Author Archives: Grant Buttars

About Grant Buttars

Grant Buttars, Deputy University Archivist

John MacLeod Durward, Queen’s Scholar

Enquiries are very much central to what we do.  As well as helping others with their own research, enquiries are often the means by which we learn something new about our own collections. Recently we received one about a (potential) former student, John Macleod Durward, who was recorded in the 1861 as being a Queen’s Scholar.

Newspaper accounts supplied by the enquirer also listed John as having received received various class prizes at the University in 1864 and 1865, including in Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric and English Literature and Mathematics, along with him being from Arbroath. However, we were unable to find him amongst our graduates and the term Queen’s Scholar seemed to have no relation with the University (our initial investigations only uncovered it as something relating to Westminster School).

Nevertheless we persitsed as John had clearly been at the University and we should have some record of him.  We discovered that he had in fact matriculated in Arts for the academic years 1863/4 and 1864/5.  So, this all tiednicely with the newspaper accounts but what about Queen’s Scholar?

Our colleages at the UK National Archives proved to be a vital part of our deliberations.  Their online guide to records of Teacher Training states:

“At 18 pupil-teachers could apply for the Queen’s/King’s Scholarship Examination (later the Preliminary Examination for the Certificate). Successful scholars had the opportunity of attending training colleges for two or three years.”

The University of Edinburgh did not offer teacher training in this period but there were two institutions in Edinburgh which did, the Church of Scotland Training College and the Free Church of Scotland Training College.  Both were forerunners to Moray House College/Institute, which is now part of the University but then were independent entities.

While the student records for the latter for this period have not survived, those for the former have.  Would we be lucky?  As you can see from the image below, we were.

Church of Scotland Training College: Report on Progress of Male Students

This places John at the Church of Scotland Training College in 1861 (the year he appeared on the census as Queen’s Scholar). John then attended the University for two years immediately after undertaking his teacher training.


Edinburgh University Students in Spain

It is 80 years since the Spanish Civil War broke out.  Unlike both World Wars, we have no record of University of Edinburgh students who fought (and died) in Spain and this is the start of a process of trying to identify who did.  This is very much work-in-progress and will be updated as we find additional information.

If you know of anyone missing from the list below, please contact the Deputy University Archivist, Grant Buttars

George Drever

George was born 31 March 1910 in Leith, the son of George Drever and Louisa (Balfour).  He spent 6 years at Leith Academy before enrolling to study Science at the University of Edinburgh, gaining a First Class Honours BSc in Pure Science in 1933.  Two years later he was awarded a PhD, his thesis being, Electrochemical studies in oxide formation on some metals.

First Matriculation: George Drever

First Matriculation: George Drever


Frances Hughes Drew

Frances was born 12 May 1914 in Southampton.  She was educated at Falmouth High School then at Blackpool Girls’ Secondary, enrolling to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1932 and graduating MBChB in 1937.

First Matriculation: Frances Hughes Drew

First Matriculation: Frances Hughes Drew

She was a member of the International Students’ delegation and one of six students in the British delegation of the (strongly Communist) World Student Association who visited Spain in the 1936/7  Christmas vacation and campaigned for the Republicans on her return.

John Peter Cowan Dunlop

Born 2nd July 1915 in Winnipeg, Canada, John was an accountancy student (non-graduating).

First Matriculation: John Peter Cowan Dunlop

First Matriculation: John Peter Cowan Dunlop

John is listed on the International Brigades website:

Born: 2/7/1915, Winnipeg, Canada. Enlistment Address; 9 East Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh University Accountancy student. CPGB (1936) OTC in England. Single. Age 22. Arrived in Spain 19/5/1937. Enlisted in Battalion 22/5/1937. Joined the British Anti Tank-Gun Battery. Action’s participated in: Jarama, Brunete, Teruel, Belchite, Ebro. Wounded at Brunete in July 1937, (between the 6th and 12th) by shrapnel in the back. Recovered in hospital at Barcelona. Joined British Battalion on 10/11/1937. Wounded on 20/1/1938. In Hospital February-April 1938. Rifle  No; 98101. No. 4  Company, Section 2, platoon 2. Confirmed Corporal on 30/4/1938. Sergeant. Wounded during the Ebro Offensive on 31/7/1938. In hospital 3/10/1938? Invalided home in October 1938. Set up his own printing business in Edinburgh upon his return.

