch.B. Edinburgh University 1899) became the first Newcastle female graduate to be awarded a Diploma in Public Health. One year later in 1909 Gertrude Ethel O’Brien became the first woman who had undertaken all of her medical training at Newcastle to receive this award.
Lillian Mary Chesney was born in Harrow in 1869. Following her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a medical practitioner on 31 July 1899 and subsequently set up a practice in Harley Street. Later in life Lillian moved her practice to Sheffield and then to Palma de Majorca in Spain. During the First World War Lillian served as a doctor in the Kragujevac (Serbia) Unit 1914-1915 and the London (Russia and Serbia) Unit from 1916-1917. Thanks to the research of John Lines whose great aunt, Margaret Box, also served with the SWH, we have evidence that by October 1918 Dr Chesney appears to be running the hospital in Skopje (Serbia) for the SWH. Margaret refers to Dr Chesney in several of her wartime letters and calls her “our chief”. Lillian died on 20 December in Mallorca, Spain.
Our first women to be awarded a Master of Surgery, 1911and 1923
In 1911 Charlotte Purnell was awarded a Master of Surgery, having undertaken her initial training at the London School of Medicine for Women before transferring to Newcastle. In 1904 Ruth Nicholson started her medical course at the College of Medicine at Newcastle, gaining her MBBS 1909, and BHy., D.P.H. in 1911. In 1923 she became the first woman to gain a Master of Surgery who had undertaken all of her initial medical training at Newcastle.
Charlotte Purnell was born in Dursley, Gloucestershire c1869. Following her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a medical practitioner on 13 April 1908. For most of her medical career Charlotte worked in Church Mission Society hospitals in Palestine and Transjordan. Her work was recognised by the award of the O.B.E in 1933. Charlotte died on 20 June 1944 in Amman in Transjordan.
Ruth Nicholson was born in Newcastle in 1885, one of six children. Following her graduation from Newcastle she registered as a medical practitioner on 16 September 1909. Before the First World War she practiced in Palestine, but returned to England at the start of the War, subsequently serving as Surgeon and Second in Command of the Royaumont Military Hospital in France. For this work she was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille d’Honneur des Épidémies by the French government. After the war she specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology as Clinical Lecturer and Gynaecological Surgeon at the University of Liverpool with consultant appointments at Liverpool hospitals. She was a founder member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1929, being elevated to fellow of the College in 1931. Ruth died on 16 July 1963 in Exeter. A blog about Ruth’s fascinating life story can be seen here.
You may also be interested in an accompanying blog piece by Alan discussing the largely un-credited role of our female graduates in WWI: They also served…
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a ghost story, and this month’s treasure provides just that. The Alleged Haunting of B— House was published in 1899 and compiles first-hand accounts of events perceived by guests, staff and tenants at Ballechin House, Perthshire, in the 1890s.
In 1892 Ballechin came to the attention of The Marquess of Bute via a priest who had experienced sleepless nights there, having been disturbed by unexplained noises. Bute had an interest in the occult and was part of the Society for Psychical Research (S.P.R.). Five years later, Bute leased Ballechin to enable members of the Society and selected guests to visit as part of an investigation to record any perceived phenomena for a sustained period. Ada Goodrich Freer, another member of the S.P.R., arrived at Ballechin with a friend on the 2nd of February 1897. She and other visitors maintained journals and wrote letters during their stay. These first-hand accounts, made between February and May 1897, along with reflections from the editors (Freer and Bute), make up the core of the book.
The book relates sounds, visions and other occurrences experienced by occupants of Ballechin during the tenancy. The visitors engage in hypnotisms, Ouija Boards, crystal gazing and automatic writing. An appendix records nearly 100 ‘audible phenoma (see images below)’, including shrieks, groans, crashes and (less traditionally scary) ‘monotonous reading’. As editors, Freer and Bute stated that they offered ‘no conclusions. This volume has been put together, as the house at B—was taken, not for the establishment of theories, but for the record of facts’.
Shortly after the end of the tenancy, on June 8th, an article entitled On the Trail of a Ghost appeared in The Times. Written by a visitor to Ballechin, it damned the investigation, insisting that any phenomena were either noises from the plumbing or created by other inhabitants. He particularly criticizes Freer, stating that ‘simply because she is a lady, and because she had her duties as hostess to attend to, she is unfit to carry out the actual work of investigating the phenomena in question.’ The author continues to denounce the S.P.R.s methods more generally as ‘extremely repulsive’, reliant on ‘gossip’ as evidence and of ‘degrading beings whom it calls “sensitives and mediums”.
Freer was disowned by the S.P.R following publication of this article. Frederic W H Myers, one of the founding members of the S.P.R. had also visited Ballechin during the investigations and ‘decided that there was no such evidence as could justify us in giving the results of the inquiry a place in our Proceedings’. Two years later, Freer and Bute still published this account of occurrences at Ballechin, including Myers’ statement in the opening pages. In the copy of the book held by Newcastle University, someone has added the name of Ballechin to the title page in pencil.
