George Boyce Douglas - His medical career


George Boyce Douglas was born on 20 Oct 1841 at Egham, son of James Douglas (watchmaker), and Martha Ann Boyce. He married France Louisa Dolby, daughter of Samuel Dolby and Sarah Ann Dix on 19 Jan 1867 in Bolton district.

For some time I thought he was a normal GP, based from at least 1871 until 1891 at Little Lever Lancashire, first at Church Street, then at Marsh Road. There was some evidence that he did attend (as he claimed) University of Philadelphia School of Medicine. The archivist at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia conformed that a G Douglas attended Eclectic Medical College of Philadelphia in 1860, 1861, and 1863. This school was later (1865) rechartered as the University of Philadelphia School of Medicine. A George B Douglas did apply for a passport on November 8th 1959. Whereabouts of further records, or of the results of his study (if he did indeed attend) are unknown.

He was reported in two incidents involving mine accidents. The Bolton Evening News, September 2, 1873 reported: -

At 7 o’clock this morning, a serious explosion of gas took place at the Bradley Fold Colliery, belonging to Mr Thomas Fletcher, Little Lever, resulting in severe injuries to two colliers named Samuel Pilling, married, living in Lever-street, and Thomas Martin, married, High-street. Pilling was burned on the face and arms, and Martin (whose case is the more serious) on the chest, arms and back. The latter’s sufferings are the more intense from the fact of him having allowed some of the sulphureous gas to get into his throat. The scene of the accident was free from gas half an hour previous to the explosion. Dr G. B. Douglas was in prompt attendance upon the sufferers.

The Times reported on 6.2.1877 regarding a colliery disaster at Stonehill colliery, Farnworth: -

At about 6 o’clock some of the exploring party had to be brought out of the pit. They had become nearly insensible through inhaling the afterdamp, and had to be lifted out of the tubs. Restoratives were administered by Dr Douglas, and they recovered, but were in such a state of exhaustion that they were not allowed to descend again.

At this time I thought he was a normal Doctor or surgeon.

The first slightly suspicious note came when the BMA and Royal College of Surgeons’ archivists confirmed that the Medical register did not contain a George Boyce Douglas. More recently I discovered that George was made bankrupt twice. On 3rd June 1868, a notice in the London Gazette reports his bankruptcy as Of Bolton Veterinary Surgeon’ , Also referred to as Medical Practitioner, formerly Surgeon’s Assistant of Bolton, and formerly of Workington. A Second bankruptcy was published in the same source 51 Church Street, Little Lever, Lancs and 23 Nelson Square, Bolton-le-Moors, Doctor of Medicine. Additionally in a court case reported in The Times

I also found the entry in the National Probate Calendar of 51 Church Gate, Bolton, Lancashire, bone specialist died 25th Jan 1905 at the Lunatic Asylum, Prestwich, Lancashire Probate 13th April Manchester to Francis Louisa Douglas widow and George Francis Stewart Douglas bone specialist. Effects £146/19/5

Another entry in The Times on 26.8.1874, reported a case involving a legal action involving an action against a doctor, who improperly set a cast on a girl’s broken arm, which led to gangrene, and amputation of the arm. George gave evidence, specifically not being described as a doctor, but a bonesetter: -

The mother took her child to Mr Douglas, a bonesetter at Bolton, and on the Monday, the girl was taken to Mr Clarke, the Union surgeon, who, after consulting with some other surgeons, amputated the arm. As the defendant did not visit the child until after Wednesday, the enquiry was confined to the treatment up to that time. Mr Douglas, who holds recognized appointments to various collieries in Lancashire, proved that when the child was brought to him, on the Friday, the mortification was already well established, and there was not the slightest chance of saving the arm. He said also that mortification did not commence at the seat of the injury on the arm, and was due, in his opinion, to the bandages having been done too tightly, and to plasters having been applied, which he said were almost always injurious. This witness was severely cross-examined as to his status in the profession and his views on the case, but he firmly adhere to the latter as above expressed, and said that the girl’s suffering was in now way caused by his allowing her to go about with her arm in a sling only, and without splints between the Friday when she was first brought to him and the Monday when the amputation was performed. He said he also had no doubt that the fracture was a simple and not a compound one, and that there was an abrasion only, and not a wound on the skin. He was corroborated by Dr Clarke and his nephew, who carried out the amputation....

A short extract was found of an article in the Lancet, 1 Jan1870, of which the full text has now been obtained: -


Two convictions have been obtained lately under the Medical Act, which will give satisfaction to the medical profession. One, at the Clerkenwell Police Court ...

