27 February 1919 diary of Dr John Stewart Muir (1845-1938) of Selkirk

Pretty thick coating of snow this morning with slight showers of sleet during the day. None of it lay except on the higher ground. Wind N.E. Motored in the town + to Yair Farm, Nest + Fairnilee Cottages returning via Sloethornbank + Mavisbank. After tea went to Shawpark. Dav [Dr David Graham] was at a Pensions Board at Newtown. Wrote Dora, Barbara, Mrs Tait (Thos.) + sent card to Mrs Bannerman. Paid Scott. Un. + Nat.1 + sent £6 to the War Emergency Committee of the Roy. Med. Benevolent Fund2.

1 Scottish Union and National Insurance Company

2 The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF) – see also the second illustration which shows Dr Muir’s separate list of charitable giving

The RMBF was founded as the Medical Benevolent Fund in 1836 by members of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, which itself later became the British Medical Association. From the outset the RMBF was non-contributory and all funds were donated. All practitioners were eligible for assistance irrespective of whether they had ever paid money in to the charity and regardless of whether or not they were a member of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association. In the nineteenth century, beneficiaries of the RMBF tended to fall into three categories. First, elderly or frail doctors were supported as their ability to earn a living declined. Second, widows of medical men were provided with money to live independently (and so avoid the need to apply for other charities or, worse still, register for poor relief). Third, orphans of medical men were assisted, but this element of the charity had a surprising feature: the majority of the orphans were adult women, rather than children. The charity was recognising the limited opportunities for women in Victorian England. Unmarried daughters of doctors had few careers open to them, and none that allowed women to earn very much. If medical fathers failed to leave savings, a legacy or annuity for their womenfolk, these adult orphans could find themselves impoverished, in a world without a welfare state or a pension system. Widows and orphans formed by far the largest group of beneficiaries of the RMBF towards the end of the Victorian era. In the 1880s, 90 percent of grants were made in these categories. The fund received its ‘Royal’ prefix in 1912 and employed staff from 1915; up to that point, it had been run entirely voluntarily. But the onset of war posed new problems and the Fund developed new ways to assist beleaguered practitioners. In 1915 a War Emergency Fund was set up to help medical families in temporary straits due to the war, and by the time of its closure in 1928 it had distributed over thirty-five thousand pounds. [Source: https://rmbf.org/about/our-history/ accessed 2019.03.01]

[Source: Scottish Borders Archives & Local History Service SBA/657/22, Dr J S Muir of Selkirk, medical practitioner, journal for 1919]

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Archivist, interests include Dr John Stewart Muir 1845-1938) of Selkirk, general practitioner, and Seton Paul Gordon (1886–1977), naturalist, author and photographer

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