He later became accountant to the International Brigade Association.


Hamish Fraser

Hamish was born 16 August 1913 in Inverness.  He was educated at Preston School, Duns, Duns Public School, Berwickshire High School and at the Royal High School, Edinburgh.  In 1931/2, he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to study Technical Chemistry. The fact that his record specifies the subject rather than, as was the norm, simply recording the Faculty, suggests he was not enrolled in a full degree programme.

First Matriculation: Hamish Fraser

First Matriculation: Hamish Fraser


He claimed to have joined the Young Communist League while at University; he was certainly Propaganda Secretary of the Central London Federation of the YCL by the time the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936,


  • Biographical sketch at Apropos (a magazine of which he served as editor after his conversion to Roman Catholicism)

Margot (Marguerite Rosabelle) Gale (later Kettle)

Margot was born in 1916.  She was educated at King Arthur School, Musselburgh and St. Bride School, Edinburgh, enrolling at the Univerity of Edinburgh in 1934.  While at University, she served as President of the Women’s Union, 1937-38.  She graduated MA in 1938.  In August 1938, she joined the Young Communist League.

First Matriculation: Margot Gale

First Matriculation: Margot Gale

She was mother of Guardian journalist Martin Kettle.


  • Her papers are held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (Manchester)

David Mackenzie

His full name was William David Beveridge Mackenzie and he was born 14 November 1916, the son of Rear Admiral W. B. Mackenzie, in Rock, Cornwall.  He was educated at Copthorne School, Sussex and at Marlborough College.  He enrolled as a summer term only medical student at the University of Edinburgh in 1935, having previously studied history at Oxford.

First Matriculation: David Mackenzie

First Matriculation: William David Beveridge Mackenzie

David is listed on the International Brigades website:

c/o 16 King Street, London. (CPGB HQ) Oxford University. (History & Law) Medical Student at Edinburgh University. YCL. CPGB. Age: 20. Spain, 09/10/1936. French Commune de Paris Battalion, (Dumont Battalion) 11th International Brigade. Reported killed in error (25/11/1936) at the University City, Madrid, in the Daily Worker dated 05/12/1936. Returned to UK on 05/01/1937. (V.11 37a PF 45600) Battalion No. 947.



I am very grateful to a number of people who have provided various leads on this subject, particularly Mike Arnott and Fraser Raeburn and of the Scotland and the Spanish Civil War Facebook Group.

James Miranda Steuart Barry and the Crimean War

We recently became aware of a single letter from James Miranda Barry, written just before departure for Sebastopol shortly after its capture by the ‘allies’ in 1855. We acquired it in 1977.

Margaret Bulkley was born in Ireland: a bright, precocious child, she moved to London, with her mother in 1805 and there had access to General Francisco de Miranda’s library with ‘treatises such as might be considered to form a tolerably complete Medical Library for a private gentleman’. As her father had been declared bankrupt, she had no hope of a good marriage so it was decided she should go to university but this was not an option for a woman.

Taking the name of James Barry (after an uncle), Barry went to study medicine, at Edinburgh University, one of the most demanding and rigorous courses in Britain. Barry graduated with a MD thesis dedicated to patrons, General Francisco de Miranda and David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan (1742-1829). Then, even more extraordinary, after further training, Barry joined the army and travelled throughout the British Empire. There is no definitive version of Barry’s adopted name.

Read more about Barry on Our History

We knew about Barry’s matriculation and graduation records and MD thesis.  This letter, while recorded in our sheaf index to manuscripts, had not yet made its way into our online catalogue and was stumbled upon while looking for something else.  It makes interesting reading.

