This week’s Fantastic Find is not so much a ‘find’ but rather an exciting and generous donation to the RCOG Archive! The gift came from Ian Harley FRCOG, during his visit to the College from Ireland earlier this week, and came in the form of a tube containing rolled up certificates. On closer examination, these certificates were found to have all been presented to Professor Charles Gibson Lowry, and include a certificate of Honorary Fellowship to the RCOG issued in October 1947. Knowing that C G Lowry had been a Foundation Fellow of the College in 1929, I knew that this must be one of only four Honorary Fellowships issued in 1947 to celebrate the granting of the Royal Charter.
On the 21 March 1947 the College was granted by the King a Royal Charter of Incorporation, thus forming the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The Annual Report for 1947 states:
‘To mark the indebtedness of the College to its Founders, the Honorary Fellowship was conferred on the four remaining signatories to the Articles of Association under which the College was originally incorporated:- Professor J M Munro Kerr, Professor C G Lowry, Sir Ewen J Maclean, and Sir William Fletcher Shaw’
The Admission Ceremony was held on 3 October and presided over by the College President, Sir William Gilliatt. Professor Lowry was presented by Sir Eardley Holland who described him as a man with ‘imagination, courage and persistence…a famous teacher…a great speaker, a man of eloquence, a grand companion, a generous friend’.
By 1947, Lowry was completing his 25 year career at the Queen’s University, Belfast as emeritus Professor of Midwifery and Gynaecology as well as Consulting Surgeon to the Royal Maternity Hospital and to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He had been a driving force in developing the practice of midwifery in Northern Ireland and had also supported the introduction of modern operative gynaecology, having been influenced by his introduction to Professor Blair Bell in Liverpool during his First World War service with the RAMC. As a Foundation Fellow of the College he had served on the first College Council between 1929 and 1936 and again between 1939 and 1942, and was a member of the Finance and Executive Committee, Examination Committee, and Fellowship Selection Committee as well as Vice-President from 1940 to 1942. Lowry was succeeded to the Belfast Chair by his son-in-law, Charles Macafee, who also served the RCOG well as Councillor and Vice-President, and was followed into the specialty of obstetrics and gynaecology by his son, and Lowry’s grandson, Jeremy Macafee.
The photograph below is one of the earliest ones we have of Lowry on College business, taken in 1933 at the British Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecology held at Birmingham: Lowry is second from right on the front row.
James Macdougal Graham Harley of Belfast was just one of the medical students who benefitted from Lowry’s teaching. Graham Harley became a Member of the RCOG in 1958, and was elevated to the Fellowship in 1967, serving on College Council between 1978 and 1984 and again from 1987 to 1993. His son, Ian Harley became a Member of the College in 1999, was elevated to the Fellowship in 2013 and is now an active member of the Scientific Advisory Committee and Northern Ireland Executive Committee. Following his father’s death in 2012, Ian Harley came into possession of the certificates which were issued to Professor Lowry, and which apparently were passed to Graham Harley as a token of his friendship with his teacher and mentor prior to Lowry’s death in 1951.
Readers of this blog may remember the First World War photographs of Lowry which came to the Archive via his grandson, Jeremy Macafee last year. I love the fact that both the Harleys and Lowry/Macafees kept obstetrics and gynaecology (and the RCOG) very much in the family and continue to represent the specialty in Northern Ireland!