“Many Charming Letters” from Blair-Bell to Fletcher Shaw

Today’s post for Explore Your Archive Week offers a sneak peek at our latest exhibit, which opens in the RCOG Library tomorrow. Our exhibit “Many Charming Letters” showcases the founding years of the College through the letters, mementos and photographs of its founders, William Blair-Bell and William Fletcher Shaw.

A star of the exhibit is a series of “charming” and affectionate letters sent to Fletcher Shaw and his wife Nora Shaw by Blair-Bell between 1929 and 1933. Kept aside and marked ‘charming private letters’ by Fletcher Shaw himself, these letters offer a more personal look at the relationship between these key founding figures of the RCOG.

Complementing these letters are extracts from the unedited version of Fletcher Shaw’s book Twenty-five years: the story of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“No one could express himself better in writing, and I received many charming letters from him, beautifully worded and striking just the right note of sympathy or joy as the occasion required.”
William Fletcher Shaw

“When I recall those hectic days my wonder is not that there are so few [letters] but that there are any at all.”
William Fletcher Shaw

“Unfortunately this facility could be used to express other moods, and he too often indicted letters which cut deeply and led to complete estrangement from old friends.”
William Fletcher Shaw

“One other great asset the College had in these early formative days was my wife [Nora]. A beautiful and attractive woman, fond of people, a born hostess who ran her house beautifully… She was enthusiastic about the College, became a great friend of [Blair-Bell] and even an inspiration to both of us, helping and cheering us through our difficulties.”
William Fletcher Shaw

“It is easy when contemplating the past to see mistakes in others and in ourselves, and no doubt if this correspondence is re-read in the distant future, others will find other points to criticise.”
William Fletcher Shaw


Free Exhibit at the RCOG Library

Many Charming Letters

A small selection of charming, amusing and illuminating letters exchanged between RCOG co-founders William Blair-Bell and William Fletcher Shaw during the early years of the College will be on display in the RCOG Library Reading Room from Monday 21st November.

Detail from a group photograph of the Gynaecological Visiting Society in Cardiff in 1925, featuring RCOG co-founders William Blair-Bell and William Fletcher Shaw shortly before deciding to found a College for obstetricians and gynaecologists.
Detail from a group photograph of the Gynaecological Visiting Society in Cardiff in 1925, featuring RCOG co-founders William Blair-Bell and William Fletcher Shaw shortly before deciding to found a College for obstetricians and gynaecologists.

Joining these letters will be artefacts from the College’s heritage collections including William Fletcher Shaw’s obstetric instruments, William Blair-Bell’s original designs for the College’s official seal, and the badge worn by the College’s Presidents at official ceremonies.

Viewing is free and commemorative postcards will be on sale in the Library and at the College reception desk.

Visit us:
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist
27 Sussex Place
Regent’s Park
London NW1 4RG
https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/contact-us/directions/

Explore Your Archive
Explore Your Archive is a campaign designed for archives of all kinds throughout the UK and Ireland. It is run by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association. This year the main launch week will run from 19 to 27 November 2016. 

Find out more at http://exploreyourarchive.org/

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