(Update: More recent scholarship has raised other perspectives in terms of Barry’s sex and gender.  The above has therefore been edited to remove references to gendered pronouns, other than for Barry’s childhood)

Playfair Revealed

The architect William Henry Playfair was born in Russell Square, London, July 1789. On the death of his father, Playfair was sent to reside with his uncle in Edinburgh. Professor John Playfair, mathematician and geologist and a leading figure in the Edinburgh Enlightenment, took control of his nephew’s education. Following his father’s profession, the young Playfair studied under William Starke of Glasgow. His first public appointment was the laying out of part of the New Town in Edinburgh in 1815.

Old College: Transverse section through southern range

University of Edinburgh (Old College): Transverse section through southern range

Then, after a visit to France in 1816, he established himself professionally by winning the commission in 1817 to complete the unfinished University buildings (leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam). He also designed the city’s Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace on the Calton Hill estate; the unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound. While Playfair’s most important works in Edinburgh have been executed in the Greek revivalist or classical style – earning for Edinburgh the title of ‘Athens of the North’ – he was competent in other styles too. He designed New College for the ten newly established Free Church of Scotland, a jagged-lined rendering of the Gothic style. He also built country houses and mansions in the Italianate and Tudor styles.

Playfair died in Edinburgh after a long illness on 27 May 1857. His Trustees donated his drawings to the University the following year.

Containing over 5,000 drawings, and with largely only a typescript catalogue of the briefest of descriptions, the collection presents many challenges. Despite these it is one of our most frequently consulted collections. As part of our move to ArchivesSpace, we managed to get a the overarching structure of the catalogue keyed and online.

Late last year we hosted a very productive seminar on Playfair, where academics, curators and others discussed Playfair, the collection and issues around both. This month sees the start of a project where we have two architecture students on placement who are going to make a detailed study of a subset of the drawings, identifying key information within them. This will be both general information (e.g. date, scale, type of drawing etc.) and also detail more specific to Playfair and the buildings. This will allow us to both improve the existing catalogue almost immediately and also draft an overarching schema for cataloguing the collection as a whole. This will then allow us to more accurately estimate the resource that would be required.

Due to both the arrangement of the collection and familiarity (at least to some degree) with the building in question, the project will focus on drawings of Old College. We began with drawings covering the west range and south-west corner. These originally housed Chemistry, Practice of Physic and the Natural History Museum and, even at first glance, the drawings are yielding all sorts of information, such as Playfair’s work pattern – he was generally producing one drawing per day. He also produced a number of detailed drawings at 1:1 scale. There is also much evidence of his innovative use of structural iron work.

This project is a collaboration with Dr Richard Anderson (School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture), whose students, Federica and Xue, are contributing their expertise to a fascinating exploration of one of our most treasured collections.

William Henry Playfair, architect

William Henry Playfair

William Henry Playfair

On 2 Nov 2015, the CRC hosted a seminar which looked at the figure of William Henry Playfair (1790-1857), discussing his life and work and looking in some detail at a range of architectural drawings which had been selected from our collection.

John Playfair

John Playfair

Playfair was born was born in Russell Square, London, July 1789. On the death of his father, architect James Playfair, he was sent to reside with his uncle in Edinburgh. Professor John Playfair, mathematician and geologist and a leading figure in the Edinburgh Enlightenment, took control of his nephew’s education. Following his father’s profession, the young Playfair studied under William Starke of Glasgow. Following Starke’s death in 1813, Playfair moved to London where he worked in the offices of James Wyatt and Robert Smirke, returning to Edinburgh in 1816.

He established himself professionally by winning the commission in 1817 to complete the unfinished University buildings (leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam). He also designed the city’s Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace on the Calton

College of Edinburgh Transverse Section if the Southern Buildings

College of Edinburgh Transverse Section of the Southern Buildings

Hill estate; the unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound. While Playfair’s most important works in Edinburgh have been executed in the Greek revivalist or classical style – earning for Edinburgh the title of ‘Athens of the North’ – he was competent in other styles too. He designed New College for the ten newly established Free Church of Scotland, a jagged-lined rendering of the Gothic style. He also built country houses and mansions in the Italianate and Tudor styles.

