The History of Leith

October 26, 2011

Dr. James Struther-the most real men I ever knew.

Dr. JAMES STRUTHER’S was born in 1821, and was the oldest of three sons of Alexander Strutters of Brucefield, near Dunfermline, all of whom entered the medical profession. Privately educated, he not only knew the classical languages, but also French, German, and Italian. They were very useful to him when he had to do with sailors at the Port of Leith.
Studying at the University of Edinburgh, he graduated as M.D. in 1848, receiving a gold medal for his thesis on ” The Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Skin.” After some work in the Infirmary, during which in 1847 and 1848 he was busy with epidemics of cholera and typhoid, he settled down in Leith. He came to assist Dr. Bruce, who was in failing health, on the recommendation of Professor
Alison, and resisted all temptations in succeeding years to move to Edinburgh. He rapidly acquired a practice as large as he could undertake.
By his fellow practitioners in Leith he was much trusted and consulted. He became a Fellow of the Eoyal College of Physicians in 1861, and acted for a time as one of the examiners.
He was a man of commanding presence and of few words. But his words meant something, as patients soon discovered who disobeyed his instructions. If they continued to prefer their own way, they had to seek another doctor. Like all the true doctors of his day, Dr. Struthers was kind to the poor, not only attending needy cases free, but also sending in food and medicines free when that was necessary.
He took a deep interest in the benevolent institutions of Leith, the Ragged and Industrial School, the Destitute Sick Society, the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and above all, Leith Hospital. From 1851 to 1875 he was one of the acting medical officers of the Hospital. He then became consulting physician. In 1890 he was appointed President of the Hospital as a mark of his long and valuable services. He took a leading part in the reconstruction and enlargement of the Hospital in 1873-75, and also in 1888-89, when a third storey was added to the new part of the
building.
The Volunteer movement also claimed his support, and he held commission as medical officer in the local corps from 1859 onwards. He was in charge of the medical arrangements for the great Review in the Queen’s Park in 1880.
The most authoritative estimate of his worth is from a former fellow-student, the famous Professor Gairdner of Glasgow. ” The impression which Dr. Struthers made on me (in early life) was one which never required to be corrected or modified. He was a man far above the average intellectually, but whose moral distinction was even more striking than his intellectual. With him duty was paramount,
and his judgments, both of men and opinions, were guided by an instinct which rarely allowed him to judge amiss. He was one of the most real men I ever knew.”

Source-The South Leith Records

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