The Alleged Haunting of B– House is part of a collection created by neurologist and medical historian Edwin Clarke (1919-1996). Clarke’s collections reflect his varied interests and include books on medical history and North East England, as well as antiquarian material. This volume is from the Clarke (Edwin) Miscellaneous Collection, which brings together publications on the occult, ritual and folklore. Most of the books date from the 19th to the mid 20th Century. You can browse all of the books in the Clarke (Edwin) Miscellaneous Collection on Library Search.
Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections and Archives include several collections which contain materials with relevance to race equality issues. These are highlighted below, together with contextual resources such as blogposts and online exhibitions.
Jack Mapanje was born in Malawi in 1944, growing up in Kadango village in the Mangochi district.
He first started to write poetry from despair at the political situation in Malawi; his first collection, Of Chameleons and Gods, was published in the UK in 1981 by Heinemann. The collection was critically acclaimed around the world, but withdrawn from circulation in Malawi in June 1985 by the government of dictator Hastings Banda. In September 1987, Jack was arrested and detained without charge or trial in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi. During his imprisonment, Of Chameleons and Gods won the Rotterdam Poetry International Award in 1988, and Jack was subsequently also awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 1990, recognising his fight for freedom of expression. Despite an international campaign by numerous writers, linguists, and human rights activists, including Harold Pinter, Wole Soyinka, Susan Sontag, and Noam Chomsky amongst others, Jack was not released until May 1991, and was given no explanation of his detention. During his time in prison, he wrote his second collection of poetry, The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993), and much of his third, Skipping without Ropes (1998).
After leaving Malawi with his wife and children, Jack settled in Britain, where he has lived ever since, and has held numerous prestigious posts in universities, the first of these being a fellowship at the University of York in 1992. He was later an Honorary Visiting Professional Fellow in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where he taught a degree course between 1993 and 1996, and edited the collection Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (2002) based on this course. Jack held a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at Leeds Trinity University from 1999–2001, and has since held a post as Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literatures of Incarceration at Newcastle University. Most recently, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bedfordshire in 2015 and has held a Visiting Professorship post in the Faculty of Arts at York St John University.
In the Mapanje (Jack) Archive we hold material relating to his poetic works, items relating to his academic career in both Malawi and the UK, and perhaps most interestingly, correspondence written during and after his time held as prisoner of conscience.
A specialist in Caribbean art and literature, Anne Walmsley is a British editor, scholar, critic and author. Anne started her career in the late 1950s when she worked as a secretary for Faber and Faber.
Anne Walmsley participated in the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM), founded in 1966 by Kamau Braithwaite, John La Rose and Andrew Salkey. In 1985 she was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship to research CAM and in 1992 she was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Kent for her thesis on this, which was also published as a book entitled The Caribbean Artists Movement: A Literary and Cultural History, 1966-1971.
Anne Walmsley has contributed to a range of journals, literary magazines, exhibition catalogues and anthologies. The Walmsley (Anne) Archive holds a range of material including letters and reports from her time at Longman’s, her scrapbook from teaching at Westwood, research on CAM, and research on a range of Caribbean artists.
The Bloodaxe Books archive is considered one of the most exciting archives for contemporary poetry that exists. The material in the collection includes 592 boxes of original typescripts, editorial work, correspondence and examples of marketing, business and financial records dating from the 1970’s to the present day. These records represent authors and books that have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, including the T.S. Eliot Prize, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize. Bloodaxe is also known for its work with translated collections and American poetry, and have published responsively to cultural change in Britain, publishing some of the finest writers in the British-Caribbean and South-Asian diaspora. Another significant achievement is that Bloodaxe publish more female writers than any other British poetry publisher, at a 50:50 male:female ratio. The company has opened up poetry to thousands of new readers and the material held in the archive demonstrates how Bloodaxe Books has been able to achieve this.
The Cowen (Joseph) Tracts are almost two thousand pamphlets which were formerly owned by local (radical) M.P., Joseph Cowen (1829-1900). The tracts date mostly from the mid- to late-Nineteenth Century and reflect Cowen’s interest in the social, educational, political and economic issues of the day.
Included in the pamphlets are subjects on abolition and the slave trade, including material relating to Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born into slavery c. 1818 on a plantation in Talbot County, Maryland, USA. He becameone of the most famous intellectuals of his time. He advised Presidents and lectured to thousands on a range of causes, including women’s rights and Irish Home Rule. On 3 September 1838, Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore. He disguised himself as a sailor and headed north, travelling by train and boat, first to Philadelphia, then on to New York. Find out more about Frederick Douglass and Newcastle on the University’s website. You can find material from the Cowen Tracts, relating to Douglass on the library catalogue.
The Grey (2nd Earl) Tracts reflect the interests of their former owner, the 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845) whose Whig government was responsible for the 1832 Reform Act, 1833 Factory Act and the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.
The pamphlets cover a broad range of historical, social and economic subjects including colonial policy, public finance and banking, the Corn Laws and agriculture, poor relief, slavery, Catholicism, Ireland and the Greek Revolution.
A digital exhibition tells the story of the civil rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King Jr., receiving an honorary degree at Newcastle University in November 1967 using original photographs and documents from the University Archives.