The discussion in the seminar was not structured in any major way but flowed directly from looking at the drawings we had selected to view.  Alongside the physical drawings, we also looked at digitised ones, using the complement of both to do things which one or other could not do alone.

With over 5000 to choose from, electing the drawings was never going to be an easy task.  However we settled on one or more drawings relating to the following of Playfair’s projects:

  • College of Edinburgh
  • Royal Observatory
  • Dollar Academy
  • Blenheim Place
  • Elm Row
  • Royal Institution
  • Royal Institution Additions
  • National Monument
  • Royal College of Surgeons
  • Stewart Monument
  • Donaldson’s Hospital
  • New College Edinburgh


The Music of Archives

For the past few years, we have had one of our volunteers, Fiona Donaldson, working with Deputy University Archivist, Grant Buttars, to develop a usable catalogue to our Tovey Collection, one of our larger collections of personal papers we hold.  We are now able to offer an unfinished but usable ‘pre-release’ to allow researchers and other users get a better handle on what’s in the collection while work continues.

Donald Francis Tovey

Donald Francis Tovey at work

Donald Francis Tovey at work

Donald Francis Tovey was born at Eton on 17 July 1875. His father was an Assistant Master at Eton College. He was educated privately by the music and general teacher Miss Sophie Weisse (1851-1945) and later on studied under Sir Walter Parratt (1841-1924) and Sir C. H. Parry (1848-1918). Tovey then won a music scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, graduating with a BA, Classical honours, in 1898. As a pianist, a series of chamber music concerts followed in London, Berlin and Vienna where he played with Halle, Joachim, Hausmann, Casals, and other artists. He also composed.

In 1914 he was appointed to the Reid Chair of Music at Edinburgh University in succession to Professor Niecks (1845-1924). As Professor he broadened the music curriculum by instituting classes in musical interpretation, orchestration, history and analysis, thorough-bass, score reading, and advanced counter-point and composition.

Tovey also established and conducted the Reid Orchestra and organised an annual series of concerts. His musical compositions were in many forms including chamber music, symphony, grand opera and concerto, and probably the most famous was his opera The bride of Dionysus produced in Edinburgh in 1929. His literary publications include the six volumes of Essays in musical analysis (1935-1939), and A musician talks (1941). Tovey was knighted in 1935. He died on 10 July 1940.

The Collection

Concert programme

Concert programme

The largest part of the collection is the papers of Tovey himself.  Following his death, the collection appears to have remained in what became the Tovey Memorial Rooms at 18 Buccleuch Place, from where they were taken to Alison House sometime after the Faculty of Music took up occupancy there in 1964.  During its time in those locations it appears to have been augmented, with the addition of particularly correspondence and notes of Tovey’s biographer, Mary Gardner Grierson (1896-1964) and post-Tovey records relating to the Reid Orchestra and Choir.  Tovey’s teacher and mentor, Sophie Weisse (1851-1945), is also well-represented. Perhaps the clear boundaries between what simply began as adjacently shelved material became indistinguishable; by the time the collection was transferred here from the Reid Music Library in 2001, it was all seen as one overall collection and it has not proved possible to fully disentangle it.

The work

We have concentrated on sorting out obvious disorder but with a light-touch approach, creating a meaningful arrangement and, as far as possible identifying what is clearly Tovey’s papers from what is not. Basic repackaging has been undertaken where needed.

The catalogue benefits from earlier cataloguing work that was undertaken when the collection was still in the Reid Music Library.  It focussed on the correspondence (the largest single series within the collection) and the database created than has been converted and imported into the new catalogue.

Our volunteer Fiona is currently a PhD student but also a former administrator from within the former Faculty of Music.  Drawing on this and other related collections here, she has been creating a database to Reid Orchestras as part of her PhD research.

