THE SCOTSMAN. MAY 29, 1926.
FAMOUS SURGEON DEAD.
SIR JAMES CANTLIE.
The death took place yesterday, in a nursing home in London, of Sir James Cantlie, the famous surgeon. Whilst in Scotland last March, Sir James Cantlie was taken ill, and was subsequently brought to London, where he entered a nursing home, in which he remained up to the time of his death.
Sir James Cantlie, who was 75 years of age, was one of the most distinguished graduates of Aberdeen University. He was a member of the Council of the Red Cross Society, in which capacity he was previously associated with Red Cross work during the war. Coming from Aberdeen University, he finished his medical examination in London. Later he went to Egypt with the Cholera Expedition of 1883 and subsequently spent several years in China. He was a great authority on tropical disease, and was the founder and first president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine, and was at one time plague officer for the London County Council.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE EXPONENT.
In his latter years Sir James was an enthusiastic exponent of physical exercise as a means of keeping fit, and for the past two or three years he had restarted “physical jerks” classes in London for men and women past their middle age. A noteworthy feature of these classes was that the veteran instructor not only gave his orders but actually participated in the physical exercises. His book on physical efficiency was published in 1906.
Prior to his visit to Egypt he was demonstrator in Anatomy at Charing Cross Hospital, and he became a surgeon at the age of 26. In China, where he spent nine years, he was Dean of the College of Medicine of China until 1886, and from that country he went to India. There he visited medical schools and places of interest. On his return to this country he was prominently associated with the London Caledonian Society, of which he was president in 1908, and in later years he acted as consulting surgeon to the London and North Eastern Railway and to the Seamen’s Hospital Society.
INTERESTED IN RED CROSS WORK.
His interest in Red Cross work was shown as long ago as 1909, when he became Commandant of No. 1 V.A.D., London, and he held this position for thirteen years until well after the end of the war. Sir James Cantlie was created a Knight of the Order of the British Empire in 1918, and received the degree of L.L.D. of Aberdeen in the following year. His many publications included works on leprosy, beri-beri, and on gunshot injuries.
He was born in Keithmore, Dufftown, Banffshire in 1851, and was the son of the late Mr William Cantlie, a banker and a farmer, who was well known in the county, and throughout his life Sir James made farming one of his recreations. He shared this hobby with his liking for fishing and shooting. He married in 1884 and was left a widower five years ago. There were four sons by the marriage.
A FORCEFUL PERSONALITY.
Between his graduation in Medicine at Aberdeen and his departure for Hong Kong in 1887 (says a correspondent) Sir James Cantlie held several important medical appointments in London, but perhaps the matter that claimed his greatest energy was the establishment of Volunteer Medical Corps in the Universities, particularly the University of Aberdeen. Those that had the privilege of hearing Major-General Evans and Cantlie plead for the formation of University Ambulance Corps will not readily forget Cantlie’s forceful personality. He was a man of middle-height, somewhat stout, firmly built, large head, deep chest, full of vigour and force both in his ordinary activities and in his style of address. It is not too much to say that the distinguished part played by the University Gordon Regiment in the war, and by the Aberdeen Ambulance students was due in no small degree to Cantlie’s vigorous initiative about the year 1886.
His nine years in Hong Kong made him an authority on certain tropical diseases, and he was familiar, in particular, with plague. Perhaps the activities that most distinguished his later years were his eager and unremitting devotion to the importance of physical education. Indeed he pushed his ideas almost to the extreme of oddity, but everyone that knew him recognised his sincerity and the force of his character, as well as the technical competence of manner. He was a college contemporary of the late Dr Shires Gibb, Medical Officer of Health for Berwickshire, and he also reckoned among his contemporaries Dr Mitchell Bruce and Sir David Ferrier. In China he became a personal friend of Sun Yat Sen. When the latter came to London, Cantlie was able to show him much attention, and succeeded in relieving him from the embarrassment of the famous episode at the Chinese Embassy. He wrote a fascinating story about this romantic and capable Chinaman, who has since then taken so great a part in the Chinese revolution.
In spite of all Cantlie’s forcefulness, it is difficult to imagine him having made an enemy. His popularity among Scotsmen in London arose out of his sheer Scottish grit and warm heartedness. He was ready to be the friend of anyone that needed friendship. He was a man of strong individuality, who did not hide his opinion of the degeneracy of the Londoner,* but he expressed himself in ways that gave no offence. He was not perhaps taken so seriously as he expected by some, but with his sense of humour he never lost heart, and everybody realised that a man of his special character must be allowed some latitude in the expression of opinion. He belonged to a strong group that left Aberdeen in the ‘70’s, and made their mark in London and elsewhere.
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* Note from Rowan Books. This refers to a paper written by Dr. Cantlie where he outlined the detrimental effect to health of living conditions in London, based in part on an observation that there were so few third-generation Londoners.