The second case of conviction under the Medical Act is that of Mr. Geo. Boyce Douglas, of Nelson-square, Bolton. It would seem that Mr. Douglas originally acted as assistant to the late Mr. Hampson. On Mr. Hampson’s death, Mr. Douglas went to the opposite side of the square, and put the following sign over his door:—"GB Douglas, late assistant to E. Hampson, [with a comma] surgeon. The word " surgeon" is very ingeniously made use of in this sign, and would be taken by many people to apply to Mr. Douglas as well as to Mr. Hampson. Moreover, Mr. Douglas made out bills like the following :—" To attendance as a surgeon and apothecary on Mr. Parkes’s men of the Elton collieries, £33 8s. 6d." Certificates of sickness were also produced, dated from " Nelson-square Surgery." The defence seems to have been vague and absurd. If it is possible to break the 40th clause of the Medical Act, it is surely broken when a person without a qualification makes out his bill as a surgeon and apothecary. If this is not using titles falsely, and conveying the impression that the person using them is either registered or entitled to be registered, then we do not see that there can be such an offence. Notwithstanding this, the magistrates, in announcing their decision that the offence was proved, said there was difference of opinion among them, and that the whole Bench would be pleased if the attorney for the defence would take a case, which was done.

Another short extract was seen

(p 834) If the patients (or the public) choose to call Mr. Douglas " Dr. Douglas," I,
for o
ne, can have no objection to their doing so (therein lies the courtesy) ...

In the Liverpool Mercury on 24th December 1869, this article appeared



    At the borough court, Bolton, Thursday

Mr. J. B. Torr, barrister, appeared on behalf of

the Medical Association of Bolton in support of

several informations against Mr. G. B. Douglas

of that town, for practising as a surgeon without

being registered, as required by the 40th sec. of the

21 and 22 Vic., cap 90, thereby rendering himself

liable to a fine of £20. Mr. Richardson, solicitor,

appeared for the defence. The defendant is in

practice in Bolton as a surgeon, having formerly

been assistant to Mr Hampson, surgeon, of that

town and he has over his door a sign upon which

appears "G. B. Douglas, late assistant to R.

Hampson, surgeon," and on the window the words

"Douglas’s surgery." It was proved in evidence

that as far back as July 1868, the secretary to the

Medical Association called Mr. Douglas’s atten-

tion to his not being registered, and asked for

and explanation. Defendant, in reply, admitted

that he was not registered, but he said he intended

to qualify in a few months. He had, how-

ever, not done so, and in July last he sued

Mr. Thornton Parkes of the Elton Collieries for

£33 8s. 0d. for work done as a surgeon and

apothecary, and for medicine and attendance.

There were also produced a number of certificates

which had been given by Mr. Douglas as medical

attendant to members of a friendly society, and

headed "Nelson-square Surgery."-Mr. Richard-

son, in defence, contended that it was not necessary

to register, and quoted a case, "Pedgrift v.

Chevalier," in support-The magistrates imposed

a penalty of 40s. and costs, but said they would

prefer a case was taken upon it, the decision

not being unanimous. Mr Richardson accordingly

applied for a case.

George was convicted of practising as a doctor. It seems whatever his qualifications, they were short of being a Doctor of Medicine. I found in the 1841-1861 Censuses a Roger Hampson at 17 Nelson Square, a surgeon and Veterinary Surgeon. Roger died in 1864, and was clearly a popular figure, as a window was installed in his honour in the local church. This lends credence to above account.

Finally I also found the following letter from George in the Bolton Evening News on 8th February 1902: -

SIR- Will you kindly allow me to state through the columns of your valuable paper how some six or seven occupiers have been treated in Churchgate. On rising on Saturday morning, we were surprised to find that our water supply had been cut off. I sent a messenger, at noon on Saturday, but without any effect. Monday dinner time we were still without, when I wrote to the Superintendent, and in the afternoon it was turned on.

Surely ratepayers ought to have some redress for this neglect on the part of the officials. I may say I never received any reply. How different the paying of our water rate! On the demand note it states in large letters the last day for payment. I posted a cheque some months ago at 1.30pm on the last day of payment, but as the cheque was not in by 2.30 pm as stated in miniature on the demand note, I was charged the additional tenpence, and informed if the same was not paid, the supply would be cut off, although it was in the office on the last day of payment. This department is the only one where such an injustice is done to the ratepayers at large. I hope this may meet the eye of those in authority. - Yours, etc., G.B. Douglas, 51, Churchgate, Bolton.

It is clear he lived at Little Lever (later in Bury) and practised in Bolton. By 1895 He was living at Marsh House, Ainsworth (halfway between Bolton and Bury) and his practice had moved to 11 Rushton Street, Bolton.

George Boyce Douglas’s Family

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