Find out more

View the Tovey Collection in our catalogue

View the Reid Concerts database

A Life Cut Short: Stephanie’s Story

Stephanie (courtesy of Lauren McGregor)

In 1936, Julia Stephanie Evadne McGregor was in the final year of a five-year medical degree and showed all the signs of a highly motivated and conscientious student who would do well.  In January 1936, she was admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, again in May and then June.  She died on 4th July of rheumatic fever.  On the anniversary of her death this year, the University is awarding a posthumous degree, with her family in attendance.

Stephanie (as she was known) was born in Gayle St. Mary, Jamaica on 9th April 1911, the daughter of Peter James McGregor and his wife Julianna Drucilla Marsh. She attended Wolmer’s Girls High School in Kingston, Jamaica from 1923-1929 and matriculated at the University of Edinburgh to study medicine in April 1931, having obtained her matriculation certificate at the University of London the previous August. On 21 October 1931 she registered as a student member of the General Medical Council.

Her first year of study saw her study under (amongst others) Professors James Hartley Asworth (Zoology), George Barger (Chemistry) and William Wright Smith (Botany), passing her first professional exams in 1932. In her second year her Professors were Edward Sharpey-Schafer (Physiology) and James Couper Brash (Anatomy). She passed her second professional exams  in 1933.

Holiday at Kirn, Argyll, 1932

On holiday at Kirn, Argyll, 1932 (courtesy of Lauren McGregor)julia2back

In October 1933, Marjorie Rackstraw in her capacity as Adviser of Women Students, wrote to Professor Sir Sidney Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, informing him that Stephanie was in financial difficulties, having received no allowance since the previous August, due to her family being in financial difficulties themselves. As a result, she was able to gain an award of £25 from the Medical Bursaries Fund. By the following February, this plus money Stephanie had managed to raise elsewhere was once again exhausted and Miss Rackstraw wrote again to Prof. Smith to explore other options, specifically a loan

She described Stephanie as capable and sensible, “one of the best of her class and has gained merit certificates in four of her subjects and one prize in Botany”. The letter also recorded that Stephanie was planning to apply for a Vans Dunlop Scholarship and, “if the  banana harvest is satisfactory she should be able to meet her expenditure during the next two years”. A further grant of £50 from the Medical Bursaries Fund was awarded.

Further troubles arose in late 1934. On 29th October Miss Rackstraw wrote again to Prof. Smith, explaining that Stephanie’s father had died a few weeks earlier, presenting more financial problems over and above dealing with the bereavement.  She was to receive further small pots of money.

By 1935, Stephanie was living in Masson Hall of Residence, where Marjorie Rackstraw was warden.  The building no longer exists, having been demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Main Library building.  However there are extensive records, including photographs, and one that includes Stephanie survives.

Group photograph of residents and others at Masson Hall of Residence, 1935

Group photograph of residents and others at Masson Hall of Residence, 1935

1936 did not start well for Stephanie.  She fell ill on the 17th January and ended up in the Royal Infirmary but was let out after 15 days on the condition that she go away for convalescence.  She went to say with a Mrs Corrigall at “Stromness, Kirn, Argyll”, but the ordeal journey there resulted in a week in bed and further time away from study.  She wrote to Prof. Smith to explain her situation.

Mrs. Corrigall, with whom I am staying, called in her family Doctor and I have been under his care ….. I am still quite unfit to face classes and work ….. I am very troubled about my attendance and classes ….. This is the first time in the five years of my academic life, Sir, that I have for any reson or other been forced to miss my classes

Steph's signature

Signature, from letter in her student file

On 5 July 1936, Marjorie Rackstraw again wrote to Prof Smith but this time she was not looking for financial assistance.  Instead she had the task of informing him that Stephanie had died the day before, a victim of “rheumatic fever following tonsillitis which affected her heart”. Her funeral was held at St. John’s Episcopal, where she had been a member of the congregation, and she was buried at Piershill Cemetery.