Dr Martin Luther was assassinated shortly after 6pm on 4th April 1968, King was short dead in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. This is a blog post on the memorial service for Dr Martin Luther King, held at St. Thomas’ Church, Haymarket in Newcastle, 1968.
A blog post from Newcastle University students about the radical tradition in British children’s literature of the early twentieth century. This includes the includes the book, Blue Peter, which was written to tell a tale of marginalised minorities at the time of its production during the World War II.
“I’ve found the Chairman I want and that’s it”. The words of Sir Edward Boyle, the then Conservative Secretary of State for Education, upon first encountering Lady Bridget Plowden in 1963, which sums up in a nutshell Bridget and her innate ability to lead and influence.
Wife of wealthy industrialist Edwin Plowden and mother of four, Yorkshire-born Lady Bridget Plowden (nee Richmond) became a prominent public figure later in her life. Having initially focused her energies on her children and supporting her husband’s career, at the age of 53 she was appointed Chairman of the Central Advisory Council for Education (CACE), despite her lack of experience, by Sir Edward Boyle, after wowing him at a dinner party with her knowledge and enthusiasm.
It was an appointment which surprised many, but education became a passion and personal commitment for Bridget and an area in which she wielded great influence and brought about significant transformation.
The Plowden Report
The CACE was tasked with considering and reviewing all aspects of primary school education, which was held at the time to be undervalued and underfunded. Said to have been both an inspirational and a demanding Chair, Bridget presided over the compilation of a 1200-page report, Children and their Primary Schools, published in 1967.
The report, known most often by its unofficial name ‘The Plowden Report’, was ground-breaking and reshaped primary education in the UK. It advocated child-centred approaches to Education, stressing that “at the heart of the educational process lies the child“. It reduced class sizes, introduced classroom assistants, recommended annual school reports and abolished corporal punishment.
Although not everyone agreed with all the report’s recommendations, and aspects of the report have naturally since been superseded by more recent innovations and developments over time, The Plowden Report nonetheless remains a hugely significant and transformative milestone in the history of primary school education on the UK.
Education for Roma and Traveller Children
Amongst the many findings of The Plowden Report was that Roma and Traveller children were “the most severely deprived children in the country” and that, owing to their travelling lifestyle, they had worse access to education than any other minority group.
Determined to improve this situation and demonstrating a continuing and broader commitment to primary education, Bridget helped establish The Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT) in 1973. As the first Chair of ACERT’s steering committee, Bridget used her status and influence to create a positive environment for work towards improving the education of Roma and Travellers, shining a light on the issue and placing it firmly on the political map, benefitting huge numbers of children within the Roma and Traveller communities.
Broad field of interests
Bridget held a great many other public roles, including Vice-Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors (1970 – 1975) and Chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (1975 – 1980). Her broad field of interests also encompassed adult education, the care and resettlement of offenders, the role of voluntary work, young adult unemployment and training, and women and employment.
The Plowden (Lady Bridget) Archive
After her death 20 years ago this month (September 2020), Lady Plowden’s family generously gifted her archive to Newcastle University Library in 2003. An extensive and rich resource reflecting her many areas of concern, the catalogue to the archive is available to researchers via the Special Collections web pages. View the Lady Bridget Plowden Archive online.
marks 80 years since the creation of Puffin Books, which are the children’s
division of Penguin Books. The idea initially came about in 1939 after a
meeting between Noel Carrington and Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books,
with the creation of the company a year later.
The original idea was to publish a series of children’s non-fiction books which were a success. The first Puffin storybook was entitled Worzel Gummidge and appeared in 1941. During the early years Puffin Books encountered problems such as paper rationing during World War II and libraries still preferring hardback books rather than paperback.
its first editor, Eleanor Graham, Puffin aimed to publish 12 titles per year.
During the 1950s, stories which allowed children’s imaginations to wander were
published. Titles included Charlotte’s
Web and C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The
Witch and The Wardrobe.
the editorship of Kaye Webb, children’s publishing increased during the 1960s
from 151 to 1,213 titles which included reprints of such classics as The Hobbit . New titles at this time
included Stig of the Dump. A picture
book list and teenage fiction began to be published as well as the introduction
of The Puffin Book Club, which still
published during the 1970s and 1980s included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and
the Spot the Dog series.
titles include Harry and his Dinosaurs and
the Charlie and Lola series which
have both been televised. Roald Dahl’s
popularity as an author has led to an annual celebration which takes place on
Hugh Lee Pattinson (1796-1858) was born on 25th December 1796 at Alston, Cumberland, son of Thomas Pattinson, a retail trader, and Margaret Lee. Hugh Lee Pattinson gained some knowledge of electricity and at the age of seventeen constructed some electrical devices. He also studied chemistry especially in connection with metallurgy.
He took among the first-known photographic images of Niagara Falls and the Clifton Hotel. These early photographs were known as daguerreotypes. Daguerreotypes were produced using an early photographic process involving an iodine-sensitised silvered plate and mercury vapour. This photographic method does not permit reproduction so the images are unique.