Funeral notice (copy from her student file)

Funeral notice (copy from her student file)

Since the later 19th century, women students had been battling to gain parity with their male counterparts.  It was not until the 1890s that women were able to matriculate as students and it was only in 1915 that they gained an equal status to men within the Faculty of Medicine.  Even by the time Stephanie was studying, numbers of female students were very small compared to men, having only just edged over 10%.  Had Stephanie graduated, she would have made up one of only 19 women who were awarded a degree of MBChB that year.  Although she probably never saw herself as such, Stephanie can be seen as a contributor towards a major change within medical education, paving the way for those who followed.

At the graduation ceremony which takes place on 4th July 2015, coincidentally on the 79th anniversary of Stephanie’s death, the University of Edinburgh is awarding her a posthumous degree.

Implementing ArchivesSpace

Meeting our Needs

Since the early 2000s we have been looking for suitable software to manage our archives in a holistic manner. We began to deliver online catalogues at this time via various project initiatives, with metadata encoded as EAD/xml, but this only dealt with resource discovery and was quite cumbersome. Moreover, along with other digital developments, the work inhabited one of a number of parallel silos.

As time moved on, we got better at developing systems to move different elements of work from the analogue to the digital but were still some way off developing or finding a comprehensive, robust and sustainable way to join things up in a meaningful way. This changed when we began to investigate Archivists’ Toolkit in 2011. Although we had looked at it in one of its earlier versions, we were surprised to see how much subsequent developments had brought it quite close to ticking everything on our wish list. It was lacking a resource discovery layer but a successor product, ArchivesSpace, was already planned and would include this.

From Archivists’ Toolkit to ArchivesSpace

We therefore began looking at Archivists’ Toolkit in more detail, assessing issues such as functionality and usability but also those of sustainability and interoperability. It scored very highly, high enough for us to be able to make the business case to commit to ArchivesSpace and obtain the internal funding to sign up as Members.

The involvement of the profession in the development of ArchivesSpace has been and continues to be crucial. What has been developed is not just other people’s idea of what the product needs to be but what we as archivists actually require. Although heavily influenced by the predominant US partners and the specifics of US practice, it has been developed in way that is equally intelligible to others and easily customisable to reflect local needs and terminology.

Priorities and Impact

We originally focused on moving our behind-the-scenes work over but then switched to frontloading our resource discovery, migrating existing EAD xml files and also retro-converting a wide range of old spreadsheets, databases and similar. In terms of impact, this both provides evidence that our business case was sound but, most importantly, meets growing user expectations of what and online catalogue should deliver.

Phase one saw the delivery of nearly 17,000 catalogue records along with over 22,000 authority terms. We still have more to add, along with a whole range of management metadata about accessioning, locations etc. This will feature in Phase 2.

Because the source metadata has been drawn from a variety of legacy sources, there are issues of consistency and quality to be addressed. These are outstanding issues which could never be solved just by getting the metadata into ArchivesSpace. However, with all the metadata now in one place we can now look to quantify and rectify them. Experience told us that’s users would often rather have partial metadata rather than no metadata at all so we chose to go for a warts and all approach, only correcting what was obviously erroneous at this stage.

Community and Participation

We are proud to have signed up as the first European partner and the support we have had from a growing community of ArchivesSpace users and developers. This discussion is also two-way, with us feeding ideas back for future development.

Locally we are also more fully integrated into developing solutions that deliver all our collections online, through a suite of applications and interface that work together, improving user experience and improving how we manage the collections themselves.

Next Steps

We still have lots to do with the system to leverage the full functionality of the system and fully showcase our amazing archives collection. So watch this space.

View the online catalogue.

Read about this from a technical perspective

Edinburgh University Union Committee, 1899

Edinburgh University Union Committee 1899We recently acquired this photograph.  It shows the committee which had responsibility for running the University Union, one comprised of both staff and students. We have researched each of the names and found out something further about most of them.

At this time and for some time to come, the Union was an all male affair. The date also means that many of the students depicted would also see service during the First World War – where known, this is noted.

Leonard Crossley
Medical graduate: MBChB 1900, MD 1903.

Frederick Nelson Menzies
Medical graduate: MBChB 1899, MD 1903.

James Myles Hogge (1873-1928)
Arts graduate: MA 1898. Later Member of Parliament.

Andrew Binny Flett (1875-1961)
Medical graduate: MBChB 1902.

Robert Dundonald Melville (1872-1927)
Arts and Law graduate: MA 1894, LLB 1896.

David Barty King (1873-1956)
MA from University of St. Andrews. Medical graduate: MBChB 1899, MD 1902. Served as Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Francis Mitchell Caird (1853-1926)
Later Professor of Clinical Medicine.

Dr Richard J A Berry
Lecturer in Anatomy. Medical graduate: MBChB 1891, MD 1894.

John Rankine (1846-1922)
Professor of Scots Law.

Hugh Nethersole Fletcher (1877-1962)
Medical graduate: MBChB 1903, MD 1909. Served as Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial).

Hugh Crichton Miller (1877-1959)
Psychotherapist and founder of the Tavistock Clinic. Arts and Medical graduate: MA 1899, MBChB 1900, MD 1902. Served as Lieutenant, then Major, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Harry Malcolm Mackenzie (c1872-1947)
Medical graduate: MBChB 1899. Served as Lieutenant, then Major, then Lieutenant Colonel, Indian Medical Service.

James Walker ( -1922)
Chartered Accountant. Honorary Treasurer to the University Union

Samuel Butcher (1850-1910)
Professor of Greek.

Dr Francis William Nicol Haultain (1861-1921)
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. Medical graduate: MB CM 1882.

The Foundation of Anatomy: Class List of Alexander Monro (primus)

From time to time we ‘rediscover’ items in our collections.  It’s not that we didn’t know we had them; rather that they have not come to anyone’s specific attention within the many, many items we hold.

This is certainly the case with the earliest class list we hold for anatomy students.  It has a comprehensive name index, which is usually what people refer to, seldom asking to see the item itself.  However, when double checking some catalogue references, it was necessary to have a quick look at the original item.  It revealed itself to be far more significant than the index recorded.

It is a volume of principally students’ names and those they were studying under, beginning in 1720, when Alexander Monro primus began giving classes in anatomy in autumn 1720.  Monro had just been appointed Professor of Anatomy. Although the official establishment of the Faculty of Medicine was still six years away, many view the appointment of Monro as the clear starting point.

Page from 1820.  Includes the name of Martin Eccles. (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Died 1778.)

Page from 1820. Includes the name of Martin Eccles. (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Died 1778.)

Monro was educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and Leiden and learned anatomy under Frederik Ruysch in Amsterdam. He returned to Edinburgh in 1719 and passed the examinations for admission to the Incorporation of Surgeons.  The Professorship of Anatomy had been established by Edinburgh Town Council in 1705 but for Monro, unlike his predecessors, his appointment was clearly defined as a university chair.

Students were apprenticed to masters (surgeons), often boarding with them as well.  Teaching was conducted at Surgeons Hall and not within the precincts of the University until 1725, the move at least partly fuelled by public rioting over accusations of grave robbing.

A random check of names in the volume has as yet failed to yield a match with actual medical graduates, though names of identifiable surgeons and physicians are present, illustrating the fact that the formality of a degree was not mandatory to practice medicine.

The volume was donated to the University Library in 1924 by James Watt, LL.D., W.S., F.F.A., F.R.S.E (1863-1945).  He lived in Craiglockart House, which was built for Monro’s son, Alexander Monro secundus (1733-1817). The volume was found by Watt inn the cistern room of the house.  Fortunately, he was able to recognise its significance and pass it on to the then University Librarian, L. W. Sharp.

Copy of letter from James Watt to Lord Amulree, 1945, sent to Lauriston William Sharp, University Librarian.

Copy of letter from James Watt to Lord Amulree, 1945, sent to Lauriston William Sharp, University Librarian.


  • Alexander Monro, class list (1720-1749), Special Collections, EUA GD60 (Dc.5.95)
  • Anita Guerrini, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Monro, Alexander, primus (1697–1767), surgeon and anatomist [accessed 30 Jan 2015]
  • Sir Alexander Grant, The story of the University of Edinburgh during its first three hundred years (1884)